Ahuvah Gray

Jewish Tribune of September 21, 2001.

Sincere converts are by definition people who want the best, who strive to be close to their Creator, and as such many converts have chosen to make their homes in Jerusalem, the holy city, the place they feel is closer to G-d than anywhere else.

One person who falls in this category is Ahuvah Gray, an increasing familiar figure in Jerusalem's English-speaking circles (not that she doesn't speak Hebrew). The inevitable question posed to geirim is: "What made you decide to convert?" Ahuvah came from a G-d-fearing background, one she describes as devout, and sees her conversion as the inevitable result of her search for the truth. "I was a minister," she explains. "I studied for 14 years and I taught myself the Hebrew alphabet. I found discrepancies between the bible and Christian theology." It was her efforts to resolve these inconsistencies that brought her to search for the real truth. "My metamorphosis is what will happen to any other prospective converts who are seeking the truth. They will reach their peak in Christianity and the only way to go is to Judaism.

Many other American ministers became Jewish. There was a pastor in Texas. He and his entire congregation converted." When we meet our coreligionists - in shul, at shiurim, in the street or at the shops - we rarely know whether they are Jews by birth, or whether they are Jews by choice. Nor do we normally need to know. However when, as in Ahuvah's case, our fellow Jew is of African-American origin, then we know, almost for certain, that he or she is a convert. "It doesn't bother me that people know I am a ger," she says. "There are Ethiopian Jews, so people have had enough time to adjust to black Jews being in Israel."

Asked whether she has any criticisms of Jewish life given her vantage point as a person who came in from outside, Ahuvah says: "The thing that pains me is the existence of warring factions within Judaism." Asked how she believes that a religious person should relate to a person who is not observant she says: "I believe I can daven for the person, but ultimately his behaviour is between him and G-d."

On meeting Ahuvah the first thing one feels is her warmth and her caring. On hearing that a person she has never met is unwell, she asks for her name and her mother's name. She greets her interviewer with a kiss. Ahuvah's own Jewishness feels so right; talking to her one senses that it is obvious that she was at Har Sinai. She has a sense of belonging and she uses the word "us" with reference to the Jewish community.

For example, when talking about the Shabbos, she says: "Of course there shouldn't be public transport on Shabbos. One of the things that makes us unique, makes us different from chutz lo'oretz is that everything closes down on Shabbos." The interview with Ahuvah took place shortly before Rosh Hashonno, just after the terrorist strikes that hit Ahuvah's native U.S.A..

Ahuvah is no stranger to Rosh Hashonno as it is about five years since she converted, and several more since she made up her mind to convert. She is also no stranger to hearing about terrorist attacks. "For me this Rosh Hashonno and Yom Kippur are the most important I ever observed. Every Jew around the world needs to do teshuva, daven for Moshiach and observe the Torah." Of the non-observant she observes: "They are blinded and missing out on a very rich spiritual heritage. They are missing out on something very beautiful, because they got caught up in materialism."

Ahuvah knows what she is talking about when she talks about gashmias. She has known hard times but has also known prosperity. In the U.S. she worked for 16 years as a flight attendant. After that she ran her own business - one that did very well. When she first came to Israel she cleaned other people's homes so that she could pay her rent and buy food. But she is happy with her decision to live in Israel. "On my first visit to Israel I was hooked. I felt 'I am home.' I knew I wanted to be here."



Ahuvah Gray