Identity and conversion can be complicated topics for adults to understand, much less a young Jewish boy or girl who has a parent from a different background.
In a new children’s book, “Jewish Just Like You,” Baltimore native Kylie Ora Lobell provides an abridged retelling of her conversion experience while helping children feel proud of their heritage.
Released in October, the book revolves around a woman telling her daughter the story of her conversion to Judaism and why she chose to convert. It covers what conversion entails and the girl’s Jewish and non-Jewish grandparents. The story emphasizes that the grandparents all love the girl no matter what and how the girl should be proud of her Jewish heritage and always respect people of different backgrounds, Lobell says.
Although memoirs from converts to Judaism exist, Lobell observed a lack of resources on the subject for young children.
“I wanted to write a book that touched on the topic of conversion for the children of converts,” Lobell says.
Lobell kept the book simple for the benefit of a younger audience. For example, while her real-life conversion took five years to complete, the book condenses this period to a single page.
While converts and their children are the primary audience for the book, Lobell says that the book is for any Jewish family who wants to understand the subject of conversion better.
She explains that a stigma around conversion exists along with a number of misconceptions, such as the idea that people convert to Judaism only for love.
After her own conversion, Lobell notes, many assumed her reasons for doing so revolved around her husband, a Jewish man who had been religious in his youth and returned to practicing Orthodox Judaism later in his life.
In response to those assumptions, Lobell explains that although her husband introduced her to Judaism, “it was me who actually fell in love with it, and either way I would have done it, because once I learned about it, I couldn’t stop. It was kind of awakening my soul.”
While currently a resident of Los Angeles, Lobell grew up in Carney and Mount Washington.
Lobell hopes that her book will help to dispel the stigma around conversion in the community, she says.
Additionally, she wants children with non-Jewish grandparents “to know that they love you, no matter what you are, and that they also have good values and to respect them and to honor them as well. We need to increase our understanding of converts in the Jewish community,” Lobell adds. “We should do our best to welcome converts into the community and love them just as if they were born Jews.”