Conversion: A big leap, one small step at a time
Jazmine Green’s Jewish journey began when she met the person with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. It wasn’t until a brief separation from her boyfriend, however, that she knew she was making the right decision — to convert.
“There was this assumption that since we were broken up, I didn’t have to be Jewish,” but, she said, “it made me realize Judaism was something I loved. I was brokenhearted, not just about our relationship, but for this spiritual path that I had already started to walk down.”
Six months later, when she and her boyfriend, Jeremy Aluma, got back together, she was ready to make the leap. “It was already a part of me,” she said. “Of course, I knew I would convert. I think I needed that time apart to know it wasn’t for him, and it was my path and something I wanted to do.”
Green, who had been attending services at Chabad of Downtown Los Angeles, started to study with the rabbi there. However, she didn’t feel the Orthodox lifestyle was right for her, so she decided to pursue a Conservative conversion at American Jewish University (AJU), in May 2012. Rabbi Adam Greenwald, director of AJU’s Introduction to Judaism program, sponsored her.
Since she first started dating Aluma five years ago, Green, now 36 and a writer, had been observing the major holidays with him and participating in Shabbat dinners. She had fasted on Yom Kippur and gone to services, but it wasn’t until last fall, when she was weeks away from immersing in the mikveh, she said, that she truly sensed she was participating in Yom Kippur.
“I felt like a Jew already, so it still had a lot of significance on me. It felt like my holiday, finally. Before, it was just going through the motions. Without the meaning, you’re just fasting. It was the first time it really had a deep significance for me.”
In October of last year, just after the High Holy Days, Green went into the mikveh. “I had no idea what an emotional experience it would be,” she said. “I feel like there have been very few moments at which I felt more connected to God than in that moment. It was really beautiful.”
Green grew up “loosely Catholic” in Corona, Calif., although she wasn’t practicing any religion when she met Aluma. Her parents have been entirely supportive of her conversion to Judaism, she said. “They adored Jeremy, and they were so happy to see me fall in love with a spiritual practice,” she said.
Green’s mother plans to take the Introduction to Judaism course at AJU, and her father is going to make the chuppah for the couple’s wedding in September. After the ceremony, they plan to spend their honeymoon in Israel.
Because Chabad is only two blocks away from their home in downtown Los Angeles, Green and Aluma continue to attend services there on Shabbat and the holy days. They have begun to kasher their kitchen and have chosen to follow Sephardic traditions because of Aluma’s father and Green’s Mexican heritage.
Green said one of the reasons she chose a Conservative conversion was to allow her to move at her own pace with her practice. Through observing Shabbat, she’s taken on more and more traditions.
“It’s more comfortable for me when it’s a gradual thing,” she said. “On a practical level, it’s easier to go in step by step. Shabbat is the biggest thing that helps the transition, because it’s something that happens every week. The planning for Shabbat every week is a beautiful process.”
Green teaches yoga at Yoga Vibe in Los Feliz and Yogala in Echo Park. She also likes to go to the theater with Aluma, who directs and produces plays. The two enjoy having over friends and cooking for them as well. “Jewish holidays are the perfect time to do that,” she said. “We end up hosting many Shabbat dinners.”
Above all, since she started her journey, Judaism has changed Green’s life for the better. “Not only has Judaism strengthened my relationship to God, it has taught me how to be a good partner, a good friend and a good person,” she said. “It has enriched my life by giving small moments of the day meaning.”