Catalina's Faith and Persistence Helped Her return
"As long as deep in the heart beats a Jewish soul ..." (From Israel’s National Anthem ‘HaTikva’ – The Hope)
I will never forget that phrase because that's exactly what I felt for 25 years, before I dared to accept that Judaism was and would be part of my life, and continue this ancient legacy.
My story begins several years ago when I accompanied my aunt’s husband to a synagogue on a Saturday morning. I never quite understood at the time, but I loved being there, everything was so strangely familiar. However, I grew up in a Catholic family, but inside I did not feel comfortable with Christianity and continued thinking that something about it did not sit right for me.
I am paramedic by profession but now I am dedicated to my other passion which is being an Krav Maga (an Israeli form of self-defense) Instructor (another way in which Judaism was knocking at the door) so I traveled to Israel twice in this capacity.
I must admit that when I visited all the Catholics and Christian places I did not feel what I expected to feel. Of course they were places of incalculable historical value, but again I felt I was not where I should be.
However, when I arrived at the Kotel (Western Wall) I just got lost inside the excitement.
When I was back in Chile, many thoughts were in my head. What is going on? Should I be Jewish? Am I supposed to leave the familiar Catholic tradition? Who am I? What am I?
A year later I returned to Eretz Yisrael… and when I was facing the Kotel I said "Let it be your will, I will not turn a deaf ear, I will open the door".
Back home I began to find out about my family history, I realized I had many Jewish things in my family besides surnames. It was like playing detective, little clues and I had only one conclusion "We were lost" and "I need to come back."
So I started to light the candles on Shabbat, until a student came to school one day and said, "Are you Jewish?" I was surprised by that question. I told him what was happening; ‘coincidentally’ he is Israeli.
He invited me to the synagogue, which was to my surprise the same synagogue that I went with my uncle when I was a child. I knew right then that was where I belonged.
Since then I start to attending on Shabbat, until I asked the Rabbi Daniel Zang to accept me for the conversion course. I received no answer, just “we’ll see”. So I came back the following week and received the same non-committal answer, and again the following week and the weeks following that, until I received a positive answer.
I continued attending the synagogue because if you have something in your heart calling, you should pay attention to it and to insist again and again, until you achieve it.
Now I am only a few days away from appearing before the Bet Din (the final step towards conversion), and I am the self-defense instructor at the synagogue.
The conversion process can take years, months, days, but it is the process of our lives and our souls have a huge desire to "return" and to reconnect.
Regardless of our surnames, traditions or family stories, it is a conscious desire to begin our own exodus and to be free again.
"As long as deep in the heart beats a Jewish soul ..."
There is hope, if you have the hope of returning, do not let go.