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How My Wife’s Conversion Brought Me Back to Judaism

Today, I’m so grateful that Hashem sent Kylie to me.
[additional-authors]
June 12, 2024
Daniel and Kylie Ora Lobell

After I graduated from high school and went on a year course in Israel, I made a decision: I wasn’t going to be religious anymore.

I’d gotten kicked out of my yeshiva for bad grades in secular studies and ended up in public school. A Jewish organization I was involved with snubbed me for no good reason, and then I lived in a community where nobody invited me for Shabbat meals. I felt out of a place and rejected, so I decided it’d be easier to just disconnect. Aside from that, I was getting into stand-up comedy, and that required performing on Friday nights. I enjoyed it, I made friends easily and it was fulfilling. I felt good.

So, for years, I didn’t keep Shabbat, I didn’t eat kosher and I only half-heartedly celebrated the Jewish holidays with my family. I didn’t date any Jewish girls because I didn’t want to get pulled back in. 

It worked for a while. I thought I had found a great non-Jewish girl named Kylie. We started dating and fell in love. One Friday night, I took her to Chabad, a place I’d gone to a few times because the rabbi stopped me on the street and encouraged me to come. I could go there for a nice free meal and that was it. I thought that the Friday I took Kylie, she’d enjoy it, and that’d be it.

But it wasn’t. She loved it so much that she asked me to go back every week. And then one day, she told me she was thinking about converting. She told me that although she was an atheist, she believed in G-d again, and she felt like she had a Jewish soul. 

I was worried. I tried to discourage it. This was the last thing I wanted to happen.

She said she wanted to go to conversion classes, but I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t want to become religious again, because then I’d have to give up doing shows on Friday nights and everything else in my career that I’d worked so hard to build. I’d have to face the very people who rejected me. I secretly hoped that she’d learn something she didn’t like and get the idea of converting out of her head. 

Kylie kept pressuring me to go with her to the class. I decided one night to go and sabotage it. When the class was over, I let loose on the rabbi. I told him everything I was upset about with Judaism and everything I’d been through. 

I thought he would kick us both out of the class and that would be the end of it. Instead, he listened carefully and replied that he understood why I was so hurt. If I didn’t want to come to Kylie’s conversion classes, that was fine. He wouldn’t hold it against me. But if I did want to come to the classes and to shul, the door was always open to me. 

The rabbi was so kind and thoughtful, and I eventually ended up going to his classes. I felt like I was seeing Judaism with fresh eyes. I loved his shul and started going to services. Everyone in the community – the rabbi and his congregants – were so nice to Kylie and me. 

Slowly, I took on more and more. Kylie and I learned and took on new mitzvot together. Coming back to Judaism felt comforting, like I was coming home.

Today, I’m so grateful that Hashem sent Kylie to me. I’m still doing comedy, and I’m a proudly observant Jew with a beautiful family and community. 

My life may not have gone the way I planned it. But I can tell you this: It turned out much, much better than I ever could have expected.

And here’s one of life’s great ironies: After giving up performing standup on Friday nights, I started getting phone calls from Chabad rabbis who wanted me to do their events. And guess what? They’re almost always on Friday nights.  

And here’s one of life’s great ironies: After giving up performing stand-up on Friday nights, I started getting phone calls from Chabad rabbis who wanted me to do their events. And guess what? They’re almost always on Friday nights.


Daniel Lobell is the co-host of the “We Think It’s Funny” podcast with Mark Schiff. Follow him on Instagram @daniellobell. 

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