Lisa Cohen's Story : Surviving Mormon Love
I was raised in a mostly secular Jewish home. My brother and I attended Hebrew school at a Reform synagogue and my family attended services once a year at the High Holidays. However, after I became a Bat Mitzvah, my family let our membership run out. I had always had an affinity for Judaism and spirituality but my connection to Judaism as a religion was tenuous. My parents are liberal intellectuals and taught me that Judaism was our culture. Neither my mother or father believes in G-d.
With this background, I went to college in a rural mid-western town with few Jews. When I selected this college, I made a superficial investigation of the on-campus Jewish organization and it seemed fine. I didn't realize how sheltered I'd been in metropolitan Los Angeles, surrounded by Jewish relatives and friends.
As a first-year-student, I was exposed to people of all different backgrounds, mostly non-Jewish. I had a few Jewish acquaintances but my friends were all Christian. They attended church regularly and seemed to know a lot about their religion and beliefs. However, when they asked me questions about my Jewish beliefs, I had little to say. I fasted on Yom Kippur and I believed in G-d, but I didn't really know Judaism's stand on faith issues. And even if I did know Judaism's stand, I didn't know if I agreed. Still, I enjoyed talking about religion with my friends and one friend in particular, Daniel. Daniel was Mormon and had very strong convictions. Everyone liked Daniel. He was kind and generous, never swore, and didn't drink. I was instantly attracted to him. Daniel also felt isolated in this mostly Protestant Christian environment. We were outcasts together. We grew to care about each other and started dating. Suddenly Mormonism didn't seem so much like this scary cult thing, but instead a beautiful religion that raises sweet, moral men like Daniel. Though I had no plans to convert, I enjoyed learning about Daniel's faith and started to wonder if Judaism really had a monopoly on the truth. I started thinking that maybe I wasn't doing what G-d wanted of me by being a Jew.
I was confused and my family was upset that I was dating a Mormon. My Mom found out about Jews for Judaism and begged me to talk with Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz. At first I didn't want to, but eventually I called him. Rabbi Kravitz and I spent a whole afternoon talking. Finally there was a Jew who knew what he believed in. I had thought Jews only questioned faith but he had real answers for me. Over the next few months, Rabbi Kravitz took the time to answer all my questions (which I didn't think was possible) about the Jewish faith. He even took me to lunch at delicious kosher Jewish restaurants. He gave me his anti-missionary handbook and I read it thoroughly. I still loved Daniel but I could see how Mormonism directly conflicts with Jewish teachings and the Torah.
In learning with Rabbi Kravitz, I understood how Christian beliefs about the Messiah contradict the Hebrew Bible. I realized there was so much beauty in Judaism that I had never been exposed to. I spent the next three years learning about my religion. I read Jewish books, did a summer study program and worked as a camp counselor at Ramah.
Eventually Daniel and I broke up. Though I never really considered becoming Mormon myself, he and I had been very serious.. Had I not met Rabbi Kravitz, I may have become more involved with the Mormon Church and married Daniel.
After college, I moved to a Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles. Determined to have a more observant Jewish environment, I found two nice Jewish roommates and now keep a kosher kitchen. I hope one day to meet a nice man with Daniel's values but a firm commitment to Judaism. I am optimistic that it will happen and I am very grateful to Rabbi Kravitz and Jews for Judaism for all their help.
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