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Finding My Jewish Home

Christine Malhotra with Ramesh Malhotra

My husband and I come from two entirely different backgrounds than most of Rockdale’s congregation. Many of our congregants have a long history with Rockdale, or have grown up in different Jewish congregations. I grew up on Long Island, New York and went to the Episcopal Church that my mother went to as a child, until I realized as a teenager that Christian teachings did not make sense. My father was totally uninvolved in any religious activities. My husband was born in Lahore, India (now Pakistan) to a Hindu family. His family escaped from there in 1947 during the partition, and eventually settled in Chandigarh, India, which is close to the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in northwest India.

We met at State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook when I was a senior and he was a graduate student in Earth Sciences. We got married twice in 1971, once in New York before my family and our friends in the United States, and a week later in India before his family and friends there. We joke about the fact that we are legally married on two continents—making a divorce really too hard to even think about. We moved eventually to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, then to Chicago, Illinois, then to Portland, Oregon and finally settled here in Cincinnati in 1982 with our two children, Robert and Jodie, then ages 7 and 4. We did not have a religious life at that point, nor was it a top priority. We became a Christian-Hindu blended family which was totally secular in nature, celebrating holidays but never involving organized religion in any way.

As we grew older, both of us realized that we were missing an important part of our lives. My husband became more spiritual and I began to look for something that would fit into my mindset at that time. It was then that I began thinking that Judaism might be a perfect fit. Many people have wondered why I would convert to Judaism, why I would want to leave the religion of my childhood and embrace the Torah and Tikkum Olam. Why would I want to do it as a 50-plus year old? The puzzled looks came not only from all my Christian friends and family, but with Jews as well. I truly believe that the path I have taken is the right one for me. I am also glad that, even though my husband has not taken this particular path with me, he has encouraged me to go forth (Lech L’cha). A Rockdale friend once told me that my soul must have been at Mt. Sinai and just needed to finish the wanderings to become complete. A long time to wander—but I finally made it.

I was converted by Rabbi Coran in 2006 and was thrilled that my husband, son and daughter joined me on the Bimah for the blessings. We immediately joined the Temple and I have enjoyed every moment since. My husband supports all that I do and joins in when he can. I have been a Board Member, Secretary, and presently I am Treasurer. As Treasurer I realize that, although the temple is monetarily sound at this point, we will have to plan for the future if Rockdale is going to continue to survive as the Reform Jewish Temple I know and love. Rockdale is my Jewish Home and I want it to be here years from now to become just as important a part of the lives of future congregants as it has become ours now.

I hope our CYJL gift will help to accomplish this goal. It was very easy to do. I just changed the beneficiary to K.K. Bene Rockdale Temple on a life insurance policy I took out years ago. Please contact any of the CYJL committee members for more information so you can also become part of Create Your Jewish Legacy.

Wed, July 24 2024 18 Tammuz 5784