Today we are on the campus of Hebrew Union College, the rabbinical school of the Reform movement. We started the morning in the campus synagogue with huge windows overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Just like the last time I came to the HUC campus, this morning I cried.
Yes, I’m tired and I cry when I’m tired. More than that, when I come to the HUC campus, I know that on these grounds nobody questions the validity of my conversion or my Jewishness. It is a knot of tension that I carry between my shoulders and spine as I walk around Israel. It’s not top of mind anymore, not like on my first trip, but I know it is there because when I cross the threshold to this campus, I cry.
I don’t cry at the Kotel. It doesn’t pack an emotional punch for me, although I really enjoy going there and go often when I’m in Israel. This weekend, we took two midnight trips to the Kotel. I leave notes in the cracks of the wall. I lean my forhead on the cool stone. I say the Sh’ma and wonder what prayers I “should” be saying.
I enjoy the symphony of noise in the plaza at the kotel as Jews greet shabbat on Friday evening. I appreciate the peaceful silence at two in the morning. I love the cool stone on my face and hands. I stare at the notes, overflowing from the wall and on the plaza ground, imagining what petitions people have made and what thanksgiving has been offered.
But I don’t cry. I was not overwhelmed by emotion. I didn’t get that punched in the gut feeling that I get during the amidah on some shabbats at home. Within the walls of the Hebrew Union College, I cry. I realize that I’ve been holding my breath, waiting to be called out to defend my Jewish status.
The rabbis who supervised my conversion, and those who supervise similar conversions around North America, all pass through the space I was in this morning. The converts they welcome to the Jewish people have strings that tie them back to that room and this campus. On this block in Jerusalem, I know that nobody official will doubt me. This is where I feel most at home in all of Jerusalem.