Growing up in Hollywood, FL, I was born Jewish, but I lacked a depth of understanding of Judaism. Our family wasn’t affiliated, and I didn’t grow up attending Hebrew School. The extent of my formal Jewish education was six sessions that prepared me to read transliterated Hebrew for my Bar Mitzvah.
I hoped to connect to the Jewish community during my undergraduate studies at the University of Florida but I wasn’t inspired by the programing I attended on campus. Feeling a spiritual void, by the end of my sophomore year of college, I began to independently explore other faith systems.
Soon after, I began to take notice of the visible presence of Christian outreach organizations on campus. I was invited to attend a local church where I became inspired by the pastor’s message and the charitable work of the congregation. My involvement with the Christian community on campus allowed me to feel the warmth of spirituality that I was looking for. I didn’t know any different, and, at the time, it just felt right.
After college, I attended church for two and a half years, where I continued my Biblical studies. By the time I began my master’s program at Harvard University, I self-identified as a Messianic Jew.
Studying the Bible in my spare time in Cambridge, I began to have questions that challenged the doctrine of the Church. I was eventually introduced to Rabbi Yoni Ganger, the MEOR representative on the Harvard campus, through a fellow student. Rabbi Ganger provided me my first formal Jewish learning opportunity. He was incredibly patient with me and treated me like family. Rabbi Ganger invited me to my first Shabbat meal and soon after, he helped facilitate a trip to Israel. In Israel, I officially rejected my messianic identity. As I reflect back, I consider my time with Rabbi Ganger to be the most meaningful and important part of my time at Harvard.
I have since returned to Florida, where I am working on my PhD in Educational Leadership at Florida International University. I now self-identify as a proud Jew. I credit my relationship with Rabbi Ganger and MEOR at Harvard University with redirecting my life’s path, connecting me to my Jewish roots and inspiring me to continue learning and growing.
Class of 2015 MA in Education Policy and Management