Ana Rodriguez. (Ruth Abusch-Magder/Be'chol Lashon)

Judaism Was Destiny for This Guatemalan

In moving to the United States from Guatemala, I found my purpose and place in Jewish community

Though my formal Jewish journey started only a decade ago, I feel that in many ways I was born Jewish. I say that not only because like many people in Central and South America, I have some historic Jewish heritage, but because mentally and in my heart, I have always belonged in the Jewish community.

I was born and raised in Guatemala, in a traditional, loving, vibrant, Catholic family. But I was a seeker. So at 24, having finished college, I left my country and everything that was familiar to me. I came to Atlanta as an au pair to live with an interfaith family. She was Catholic and he was Jewish. Together they were raising their son Jewish.

Before coming to the United States, I thought I was going to connect more with the mom since her heritage and culture were more similar to mine. To my surprise, I connected more with the father and with his culture and with Judaism. I was immediately drawn towards the rituals, values, and history of Judaism. I started to want to understand more about it, so I enrolled in continuing education classes about Jewish life at Emory University.  

After two years with the family, it was time to go back home to Guatemala. While living in Atlanta, I had encountered greater ethnic and cultural diversity, which in turn opened me up to new ideas and approaches to living. I had also moved away from the rituals of the church of my childhood. So it was not surprising that when I went home, I felt some distance with my old friends, ideals, and religion.

I decided to come back to the United States, but this time I went to live in Chicago with my cousin. To my surprise, we had two roommates, both Jewish! Once again, I found myself connecting and growing in relationship with them and to Judaism.

After six months I came back to Atlanta and started to work with a different Jewish family. I kept my curiosity and continued learning more and more about Judaism.

In 2010, I went on a date with the most amazing person. It was pretty obvious for us that this was a relationship that was meant to last. So on our second date, he was straight forward and told me that he wanted a Jewish home and that this was very important to him. Well, I said to myself, it is pretty clear now that I have been preparing for this all along. With a smile on my face, I said, “This is something that you can be sure about.”

On 2013, we got married in Guatemala by our dearest friend and mentor Rabbi Phillip Kranz. During our engagement we got together for a year with our rabbi to learn more about raising Jewish children, having Jewish holidays, keeping Jewish traditions, values, and teachings.

In 2014, we found out that we were expecting our amazing daughter. It was during my first trimester that I realized that even though in my heart and my mind I felt Jewish, I needed to make a commitment and “seal the deal.” I officially converted to Judaism while caring for my daughter in February 2015. This was a very important and meaningful moment in my life. I was able to finally, actively choose the path that I was born to walk.

Today, I work as a PJ Library connector for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, helping Jewish families connect with each other in the area of Smyrna and Vinings, GA. I feel that because of my unique journey I am able to connect with these families on a deeper level, understanding that we all have a unique story, a unique mission, and a unique journey and that it doesn’t matter where we come from or how we look, we all can come together as a strong Jewish community.

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