Christian preacher’s Jewish ‘conversion’

The amazing story of how a black Christian preacher made aliya and converted to Orthodox Judaism was recounted in a remarkable Friends of the Forum talk at Whitefield last week.

Speaking at the home of Shelley and Nigel Gordon, the former Sister Dolores – now Ahuvah Gray – described her feelings on her first trip from her native America to Israel with a Catholic group. She recalled: “I felt at home and knew that I would live in Israel one day. I had this dream and vision which people did not believe. But I tucked it away in my heart. “I phoned up the Protestant minister with whom I was working and told him that Israel was my first love and that I was going to live there one day. ”He replied: ‘Sister Dolores, don’t tell anyone. They will think you are losing it.”’

After her first visit, Chicago-born Dolores went to Israel 14 times in five years. The catalyst to her final decision to make aliya was a Californian earthquake in 1994. She said that after she had escaped her apartment at 4.30 am another survivor noticed that she was inappropriately dressed and offered to go back and get her robe for her. Her reply was: “I don’t need it because I’m moving to Israel.”

Coming from a devout Christian family, Ahuvah attributes her closeness to the Jewish tradition to her grandmother’s love of the Psalms. She had always assiduously studied the Old Testament, but the more she learned, the more discrepancies she found in Christianity. It was after her first Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur at Jerusalem’s Yakar synagogue that she made her final decision to convert to Judaism. She said: “When I walked into the Kol Nidrei service my soul knew the tunes. I was sobbing uncontrollably. Only afterwards did I realise that it meant the nullification of all my vows. When I came out of synagogue I experienced the peace of the Almighty.

“My 48-year search and mission had been completed. I had always had a compulsion to be around Jews. I knew I had a Jewish soul. I am grateful that I sought out the truth. I had reached my peak in Christianity as no-one could answer my questions. There was nowhere else to go but Judaism.” She had to call her parents and tell them she was not coming home for Christmas any more. Her extremely supportive mother said: “Any decision you make for God, I know you have thoroughly investigated.”

After her first visit, Chicago-born Dolores went to Israel 14 times in five years. The catalyst to her final decision to make aliya was a Californian earthquake in 1994. She said that after she had escaped her apartment at 4.30 am another survivor noticed that she was inappropriately dressed and offered to go back and get her robe for her. Her reply was: “I don’t need it because I’m moving to Israel.”

Coming from a devout Christian family, Ahuvah attributes her closeness to the Jewish tradition to her grandmother’s love of the Psalms. She had always assiduously studied the Old Testament, but the more she learned, the more discrepancies she found in Christianity. It was after her first Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur at Jerusalem’s Yakar synagogue that she made her final decision to convert to Judaism. She said: “When I walked into the Kol Nidrei service my soul knew the tunes. I was sobbing uncontrollably. Only afterwards did I realise that it meant the nullification of all my vows. When I came out of synagogue I experienced the peace of the Almighty.

“My 48-year search and mission had been completed. I had always had a compulsion to be around Jews. I knew I had a Jewish soul. I am grateful that I sought out the truth. I had reached my peak in Christianity as no-one could answer my questions. There was nowhere else to go but Judaism.” She had to call her parents and tell them she was not coming home for Christmas any more. Her extremely supportive mother said: “Any decision you make for God, I know you have thoroughly investigated.”

Five years ago, on her 51st birthday she went to the mikva for her conversion. Now Ahuvah lives in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighbourhood of Bayit Vegan – and jokes that she moved from “one black neighbourhood to another”. Divorced for 14 years, she is looking for a shidduch.

Her love for Israel is so great that she was extremely reluctant to leave the land during the current crisis. Ahuvah, who is currently promoting her autobiography My Sister the Jew, said: “I gave up everything and took early retirement to go to Israel. I feel safer there than anywhere else. ”I felt hurt to have to leave in the midst of danger. ”I do not want to be outside Israel when the Messiah comes. But my rabbi told me it was a mitzvah for me to go to encourage Jews all over the world.” The meeting was chaired by Ruth Benson and Ahuvah also addressed a SEED meeting at Prestwich Hebrew Congregation.

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