by Melodee Leven Currier
According to Jewish law, a child is considered Jewish only if the mother is Jewish because you always know who the mother is, but you don’t always know who the father is. My parents were like Bridget Loves Bernie — she was Irish, he was Russian Jewish. I was somewhere in the middle.
It wasn’t important until I was engaged to marry my Jewish fiancé. I was told I would need to convert to Judaism if we were going to get married in his Temple. So we began taking conversion classes which were also attended by a few other couples planning to tie the knot. The number of classes weren’t pre-determined — the Rabbi said he would let us know when each of us was ready to take the “plunge.” After a couple months of classes, he determined I was ready for my visit to the Mikvah, which is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion.
The Rabbi told me he preferred me to be naked at the ritual. I thought he was being a dirty old man and I insisted on wearing my two piece bathing suit. I made it very clear that I was not going to be naked.
When the rabbi picked me up at my apartment to go to the Mikvah, I hurriedly grabbed my bathing suit and towel and we were off. The Mikvah was at a private home which had an indoor pool created for conversion. It was complete with a changing room and a wall so the Rabbi couldn’t see the converter in the pool.
In the changing room, as I reached for my bathing suit I was horrified when I realized I didn’t bring the bottom of my suit. I don’t know if I was more embarrassed that I was now going to have to go nude or because I made such a big deal about it. The Rabbi got his wish. As I put a towel around my body and started walking out of the changing room, the Rabbi gave me a strange look and said I needed a larger towel. A young man who lived in the house got one for me.
As I walked toward the pool, I could see that the rabbi was on the other side of the wall, but he couldn’t see me. Whew! I removed my towel and got in the refreshing water. That wasn’t so bad! The rabbi asked me to totally immerse myself three times in the water and recite the blessings, after him, in Hebrew. That was the turning point.
From there, we hurried to the Temple where my fiancé and the Beit Din (a rabbinical court of three men) were waiting. The three men asked me questions to determine my sincerity in living according to Jewish law. We had a short, meaningful, ceremony and the Rabbi gave me my Hebrew name of “Zimrah,” meaning music, melody, song.
Years later I learned that it is Jewish custom, not just the rabbi’s preference, to be converted in the Mikvah while naked. As it turned out, if I wanted to convert to Judaism I didn’t have a choice. God works in mysterious ways!
© 2014 Melodee Currier
Mel Currier left corporate America in 2008 where she was an intellectual
property paralegal. Since then she has devoted her time to writing and has
had numerous articles published on a wide variety of topics. Her articles
can be read on her website www.melodeecurrier.com.