When I was 16, my dad died. My memories of him inspired me to reexplore religion in college.
“I grew up a practicing Methodist, but as I got older, I began to question my beliefs. My doubts came to a head when I was 16 and my dad passed away suddenly. That just ruined religion for me. I couldn’t understand why my dad had been taken from me so soon. I withdrew from everything religious, but at the same time, I was still deeply spiritual. It wasn’t until I got to college, off on my own, that I realized I wanted to believe in something again. I just didn’t know what. So, I started exploring — Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism and on and on. I didn’t have any background when it came to Judaism, but as I began learning about Jewish practices, I felt an immediate connection. Five months later, I decided I wanted to convert. The Jewish community on campus embraced me, giving me the opportunity to explore my newfound identity by connecting me with local rabbis, Jewish literature and Hillel students. My memories of my dad are what inspired me to start exploring religion again. He was always searching for God and trying to find something that worked for him, something he felt connected to. That part of my dad’s character, along with the support of my family, have encouraged me to follow the path that works for me.” — Katie Chalstrom, University of Iowa