Stories Matter Week 3: - Kathryn Harbel



B'shert – by Kathryn Harbel

I live in what I call a “religiously complicated” household. My husband is an atheist; my son has been introduced to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and atheism. I would dare to say that “hot mess” is not an inaccurate description of the religious status of my household. However, I have always been spiritual, connected to the Earth, grounded in the unity of life, and operating from a base of kindness and openness. I’ve always wanted to find a religious home and be a part of something, but I just haven’t found that fit yet.


When I moved to Seattle a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with my sister-in-law, Jennifer Phillips McLellan. We had Shabbat together, and I explored Judaism through both her eyes and through my own research. It felt comfortable, like Judaism might just be my home. But, then fear took over. Learning all of the new customs, language, and embracing a completely different framework from how I was brought up, felt overwhelmingly intimidating. Given that the world often doesn’t embrace Judaism, when I moved to Montana converting seemed a frightening proposition. Every aspect of conversion seemed to tell me that it just wasn't right for my life.


Yet, I couldn’t let go of the yearning in my heart.


A few months ago, Jennifer called me out of the blue and asked if I would be willing to take on some web/newsletter duties for Kol Ami as a paid gig, as I had experience with the web platform, Wix. I offered my services pro bono, as I take community service seriously. I was also secretly excited to be involved in the goings-on of the synagogue. Throughout our new reality of Covid-19, the online services and activities have allowed me to participate to a small degree and listen, and I have listened a lot! I was brought back to why I was drawn to Judaism in the first place. I asked Rabbi Kinberg to sponsor my conversion, and she accepted. I have such respect for who she is and how she leads.


I may have filled a need for Kol Ami, but it was genuinely just what I needed for my own spiritual journey. It was truly B'shert, truly meant to be.


If you have a story to share, regardless of the topic, this is a time when our readers would appreciate the sharing and entertainment outlet. Submit your 1-2 paragraph story to: Lauren Segal.

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