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Bridging a Convert's Painful Gap

In recent years, I've received dozens of letters from people with Native American roots who have taken the path of emuna as Noahides. Six of these folks - five of whom have Cherokee ancestors - have become Orthodox Jewish converts.

The following is one of the most special letters I ever received, from "Sara Rivka," a young women who converted to Orthodox Judaism 12 years ago at the age of 23 after completing her MA in American History. Her area of concentration was the history of the Native Americans before the Civil War. She is now a mother of five in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. She looks like a rabbi's wife and few know that she's a convert. Yet, even fewer know the challenges she faced as a convert, which she shares with me in the following poignant letter.

One more thing: when I was using my sleep time to devote the needed hours for recording "Calming Waters" in the studio, a colleague asked me why I'm putting so much effort into a music project. I told him that many people get more spiritual vitamins from a moving melody than they do from a book or CD. Hashem does everything for a purpose; He gave me those melodies for the benefit of some very special people, like Sara Rivka. Here's what she writes:

Dear Rabbi Brody, shlit'a,

I cannot tell you what a delightful addition your Calming Waters CD has made in my life. This is the most moving music I have ever heard. The melodies are simply amazing and as a person of Native American roots, you know this music is close to my heart. I grew up with it, my father plays the Native American Flute, I grew up with the melodies of Robert Tree Cody & Carlos Nakai. But, hearing a Torah-observant Jew incorporate audible holiness into our traditional music makes this CD truly a treasure.

As an Orthodox convert trying to navigate the foreign waters of Jewish culture, I've often felt lost and so alone having no Jewish heritage or family. When I converted as a 23 year old, I thought I was simply elevating my relationship with G-d. I was unprepared for how much culture & religious politics played a part in being Jewish. There have been times I thought I made a mistake, wondering if I would have been better off as a Noachide while keeping to my Native customs instead. Your writings and music have changed my life as a Jewess though. Both have bridged a painful gap for me.

Finding some connection between these two worlds has brought healing to my soul. You have been Hashem's messenger in bridging what I felt was an impossible chasm in my life. I'll never forget for this. You have given me back my self-esteem, and I no longer feel that I need to cast away my past - I can now simply uplift it and incorporate it into my present, as you yourself have taught me. All of a sudden I feel that I am returning to - and have found - something that my ancestors have been searching for for hundreds of years. This connection gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose as a Jew.

You have illuminated the meaning in my heritage, awakening a restoration of what has been lost over the ages. I no longer think of Jewish-Indian similarities as quaint coincidences. The whole world is crying out for shortcuts to HaShem and the ancient sparks of holiness in the 'New World' are being fanned. It seems Creation is moving toward the fulfillment of the Aleinu prayer when all of mankind calls out Hashem's Name and I pray to be a part of its realization in some humble way.

I thank you and HaShem's loving grace for these inspiring revelations and I pray for Emunah Outreach to continue in strength and success.

Toda raba & Wado, Sara Rivka

Comments

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Puah yiska

Hey Sara Rivka, yasher koach. Its such a beautiful experience to feel part of the tribe. K'siva v'k'sima tovah!!!!!

Rut Biton

Shalom, I am also an Orthodox convert, from the Chippewa tribe. My mother's family was very broken and ashamed of who they were, while my father's side seems to have been in denial of their Jewish heritage. Now I feel i've elevated their sparks, in myself and my daughter.

My two sisters identify much more strongly now with our Native American roots, and I have found they're now more interested in Judaism than ever before.

However, I grew up with so much shame around our cultural background, I am pushing myself to enjoy native music. Thank you for making it more easy to bridge.

Oddly, I've married a Moroccan- Jewish man and find the culture to be closer to my mother's side and somehow familiar.

Leah

On the uncanny connection between Native & Jewish philosophies, I just read this fascinating excerpt about the Yurok Indian New Year. Amazingly similar to our Rosh HaShana and the Jewish concept of tikkun olam.

"The New Year ritual reenacts the mythical beginning of the cosmos. Therefore, by the logic of the eternal return, each New Year is the beginning of the cosmos. Thus, time flows in a closed circle, always returning to the sacred time celebrated during the New Year: the cosmos's entire duration is limited to one year, which repeats itself indefinitely.

In many cultures, this belief appears to be consciously held and clearly stated. From the perspective of these societies, the world "must be periodically renewed or it may perish. The idea that the Cosmos is threatened with ruin if not annually re-created provides the inspiration for the chief festival of the California Karok, Hupa, and Yurok tribes. In the respective languages the ceremony is called 'repair' or 'fixing' of the world, and, in English, 'New Year'. Its purpose is to re-establish or strengthen the Earth for the following year or two years."[22]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return_(Eliade)

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