Ahuvah Gray


by Sherry Shameer
Greenwich, Connecticut (October 23, 2001)
Ahuvah Gray in 1998

Israeli citizen Ahuvah Gray riveted UJA/Federation supporters at Temple Sholom with her astonishing story about her path to Judaism.

Born Delores Gray in Chicago, she was the daughter of a religious Baptist African-American family of modest means. Inspired by her grandparents and parents' unwavering faith and diligence, Gray forged two successful careers. She had a lucrative and exciting job as a sales rep for Continental Airlines, and she became an ordained minister. She had a close family, a wide circle of friends, and a condo in Northridge, California.

Yet her soul still craved something and she followed a journey which led to life in Israel as an Orthodox Jew. Looking back, Gray's journey was dotted with road signs which were clearly marked since childhood. By the time she was four years old, her grandmother, a sharecropper in the South, taught her the 23rd psalm and forbade all work on the day of prayer. Her grandmother taught the family of the importance of bikkur cholim and chesed. Her family had a tradition of fasting when a relative was sick.

Gray made her first trip to Israel with a Catholic tour group. She felt at home immediately and thought it was the most fascinating place on earth. She told a fellow traveler that one day she would live there. She traveled to Israel more than a dozen times in four years. She began to learn Hebrew. She prayed three times a day, not knowing that was part of Judaism and she bought a siddur even though she didn't know what it was. She developed a family relationship with a Jewish couple in the United States. And she was still preaching Christianity as "Sister Delores."

Then came the Northridge earthquake of 1994. She looked at the damage in her condo and immediately announced to family and friends, "I'm moving to Israel." Their reaction was: "Relax, Delores. We know you're shaken up, but don't lose your grip." She admitted she was shaken, but insisted that she is still moving to Israel. Gray sold her condo and quit her jobs, and the pace of her journey went from a walk to a canter.

In preparation for the High Holidays, she read from a makhzor for Sl'hichot and everything she had preached about repentance took on new meaning. Everything culminated for her on Kol Nidre. After the service, she walked around Jerusalem and felt the peace of the Almighty. "Not a leaf moved," she recalled. "I felt like Ruth." And then it dawned on her that she would have to tell her parents that she would not come home for Christmas.

Although it took two years of study and initial rejections by the Beit Din, Gray felt she was part of "a high level of Yiddishkeit....You don't have to go through anything alone." A Jewish friend felt that she should not call herself Delores, but Ahuvah, and her new name stuck.

Gray went into the mikveh on her 51st birthday. Immediately afterward, she returned to Nishmat, where she had been studying, and kissed the mezuzah for the first time as a Jew. Inside was a surprise. They closed the entire seminary to celebrate her conversion. She considers her conversion to Judaism one of the highest quality decisions she has ever made in her life. "True happiness is doing G-d's will," believes Gray, and believes it is G-d's will to share her story.

She has been visiting the United States for a tour to promote her book, "My Sister, the Jew," published by Targum/Feldheim. (The title came from a line her brother and sister wrote on a birthday card.)


Ahuvah Gray