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A Timeline of My Jewish Growth

  • Met Aaron Stevens

    Met Aaron Stevens
    Aaron was my introduction to Judaism. Little did I know he would become my husband. Although the picture is NOT from 1998, it's from fairly early in our relationship.
  • Attended services and dinner at Indiana University Hillel

    Attended services and dinner at Indiana University Hillel
    I don't recall exact date, but year is correct.
    First exposure to Judaism and when I realized I needed to be Jewish.
  • First Passover Experience

    First Passover Experience
    Met eventual in-laws, attended congregational seder
    Month and year accurate, not sure about exact day
  • Moved to Racine, WI

    Moved to Racine, WI
    In addition to starting my first job post-undergrad, I met the local rabbi (a friend of my husband's family!) and began study for conversion. Racine is a smidge south of Milwaukee.
  • Converted to Judaism

    Converted to Judaism
    Date was chosen so that I would be official just before Shavuot.
    Mikveh and Beit Din in Milwaukee. The following Shabbat I led a few prayers in the morning liturgy.
  • Moved to Chicago, IL

    Moved to Chicago, IL
    Move primarily was for professional reasons, but we hoped to find a more robust Jewish community. Not sure exact date, but month is approximately correct.
  • Got Engaged in Australia!

    Got Engaged in Australia!
    Nothing particularly Jewish about the engagement, but we started to think more about Jewish ritual for our lives at this point.
  • Moved to Boston, MA

    Moved to Boston, MA
    Another move for professional reasons. We had not found a Jewish community in Chicago, largely due to our work schedules. When we settled in the Boston area, we joined a young couples' chavurah (purely social) and discovered both the Progressive Chavurah and Am Tikva (lay led ritual communities). The start of my learning how to lead services happened in these communities.
  • Began MA in Jewish Studies at Hebrew College

    Began MA in Jewish Studies at Hebrew College
    A goal I had set at my conversion was to learn Hebrew. The process of learning Hebrew led to my deciding to pursue a graduate degree.
  • Got Married

    Got Married
    In planning our wedding and events around it, we combined American traditions like a rehearsal dinner with an unconventional auf ruf on Friday night. On Saturday, we gathered with friends and some family for havdallah. Havdallah had become a major part of our home practice by this time. We planned most of the ceremony ourselves and created a booklet to explain ritual elements.
  • Bought first house (Watertown, MA)

    Bought first house (Watertown, MA)
    Although we had affixed mezuzot at our apartment, it felt noticeably different to do this in a home we owned. Note the ketubah in the picture! :)
  • Began work at Hebrew College

    Working at HC was a pragmatic choice for financing my MAJS. I helped to create the online degree programs which have long since evolved substantially. That said, I had the great blessing of getting to know faculty much better. Through the work I did, I saw a lot of course material which triggered my interest to learn yet more.
  • Read Torah for First Time

    Read Torah for First Time
    This was the very beginning of my love of leyning. It was parashat Pinchas.
  • Began teaching at Temple Shir Tikvah (Winchester, MA)

    Began teaching at Temple Shir Tikvah (Winchester, MA)
    I had a hunch that I needed to know how to teach in a synagogue setting for my longer term career aspirations. I had fantastic mentorship from someone who would become my closest friend, and I discovered that I loved teaching beyond words.
  • Completed MAJS

    My thesis looked at rare te'amim (trope) and I had the experience of teaching my teachers (yikes!)
  • Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Klal Yisrael

    Congregation now known as Kol Tikvah. I worked here for 5 years.
  • Taught at Temple Beth David (Westwood, MA)

    I continued to explore my new love of Jewish education.
  • High Holidays at Northeastern University

    My first time leading High Holidays services. I was testing out the waters for pursuing a clergy path.
  • First child, Caleb, born

    First child, Caleb, born
    Caleb's birth threw us into Jewish ritual almost immediately with planning for his brit milah. As with our wedding, we crafted much of the ceremony.
  • Began teaching at Prozdor

    Began teaching at Prozdor
    At Prozdor, I found and developed my role as an educator. I began to think more deeply about what Jewish education can or "should" look like.
  • High Holidays at Wesleyan University

  • Move to Natick, MA

    Move to Natick, MA
    Despite having a wonderful Jewish community in Watertown, we needed more space. Other than Friday night dinners and holidays, we put a lot of Jewish practice on hold.
  • Second child, Elisheva Noa (Ellie), born

    Second child, Elisheva Noa (Ellie), born
    Now we had the opportunity to create a welcoming ceremony for a girl.
  • Joined Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley

    Joined Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley
    As Caleb approached kindergarten, it felt important to find a Jewish community where we could raise our kids and grow as a family. The exact year of our joining is unclear to me. In some ways, it feels like we always have been there. Over the years, I've served on the board, the ritual committee, the rabbinic search committee, the leadership transition team, and have served as a gabbai. Beth El has been a place of spiritual healing and sanctuary for me.
  • Third child, Jacob, born

    Third child, Jacob, born
    Jacob was born on Yom Kippur. With the birth of each child, we had the opportunity to express our Jewish identity as a family and to renew our commitment to raising our children in a Jewish home.
  • Began Hebrew College Rabbinical School

    Began Hebrew College Rabbinical School
    This was not the path I expected, and a lot led up to it and went into the process. The date is an estimate based on the picture date.
  • High Holidays at Temple Emanuel of Merrimack Valley

    This was a major returning to pulpit work. I had led services at Beth El any number of times, but now I was acting in a rabbinic intern function.
  • Caleb bar mitzvah

    Caleb bar mitzvah
    Too much to say. It was wonderful. A lot of introspection, a lot of thinking about what I wanted to tell my kid
  • First trip to Israel

    First trip to Israel
    This was long overdue. I wish we had gone sooner and for a longer time. Hopefully we will be able to return soon.
  • Rabbinic Intern at Temple Emanu-El (Haverhill, MA)

    My first internship as a rabbinical student. I did not plan to have an internship during my second year as a student, but this must have been beshert. I started to see the possibility of being a spiritual leader for myself. https://jewishjournal.org/2019/07/25/haverhill-temple-welcomes-rabbinic-intern-jennifer-stevens/
  • Rabbinic Intern at Jewish Learning Collaborative of Metrowest

    Rabbinic Intern at Jewish Learning Collaborative of Metrowest
    I returned to classroom teaching after a long hiatus to discern whether I still could do it, whether I still enjoyed it, whether I found it meaningful.
  • Ellie bat mitzvah

    Ellie bat mitzvah
    A very different experience. Due to the pandemic, I spent more time than at Caleb's bar mitzvah (surprising given all of that planning!) thinking about what felt essential and what would be most meaningful.