New York couple Genny and Kyle had a lot riding on the month of April. Not only were they gearing up for their destination wedding in Arizona, but Genny’s ceremonial mikveh was scheduled for the week of April 1—that’s right, Genny, who grew up a non-practicing Catholic, spent the last year studying to convert to Judaism in the lead up to her wedding. Now, her wedding is postponed a full year thanks to the pandemic. Yeah, we had so many questions for her, too. Here’s what Genny told us about postponing her wedding and religious conversion.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why are you converting?
“Kyle’s family practices reform Judaism, and I’ve always been amazed by their family history—his grandmother lived in Germany at the beginning of World War II and escaped with her parents at the age of 5 in July of 1938. But it was when I attended Yom Kippur services with Kyle and his grandmother in Baltimore two years ago that really set off my journey. I loved the communal aspect of it all. Everyone is brought together on one day without distractions—besides their rumbling stomachs—to reflect on the past year. The community and the mindfulness was transformative for me.”
How did each of your families respond to your decision?
“My parents, like me, are lapsed Catholics—more spiritual than tethered to a certain doctrine. So, they’re actually really excited for me. As for Kyle’s family, they would love and welcome me into their family no matter what. But I think the entire family appreciates my commitment to Kyle and the traditions we’ll now carry into our own family.”
There’s the famous Sex and the City storyline where Charlotte tries again and again to convert to Judaism but is turned away by the rabbi. What has your experience been like?
“It's funny to think about Charlotte's experience after looking back at my own. I think the most significant difference in my experience compared to Charlotte's was the initial process of finding a rabbi. In my mind, I thought the process of finding a rabbi to work with would be complicated, probably subconsciously from growing up watching Sex and the City. I was so fortunate to find a wonderful rabbi—Rabbi Lisa Rubin, from Central Synagogue—who made me feel comfortable and welcomed me with such a warm heart.”
How intense have your studies been? What does converting entail?
“For six months, I took a weekly class at Central Synagogue, and in addition to that, I met with my rabbi once a month to go over how I was feeling about the course and ask her lingering questions. Kyle joined me for the classes, actually, except for the two weeks of courses focused on learning Hebrew. It was nice because the other students were in similar situations to Kyle and me. For my final study, I had to present an “autobiography” on my spiritual journey. Because I'm a designer and love typography, I decided to present mine in the format of the Talmud. Following that, I was supposed to have my mikveh—the symbolic culmination of my conversion where I would immerse myself in the bath…but that was postponed.”
What does your delayed mikveh mean for you—emotionally and practically?
“As my rabbi tells me, I've done all the work, and my mikveh is to celebrate the work I've put in. It’s a ritual that’s the exclamation point between two sentences—the beginning of my journey, and the start of my future. I will reschedule it, but I’m not heartbroken. Compared to my wedding, a one-time event, being postponed, I am bringing Judaism into my lifestyle every day. So in that regard, the cancellation doesn't hit me as hard as our wedding being canceled.”
How has converting been for your relationship?
“In our busy lives, especially in the year we were planning a wedding, scheduling the time each week to take a break without distractions to focus on religious values we want to carry with us throughout our life was a great change of pace. It taught us to take time away from our devices and think and communicate on a deeper level about what matters most.”
How has the pandemic changed your perspective on marriage?
“It’s brought me back to how I wanted to feel during my wedding year in the first place: enjoying every moment. As we got closer and closer to our date, things got stressful. This has reminded us of what’s truly in important in the grand scheme of things—our relationship, our family and our friends. Now, I have a year to truly take time to enjoy the small steps in planning that I felt like I rushed through just to get through as the date got closer.”