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My passion for Judaism and the land of Israel

My passion for Judaism and the land of Israel.

My grandfather himself is a holocaust survivor. He was adopted at the age of 6 as a Polish- Jew, by a catholic family in Ninove- Belgium. His parents and most of his family died in the concentration camps in Auschwitz- Birkenau. One of his cousins managed to escape during the deportation of the concentration camps. She lived there until the age of 18, until she decided to move to Israel and build her life there. After several unsuccessful searches for remaining family members, with the help from a Father, and a lawyer, he managed to find family in Israel in 1998. This cousin has two children. They are still alive. We keep contact with them and their children on a regular base, and we try to see each other as much as possible. In addition to that, my grandfather has a Jewish cousin who lives in Brussels.
Since the age of 13 I found more and more interest in Judaism and Israel. Even before that, I was exposed to Judaism. At first because of my grandfather himself, but also in school during class of Ethics. My grandfather came multiple times to my school to testify about the events and his experience as a Jewish boy during WWII. These testimonies touched me deeply and I was impressed by the events.
Since I got more and more interested in the Jewish people, I was looking to know more about Israel. Part of it was also because we had family living there. Every time I had to do lectures or presentations mid-school, I always tried to have it about Israel. I always felt proud when I got to do this. I also went to a Pessach celebration with my mother and grandfather at the Jewish community in Ghent. In addition, I tried to teach myself Hebrew, and I always listened to Hebrew songs. At home I was always connected to my origins because we have different Menorah's, and many souvenirs from the Israeli family with Hebrew inscriptions or the Star of David.
At the age of five I went to Israel with my parents, aunt and grandparents on vacation, not knowing I had surviving family living there. We went back 2 more times after we found new family My biggest dream at the age of 15 was to go back to Israel since I couldn’t remember almost anything about the place. Part of it is also because of the research I've done, which made me want to see Israel again. In 2009 it finally happened, I managed to organize a trip and I went to my family in Israel along with my grandfather. In a few days’ time, we managed to visit many parts of Israel. I couldn't believe the things that I saw. But after everything sank in, I could only dream about building my life in Israel. By continuing to learn and research more about Judaism and holidays, I could see myself more and more living that way of life and the meanings behind it.
Never was I religiously raised by my parents. But during my life I felt that some things do not happen by accident. When I was younger I still couldn't explain this, I've always believed in something, but did not know exactly what it was. What I did believe was that what happens is not just by chance, but for a purpose. Now I can assign it more to something higher than us something or someone that ensures that what happens in one's life, has to be for purpose. Both positive and negative things in life. I also think that in life you need to at least have a little faith. To my opinion it is good to live with the awareness that someone is above you and that you should be grateful for everything you get and what you are taught in life
When I will convert to Judaism, I would feel more complete. I could give more meaning to things in everyday life and go through life with more devotion and gratitude. Now when I go to Israel, then it really feels like coming home again. I personally think this is because I strongly associate myself and connect with Israeli Jewish culture and because I strongly feel the presence of Hashem. What unfortunately, in Belgium, is not the case.
My parents support me with my decision to convert. They understand why I like Israel so much, since they’ve been there themselves.
I found Rabbi Ahron Daum on the internet and I visited his website. Following that, I contacted him and asked him if he can guide me through my conversion. Enthusiastically he informed me about the procedure of converting, and he wanted to start the lessons as soon as possible.
I would like to thank Rabbi Ahron Daum for guiding me weekly, where he enriched my knowledge and made me grow up more in a Jewish culture. This he did with allot of dedication and allot of patience. That’s why I would like to recommend Rabbi Daum to anyone who would want to convert.
Mercedes Van Rentergem, Ninove.
14 Ijar 5776
22 May 2016 / Pessach Sheni

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