Saw You At Sinai

A couple perseveres on the path to conversion.

Saw You At Sinai

Spotlight Design Team

by Boruch Werdiger

April 13, 2020

This story appeared as a sidebar in connection to the article 'A Nation is Born,' Boruch Werdiger's exploration of the concepts of Jewish nationhood and conversion, that appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Lubavitch International.

Leor Granowski, a Princeton, NJ, native, grew up with a self-assured sense of her Jewishness and a strong affinity with Israel, albeit with a “very, very limited background in Judaism.” A trip to Israel during her college years, however, began to challenge the conceptions of Jewish identity she had held since childhood; although Leor’s mother had undergone a non-Orthodox conversion years before, Leor came to realize that there was so much more to halachic Judaism than she had ever known. Eventually, a talk with a Chabad rebbetzin, Yehudis Bluming, gave Leor clarity and confidence that would serve her years later, when she chose to make an extraordinary leap of faith.

Back at Princeton, at a Friday night dinner hosted by Chabad, Leor met an affable young man by the name of Ross Granowski. Born to a Christian family living in Central Texas, Ross had long harbored an interest in Judaism. Now, he was pursuing a Phd., studying nonlinear wave equations in Princeton’s Mathematics Department, where Leor was also studying for her undergraduate degree.

Over time, two nonlinear paths converged, and Leor and Ross began thinking more seriously about Judaism, together. The rigorous but vibrant traditional Jewish life they saw at Chabad and the local Modern Orthodox community appealed to them. Soon they were ready for their first appointment with the Bergen County Beth Din (rabbinical court).

The conversion process was not easy for either of them. Since rabbis must test the sincerity of any pledges to the faith, they pressed Ross and Leor about their motivations, reminding the young couple of the radical change in lifestyle they were preparing to make. As Ross quipped, it all reminded them of the hazing rituals typically imposed on new college fraternity recruits. All those years spent in the academe had prepared the collegiate couple well.

Ross and Leor persevered. They thought and spoke a lot about halacha, about the commitment it demanded, about why they felt that the halachic lifestyle had such rich meaning and spiritual opportunity in spite of—and really, because of—its rigors. They pushed, inspired, and encouraged each other. Finally, after months of uncertainty, studying, and hard work, Leor and Ross received the green light from the Beth Din. In the space of one month, they converted, married, and defended a doctoral dissertation.

Having talked to other veterans of the process, Ross and Leor were well aware that there is no one, standardized conversion story. Although they weren’t converting for marriage—nothing stopped them from marrying earlier—they were able to go through the experience as partners and support each other when things got tough. “The process is difficult and very challenging at times. But I can’t think how it could have gone better,” said Leor. “Sometimes, I thought that they should cut me some slack . . . but if they had, I wouldn’t have grown so much. Somehow, it all worked out as it was meant to.”

Today, the couple is living back in Ross’s hometown where they are working on building a private commodities trading business. Leor is using her skills as a computer programmer and he, no doubt, is putting his math degrees to good use. But, beyond this, they are enjoying the amazing feeling of a fully involved Jewish experience. Although they have plans to eventually move to Israel, for now, their remarkable commitment to a halachic lifestyle allows them, as Ross puts it, “to make their lives a work of holy art,” right in Dallas, Texas.

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