One year ago today, I learned I was part Jewish, but to be honest with you, that’s not exactly where the story begins.
Four years ago, I moved to Aventura, Florida. Upon arrival, I had no intentions of staying this long, in fact I felt called to be here, yet had no real clue as to why. Miami itself, was always an interesting place for me growing up in the modeling industry and in my advocacy for bringing awareness to human trafficking. Armed with this knowledge, I still held a deep hesitation toward Miami downtown and deeper south. Instead, everything pulled me to Aventura (Northern Miami) - a place of calm, beauty and deep roots to the Jewish community. After all, the founders of Aventura, the Soffer family, are Jewish and built the city of excellence.
I had no family in this city and moving on my own, building a business and buying a condo was no easy feat. As an outsider in the community, my known roots at the time were Gaelic and Aussie. This tight knit community was interesting for sure.
I opened one of the locations for Flying with Air in Aventura Mall and this would be how I would meet Jackie Soffer and about a dozen other Jewish business owners. They welcomed me as a friend and showed me some of their practices, but it wasn’t until December 22nd, 2021, that I learned these practices were part of my ancestors as well.
By no means did I go or even think a Jewish heritage was part of my story. No one in my family had ever taught me about Yom Kippur or the amazing dish SHAKSHUKA!
God’s plans for me came out in an interesting way when a good friend of mine bought me a Christmas present of an Ancestry DNA testing kit. In a plot twist, I found out my results of eight chromosomes being of Jewish descent on my maternal side. Somewhere in the origin of the levant of ashkenazi and sephardic, my jewish heritage was born.
How on earth did I not know this? Well, long story short my grandmother was in a closed adoption as a refugee. So, that part of the family tree was a mystery for a very long time and some parts still are a little discombobulating.
When I shared this new knowledge of my heritage I was met with a lot of different reactions! Some of my friends started sharing about the lost tribes of Judaism. Aventura magazines suddenly wanted to know my story and share it on their platforms. I immediately was invited to the kabbalah center and suddenly, it felt like every Jewish mother in Aventura wanted to introduce me to their sons.
Originally, my reaction to finding out this part of me existed had nothing to do with lighting candles at Hanukkah or good business practices. Instead, it hit me at a soul level with something I’ve held very close as a secret between God and myself. Something I haven’t revealed to but a handful of friends.
You see, I was raised in a Christian home and I’ve always believed in God. I wanted to be baptized as early as eight years old and in fact, my first real journal entry is about how excited I was to be baptized (even if it only was a couple paragraphs long). There was really only one thing that bothered me about a relationship with God.
The jews and the gentiles.
For those of you who may have never heard the word gentile before, it basically means anyone who wasn’t a jew. So, for the first twenty-seven years of my life, I thought I was a gentile. Now, the only reason this remotely mattered to me was because the jews were God’s chosen people. Even in Christianity, Jesus is a jew. Essentially, God’s first choice, God’s favorite.
Oh, that hurt at a soul level. Even now, I physically place my heart over my chest.
How damaging it can be to feel like someone’s second choice - let alone God’s second choice.
So, when I found this all out. My first reaction wasn’t about making jokes about the top hat or when I am booking a flight to Tel Aviv.
Instead, I cried. I must have cried for about twenty or thirty minutes in prayer. Going through all the phases of anger, grief and acceptance.
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY AS A JEW
God really does work in mysterious ways. In several aspects of my life he has used me as a bridge among people. Constantly teaching, learning and showing them we are equals and we belong with one another.
As of late, I have been called to know my time in Aventura and Miami in general is coming to a close. The life lessons I've had here have been so impactful and I have been so grateful for each person among my path. God brought me here on purpose and that's invaluable.
This is how I want this story to be shared- as a bridge amongst people. God’s love is infinite and never ceases to amaze me. So, sure, Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Grianstad an Gheimhridh. But, most of all many blessings and love this holiday season.