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African American describes her journey into Orthodox Judaism

The Journey to the Land of My Soul by Ahuvah Gray. Duelkus Press, 2010, 251pages.

By David Strom

David Strom

SAN DIEGO — Ahuvah Gray is an African American woman who converted to Judaism, Orthodox Judaism. She did not convert to Judaism to marry someone Jewish as some do today. No, she became Jewish in her own words, to be completed; to be made whole.
    
|Delores (Ahuvah) Gray was born in Chicago. She was the granddaughter of sharecroppers from Mississippi. Her grandparents were deeply religious Christians, well known in the community. Her paternal grandparents lived in a town where the “entire municipality, hospitals, schools, police and fire apartments, town hall, houses of worship, and businesses were all owned and operated by Blacks.”

        
Ahuvah experienced great love and respect in the Gray home. More importantly, she “was always in awe of my Grandparents’ spirituality.” Her grandmother’s main teaching to her children and grandchildren “…was about obedience to God. Her close relationship with Him grew and flourished, nourished by her prayers and complete trust in her Creator.”

Ahuvah started college but did not graduate. She went off to the world of work. Ahuvah traveled as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. Eventually she trained other flight attendants and headed a divisional office for the airline. As Ahuvah grew older she maintained her spirituality and love of prayer. She became dedicated to her place of worship, King David House of Worship in Chicago. Ahuvah was spiritually inquisitive. When she wanted to clarify or verify her Christian beliefs and ideologies, she would go to the “Tanach as an authoritative cross-reference.”

She understood that Christianity grew out of Judaism. She wanted to know how her “spiritual ancestors prayed, how they worshiped, and how they lived.”

A friend of Ahuvah knew that she was seeking more. She introduced Ahuvah to the spiritual leader, Dr. Charles C. Queen, of the Strait-Way Church. He taught the Jewish Bible in Hebrew. This captivated Ahuvah and seemed to satisfy her spiritual longings. Studying Hebrew and celebrating a Passover Seder with Pastor Queen and his congregation drew Ahuvah closer to Judaism.
  
After retiring from her Continental Airline position, Ahuvah opened a travel agency targeting African-American travelers who wanted to travel to Egypt, Israel and Greece. The first time Ahuvah voyaged to Israel, she felt at home. Within her heart she felt at peace and contented. Ahuvah felt spiritually closer to God there than anywhere else she had lived!

Over the next few years Ahuvah traveled 14 times to Israel. She led tours during Passover, meeting people, and getting a feeling for the land and its people. Eventually, after serving as a Christian minister for thirteen years, Ahuvah felt the need to become a Jew. Many who worked with her and were friends with her wondered what took her so long. They knew that her life force had been heading in this direction for many years, even though she had not made a definitive decision to convert.
 
The difficult decision to become a Jew was made easier by her family when her mother and father accepted her pronouncement as the will of God. They were happy that she had found a place where she could be spiritually at peace. Her siblings also supported her choice.

        
In May of 1993, Ahuvah went to Shavuot service in the United States. Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Ten Commandments and Torah at Sinai. Ahuvah told her friend, “I was at Sinai when the Law was given.” She now understood her “…identification with the Law of Moses and the Jewish people…the missing link.” She understood finally the feeling of peace she felt that first time at Sinai.

Prayer and fasting have been an important part of Ahuvah’s life. Living among the “Black Hatters” in Jerusalem has helped her understand her Judaism more deeply.  Her many friends invited her to Shabbat cholent meals at celebrations where the entire religious community had warmly accepted this devoted African-American Orthodox Jewish woman into their hearts.

The Journey to the Land of My Soul is Ahuvah Gray’s description of her spiritual journey from Christianity to Judaism via Chicago to Los Angeles and finally, reaching its final destination in the holy city of Jerusalem. Because of its uniqueness, her story is worth reading. A fault can be found in the book in that it is too long and repetitious. Paring the story down by a half would help make this a more readable book by giving the reader the essence of the story without so much detail. However, the essence of Ahuvah Gray’s story of her journey into Judaism is worthwhile and enlightening to readers as to the beliefs, practices and sense of community that attract a convert to the Jewish faith.
*

Strom is professor emeritus of education at San Diego State University

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  1. Dr. Friede Y.B
    December 3, 2014 at 4:48 am

    Thank you for this review. I can feel what she felt as I am going trough a similar expereince.Shalom

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