Unlike many girls growing up, I never gave the man of my dreams a specific face. I knew I wanted a mate who was God-fearing, successful and fun, but most importantly, I needed a man who loved me. Despite my goal-oriented criterion, no bells, alarms or sirens went off when I first met Brian, my husband. Maybe it was because I already had a man… Things were going well with my boyfriend, so when Brian and I were introduced by a mutual acquaintance one late night at a Miami night club I made it clear that I wasn’t so into him. Luckily, he was happy with being friends.
For the next year, Brian and I remained just buddies. He was so cool. He never pushed up on me. He was always a gentleman when we hung out (in groups!). Things were so effortlessly care-free between us that I accepted his offer to dinner when I finally broke it off with my beau. Our first date didn’t disappointment: We spent the evening competing to see who could devour the most sushi in one sitting. We chatted about our lives and cracked jokes over sake. By the car ride home I realized that my Mr. Right was Mr. Right Now.
Over the next few weeks, my life changed drastically. Instead of lunching with my co-workers, I waited for Brian to take the 20-minute drive to meet up for a bit of face-to-face time. We talked about everything from family values to our favorite music. We just clicked. After dating for about four months the topic of marriage came up and he popped the big question: Would I convert for him? My answer was yes.
Initially we waited to tell our families. We didn’t want to freak everyone out and knew they’d be concerned–especially since we’d only been a couple for a few weeks. When I finally told my parents they were understandably anxious. I’d grown up Catholic, and my mother wanted to make sure I was making this change because it was what I desired and not due to pressure from my fiance. They were also concerned about how I’d be received by Brian’s family. Though most people assume that a traditional Jewish family would shun the African-American wife-to-be of their prodigal son, that wasn’t my experience. I was the first Black woman Brian dated, but also one of the few women he’d ever brought home, so his parents and siblings made making me feel welcome their main focus.
Unfortunately, everyone hasn’t been so understanding. One of Brian’s friends thought it was funny to always say my name incorrectly; a slight that eventually cost him our friendship. Nonetheless, besides the occasional encounter with a jerk, race has essentially been a non-issue in our relationship. Maybe it’s because we live in Miami where there is such a diverse population and interracial relationships are common–you don’t really know what a lot of people are–but we’ve never been questioned. Plus, I grew up in a household where I was never kept in a box; I always had the benefit of multicultural friendships and my stepfather is Jewish.
Having my stepdad as a pillar of support made converting to Judaism a lot easier. I had two men who loved me willing to answer my questions–and help me study. I took a 14-week course to learn everything from Hebrew, to prayers and the history of Judaism. When I completed the classes I had a mikveh, a ritual bath that symbolizes your immersion into the faith. During the ceremony I was asked three questions by different rabbis, recited three prayers and then stripped naked and submerged myself into the ocean. I emerged as a woman of Jewish faith.
In a few weeks Brian and I will celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Our current focus is preparing to expand our family, managing our household duties and budgeting. Fortunately, we have the same values, beliefs and religion to help us navigate our happily ever after.
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