By Alyson Kay
Rebbetzin Ahuva Tsykin, who grew up Catholic in Puerto Rico and converted to Orthodox Judaism, spoke about her experiences to about 100 people Sunday night. The event, hosted at the Rosenbloom Hillel Center, included a free taco dinner and a question and answer session.
Tsykin began by speaking about how she broke from the Catholic Church. She talked about the ceremonies held during the life of a Catholic girl, starting with baptism and ending with confirmation.
Alumna Liora Knizhnik said she felt good about the event.
“It was amazing,” Knizhnik said. “I’m proud to be Ahuva’s student.”
Tsykin said she came to question whether there was a god when she was a teenager, and concluded that God didn’t exist. However, she didn’t stop there. She studied the Bible and religious texts, so she could show people where the ideas in the Bible did not make sense and shut down a discussion.
“I was that kid,” said Tsykin, an OU-JLIC Maryland Hillel Torah educator.
But Tsykin did not stay an atheist for long. During her junior year of high school, one of her teachers for Confirmation was the head priest. She talked about his intellectual connection to religion, and how he was the only person she had met who had a religious devotion that she could look up to and admire. His speeches made her realize something about her faith.
“Listening to him speak made me realize it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, just the opposite,” said Tsykin. “I was very angry because I very, very deeply did believe in God.”
Although Tsykin realized she did believe in God and tried to look at Christianity from a fresh perspective, she still struggled with these issues. At Barnard College at Columbia University, she lived in a dorm with many Jewish people.
“There were a few points in this story where God was like ‘this is where you need to be,’” said Tsykin. “So that’s one of them.”
Tsykin talked about going back and forth between her desire to stay Catholic and the genuine feeling of a community connecting to God through prayer that she got from Jewish services. Before she went to Orthodox Shabbat services for the first time, Tsykin did not consider converting, because she did not want to be different from her family.
After a winter break of trying to reconnect with Christianity by talking about it with the priest who had taught her in the past, she finally decided she could not go on like she was.
Since converting, Tsykin admits there have been some conflicts. Her brother’s upcoming marriage has highlighted one of them — the Talmud prohibits Jews from entering a church. Since she is no longer Catholic, she is worried about the possibility of not being able to attend his wedding.
“I didn’t know where I was going, but Christianity wasn’t for me,” Tsykin said.
Sophomore math and computer science major Benjamin Cooper agreed with Knizhnik about Tsykin’s talk.
“I thought it was great,” Cooper said. “It was really great to hear Ahuva tell her story. I see her on campus a lot, and it was just nice to hear her talk.”