a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

I know I said I wouldn’t cross-post…

Posted on: July 9, 2012

…but I couldn’t pass this one up. Rabbi Juan Mejia has been on my radar since I started to explore Judaism. His story is amazing, born in Columbia as Catholic, he learned his family had Jewish roots. He abandoned the desire to become a monk and instead re-established his connection to Judaism. I’ve heard some amazing things about Rabbi Mejia, and some seemingly controversial. He re-connects Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the inquisition, sometimes in large number. It’s because of Rabbi Mejia that scores of Jews are finding their way back to their faith and thus, reconnecting the wonderful diversity of our community.

From NewsOK.com

A funny thing happened on the way to the monastery …

Juan Mejia, of Oklahoma City, once dreamed of becoming a Roman Catholic monk, but a life-changing discovery that began with a joke set him on a different path.

Mejia said he was 15 when he attended a family Christmas gathering in his native Bogota, Colombia. A relative made an off-color remark, an anti-Semitic joke actually, that made his paternal grandfather very upset.

Someone at the gathering urged the older man to explain why he was so upset, and his answer took everybody by surprise: The family descended from Jews.

Mejia said he listened as his grandfather told them that his own grandfather was Jewish, and the family’s ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition.

Raised in the Roman Catholic faith, his heart leaning toward becoming a monk one day, Mejia was intrigued by his grandfather’s words. His only knowledge of Judaism had come from the Christian Bible up to that point. Suddenly, some of the practices of many older men in the family began to make sense, Mejia said.

“I wouldn’t say it was an earth-shattering moment but it did create a curiosity, an interest (in Judaism),” he said.

For Mejia, the knowledge of his Jewish ancestry changed the course of his life. Instead of serving in a Colombian monastery alongside the Benedictine monks who taught him in grade school and high school, Mejia traveled to Israel during his college years.

On the way to the monastery, Mejia’s faith journey took a huge detour. He embraced his Jewish heritage and became a rabbi.

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