Written by Oleksandr Spielvogel. Oleksandr is a first-time Jewrotica writer.
My pupils instantly dilated when I walked into the student center in the middle of the Berkeley campus. Even before I could carefully comprehend the astounding beauty that was having this profound effect on me, I found myself stumbling to her corner of the intensely crowded and cacophonous auditorium.
The event was titled “Learn About Religions,” and spread out all along the walls were tables representing every religion I had ever heard about. Although I was Jewish by identity, I had been raised with absolutely no knowledge or discipline of the inherent heritage of every member of this exclusive tribe.
But this was freshman year of college, and my time to devour with ravenous curiosity all things past, present, and future.
In a moment I was standing before her divine presence, every pore of my skin pulling at me to inch even closer. Her gorgeousness ballooned in my mind until it oozed out of every corner of my consciousness, completely obliterating all other sights and sounds swirling around me.
“Hi,” she said in a murmur so soft it made me want to melt into a thousand pieces of ecstasy. “Can I tell you about how wonderful our savior is?”
This question sent me reeling backwards from a state of halcyon bliss to horrific bewilderment.
“Excuse me?” I mumbled as my eyes quickly pushed her image aside to be replaced by the incredibly large sign above her table: “Church of Latter-Day Saints.”
I took three steps backwards, almost falling over. But when she smiled and looked directly at me, I quickly took four steps hurriedly forward and was hovering above her once again.
“I’m so excited to tell you about the messiah,” she continued, her eyes glittering like jewels adrift in darkness, beckoning me to her light.
And I watched her then, her sumptuous lips, her delicate tongue, the angelic way she nodded her head. Not a single word she said made it through my barrier of impenetrable infatuation, but I could observe her for hours without needing any other form of sustenance.
“So,” she said as she laid a hand on my shoulder, “would you like to come to a meeting of the church?”
Could I do this? Could I toss away two thousand years of hard-fought and resilient identity in a single breath of a moment?
My parents’ faces suddenly burst in front of me, angrily contorting in severe sermons of disapproval and disappointment. No, no, I couldn’t do this, I could not betray the history of my people like this…
“I want to be a latter-day saint,” I said instantly. “I mean, if I can, I think it would be great to be a later-day saint like you.”
She chuckled, and even her laughter was heavenly.
“Here are some materials and meeting times,” she said as she handed me a bundle of papers, “it’s great that you are so interested.”
I grabbed those papers as if they contained the key to everlasting life, and becoming conscious of the redness of my face and the sweat trickling down my forehead, I quickly found my way out of the room.
A week later I was an authority on the Mormon Church. I had spent every minute of every hour of my day learning about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the quest of the Mormon people and my role in fulfilling their mission.
On the way to a class I saw her from the corner of my eye. I held my breath in excitement for all the knowledge I could impress upon her.
“Hey!” I yelled as I stepped in front of her, awkwardly blocking her way like a security guard. “I was one of the students you talked to at that religious event a week ago…I wanted to tell you how moved I was by what you said about the church…”
“Oh,” she said, clearly embarrassed. “I’m not Christian, actually, I’m a drama student filling in for my room mate who was sick. I convinced her that I could be dramatic enough to win her over some interested students. Glad it worked!”
“Really?” I said, mouth gaping.
“Yeah, I’m actually Jewish, but it was a fun experience. My drama teacher was totally impressed. Anyway, see you around.”
She circled around me, waved goodbye and disappeared into a blur of campus frenzy.
Suddenly I whirled around and started walking the few blocks up Bancroft Avenue to the Hillel house. I tried to remember all the facts I had forced into my brain about Mormonism, but to my surprise found that I could not remember a single one. As I approached the warm, welcoming doors of the Hillel, I smiled and thought how good it was to be reconnecting with the heritage and traditions of my people.