Rabbi Alona Lisitsa, Ph.D. '04 (standing, second from left), Rabbinical Internship and Mentoring Coordinator in the Israeli Rabbinical Program and Rabbinics and Liturgy teacher in the Year-In-Israel Program at HUC-JIR's Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem, serves as a sponsoring rabbi for Iberia in the European Beit Din. She supervises the conversion process, interviewing candidates, teaching them, and guiding them through the conversion process.
Rabbi Lisitsa writes:
On May 3, 2017, I had the great pleasure of presenting ten candidates from Spain and Portugal, half of whom are children, before the European Beit Din in London. It was a very moving day, a culmination of a long process. Joy and tears and the waters of mikveh. Blessings, hugs, and good wishes.
On Shabbat morning, Congregation Shir Hayim and Rabbi Larry Tabick welcomed one of the converted families for the celebration of a bar and bat mitzvah. The mother, Yael, and her children, Moshe and Miriam (sitting on the bench), were called to the Torah. They not only read the blessings, but also chanted the Torah portion. This was a moment we had been working towards and hoping for during many months.
This is the second time Shir Hayim has opened its doors for my students from Iberia after the Beit Din. With a warm and welcoming Kabbalat Shabbat, tasty family-like seudat, and Shabbat morning service, the converts were publicly acknowledged and embraced as members of the People of Israel, called to the Torah and blessed. I cannot think of a more moving and meaningful ending for the long and challenging process of return and conversion these candidates have gone through. For many of them, this was a rare opportunity to pray with a minyan and to see a real Torah scroll.
This is a moment of true peoplehood, a moment when Jews from different geographic and cultural contexts are united in prayer, in Torah, and in being a part of something bigger than each one of them.
Congratulations to our sisters and brothers who returned and joined the People of Israel. Bruhim habaim, bruhot habaot.
Many thanks to Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Convenor of the European Beit Din, for her support and guidance, and to Congregation Ohel Yaakov in Lisbon, Portugal; Congregation Beit Emunah in Oviedo, Spain; and Congregation B'nei Sefarad in Valencia, Spain; for supporting the candidates and providing a place to learn and practice Judaism.