My Sister, the Jew by Ahuvah Gray
“I had been a successful, middle-class, African-American professional with a comfortable lifestyle in California. All my major life needs, material and spiritual alike, had been met…or so I thought. But the irresistible call of God to make Israel my home and the Jews my people was so strong that I was prepared to give up everything: home, possessions, friends, and even my family.” From this introduction, Ahuvah Gray, born Delores to a close-knit, spiritual Christian family, takes us on her life’s journey- traveling from Chicago to California to Israel, accumulating frequent flyer miles as a flight attendant, leading fellowship tours to Egypt and the Sinai- all the while gathering friends and insight and conviction that her neshama was present at Sinai so many millennia ago.
Ahuvah credits her inherent faith to her grandparents and her parents; her family quoted the psalms on a daily basis to cope with life’s challenges, and she continued that recitation in times of happiness and stress. In January 1994 the California ground itself was stressed- Ahuvah awoke to “the most violent, intense jolting” she had ever experienced. “It took the catalyst of an earthquake to shake me out of my comfort zone…A definite change had come over me and I was driven to make the major decision of my life. Finally, I would be able to fulfill my dream, to live in Israel and study the Word of God.” Her parents were skeptical and concerned (“Delores, you be careful over there!”) but ultimately proud of their daughter in her determination to resettle and convert to Judaism.
I so enjoyed reading about Ahuvah’s journey within the neighborhoods of Jerusalem. My ever-present yellow sticky notes are fluttering off pages that chronicle her introductions and friendships, one in particular to author Avraham Schwartzbaum, who adopted a Chinese baby and wrote about his experience in The Bamboo Cradle– a book I relished reading and appreciated even more when I was at a luncheon a few years ago and listened to that ‘baby’ speak, now a beautiful grown woman with children of her own. Ahuvah’s journey also took her to the Beis Din, several times as it turned out, where she convinced those present, in halting Hebrew, that her neshama had indeed been at Sinai and her intention was to be Jewish not just in name but in practice.
I am humbled by her journey but share one little amusing nugget with her. When asked as a little girl at the dinner table what she wanted to be when she grew up, her reply “aroused laughter. ‘I want to be like Princess Grace of Monaco…I think she’s charming and beautiful!’” My husband and I were fortunate to visit Monaco while on a cruise from Rome a couple of years ago. My mother, a war bride from England who adored the royals, was enamored of Princess Grace and her story; I apparently inherited those enamored genes and was awestruck as our excursion bus drove up and around the beautiful hills of Monaco, depositing us in front of the sparkling palace. I am certain my mother, of blessed memory, was along for that ‘charming and beautiful’ tour!
Ahuvah Gray might not be the actress who married the prince and moved to a secluded principality, but as an author she has taken me on a magical tour through her book- a tour of balancing her commitment to Judaism with her intense love of her family, a tour of experiencing a spiritual journey through her eyes, and a tour of some wonderful neighborhoods and people in America and Israel. Little Delores with her childhood wish has morphed into a charming and beautiful adult Ahuvah- may her journey continue with much simcha!
Randy Rubinstein lives in Sharon, Massachusetts