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Journey to my Hebrew Heritage

My story is short and sweet, so let’s begin. It all started when I was born at White Memorial hospital in
East Los Angeles, California. Wait, no, I am sorry – this is not the short version.
I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. Mainly because my father was, and his father was, or
maybe because we were Spanish? Regardless, I was baptized, attended catechism and masses on
Sunday, I even had “Godparents.” I was always fascinated and seemed to be searching for God.

My Dad was not a strict church attender, since he was forced to be an altar boy when he was young – I
guess he didn’t want my brother and me to be pushed into religion.
My mother’s mom left the Catholic Church as an adult. Most of my relatives were into church, but
mom’s family were Pentecostal Christians, not Catholic. That meant: no TV, long dresses, long hair,
and a slew of other rules. My mother wasn’t so strict with us (again, like Dad). I believe she didn’t
want to push us. So, I would attend Pentecostal church with my Grandpa Perez, and we would attend
Catholic Church on “major church holidays.”

I became saved at my grandfather’s church and thus became a “born again,” Christian, but it was a
secret from my dad because, “We were Catholic.” As I got older and spent more time with other
family members, I enjoyed more and more of church; even so that one summer, I became saved as a
Baptist at my dad’s cousin’s church while she was our sitter at around age 11. Both my parents
worked full-time. Needless to say, that was the last year my dad’s cousin ever watched us and they
never spoke to each other again.
Going past my high school years, my search for religion was not my main focus anymore, for a variety
of reasons. Not until later, when I began both part-time college and work. My experiences were
expanded and I met a variety of people, to include other faiths: Jewish and Muslim. In addition, I
became friends with people in both groups. Too close to some, but not close enough to others. At that
point, my journey into Islam began, and I became fully immersed. However, later it turned out to be a
very unhealthy group, and I was kept away from all my family for over five years. But this story is not
the focus.

Thanks to God (YHVH), for his part in my life. I believe he was with me every step of the way,
because I was brought back to Christianity, after many failed attempts to follow and understand being
a Muslim. It just seemed everything about it was wrong for me and not as peaceful as they portrayed.
I could not find peace and I was alien to my parents after I finally returned to them.
I came back as a Christian, but I was not practicing or attending church due to feeling unsure of how
far to commit. Slowly, I started reading the Bible and wanting to attend church. After my second failed
marriage, I believe I needed to focus on me and my spiritual growth. So, I did. So much so that I was
reading and searching more and more.

Then one day, I was introduced to a weekly Bible study group
over Zoom and, as it turns out, it was a Torah reading group. After 6 months of study and attending my first Sukkot ever, I believe I am now, truly, coming home. I take Hebrew classes to learn and understand the language and classes from a Rabbi to further
understand Hebrew traditions.
Hence, last summer my final journey to my Hebrew heritage began, and now I will no longer celebrate
pagan holidays or eat unclean food, and I am working to follow the entire Torah, to include the major
feast, and observing each weekly & monthly Shabbat. I am reading and understanding scripture like
never before and I feel at total peace.

Isaiah 42:6-7: “I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the
Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind.”

Answers are clear to me now, and I can see that they have been in my Bible all the time. I believe
they are in front of us all, if we want to take the time to understand them and not just take what is
served to us at Sunday school as gospel. Shalom, “Peace,” and blessings to you all. May the Lord
YHVH open your eyes to his word, I pray in Yeshua’s name.

L.J. Rivera
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