Well, hello! Shabbat Shalom, everyone! It's nice to see so many of you present for our very special event! We are honored to have you here to celebrate such an important day in our lives. My name is Jordan Adorno, and I am very proud to be among my class of eight others who have all worked very hard over the course of these last fifteen months to make this Shabbat so meaningful. It has not always been easy, but it has always proved to be an ever-remarkable, unforgettable experience in the spectrum of our religious lives. With the help of the best teacher in the world, Cantor Robuck of course, we've successfully managed to become impressive in the Hebrew-based Jewish traditions which you have and will continue to see us partake in throughout this very special Shabbat.
Fifteen months ago, in January of 2012, there were twenty-two people in the class at start. Some of us, including myself, had just finished our conversions following a five-month "Discover Judaism" course, and were eager to all together jump into this new exciting pursuit. Proud and thrilled to be newly Jewish, we could not wait to delve into this new "B'nai Mitzvah" project. Among others present were individuals who'd too converted to Judaism, but at different points prior to us. Still, then there were some members of the class that were older women whom in their time had not the privilege to have a bat mitzvah at age thirteen, which today we are pleased to note can be taken for granted. A family of four even comprised part of the initial set as well.
But nonetheless here we are, a mere nine of us. As time went on and the demands of the learning process grew greater, fewer of us there were. Although I am unable to speak for the others, at this point of culmination my drive and motivation this entire time could not be any clearer: when Judaism so miraculously slipped into my life almost two years ago, it truly became the central thing that saved my life, what allowed me to continue my growth as a person. Until then Jewish people had just been people who I respected for a culture made up of prestige, unimposing religious practice, high IQs, and adorable little hats! Moreover, by this time I had already spent years passionately Atheist, even creating a website entitled “Atheists Concerned for America” (which ironically is more popular now when I've converted back to a theist), set on disproving God's existence and vilifying Christianity. Understandably, I was unhealed from the realization that the religious identity that had been engrained into me since birth was, from my perspective, a catalyst for things which I by principle detested the most: sexism, intolerance, close-mindedness, homophobia; it did not enable me to question all the impending matters around me, it did not allow me to accept myself for who I am.
If nothing else, the sole claim that the ever-acclaimed Virgin Mary was Queen of the Universe was absolutely unacceptable for me — I knew for certain that none other than the super goddess that is MADONNA was the true Queen of all things!!!
And thus, upon my serendipitous discovery that Judaism DID allow me to question things with an open mind, DID allow me to so strongly express my belief in social justice and equal rights, DID allow me to be who I was and whom I had no reason to have shame in....It was like I could breathe fresh air again, like the salt trapped in the wounds that emotionally broke my heart were finally beginning to heal. And alright, sure, the guarantee of brownies and cookies after services was pretty enticing too. Anyway, as I vehemently took upon the principles, scruples, and traditions of Judaism with utmost seriousness and devotion, nothing, absolutely NOTHING, could prevent me from progressing each day no matter how difficult the struggle was to fulfill the prospect of the B'nai Mitzvah. Regardless of how many hours I was working, how much stress was overruling my life, I zealously learned to read Hebrew, the trope, the prayers and songs, and even excelled to take upon extra responsibilities. For all that today I have nothing but utter pride and elation to perform what I have so adamantly attempted to perfect over the preceding fifteen months.
For you see, all in all when the means are justified and my personal expectations are met, the conclusion I straightforwardly arrive at is that Judaism has empowered me to become a better version of myself with each passing day; it has enabled me to be the VICTOR, not the VICTIM, of my every worldly circumstance.
The only drawback is that I'll be hearing 'Told you so!' from my family members and friends who told me I wouldn't stay Atheist for too long. Who would have thought that nineteen-year-old kid who'd replied, “I'd rather die!” would be standing up here right now!
Thank you, it has been an incredible honor to have this experience with eight of the loveliest people you could ever meet, and with the guidance of the extraordinaire that is Cantor Robuck! Thank you to each and every one of you who has believed in me and offered me unconditional support and knowledge to succeed. It means more than can ever be spoken! On that note, SHABBAT SHALOM, and have a wonderful night!!!