My journey to Judaism began when I first met my future wife at a Yom Kippur Service in the local JCC. I was not observant at the time, however I was searching for something spiritual. Coming from the former USSR, I never had the opportunity to have the Bris Mila when I was younger, nor did I knew much about being Jewish.Years later, I was working at a nursing home where I met Rabbi Leizerowski and Chaim, who was the director of the nursing home. They were the ones who told me about the importance and the benefits of having a Bris Mila. At first I was hesitant, I was not so interested, and however with time I realized that it was the right thing to do. That is where Rabbi Boruch Mozes came into my life. He was very patient with me, I was concerned about the procedure. So, on February 14, 2008 I became Shlomo Yisroel, and my life changed after that. Rabbi Mozes did an amazing job and after few days I was back at work and back to normal. I remember I even called him next day and asked if it is normal that I had no pain after the Bris, since people scared me that it might hurt after. Spiritually, I felt like I was reborn. I felt Hashem's presence and connection to Judaism. I was not religious at that time, but Bris Milah for me was important and I was so proud that after 27 years I finally decide to make a covenant with Hashem. Slowly, my wife and I started to get closer to Yidishkeit. We fasted on Yom Kippur, didn't drive on High Holidays, bought kosher food, did not shop on Shabbas and other small things.
It took us some time, but after years of infertility, we grew closer and closer to religion. I was working on some Saturdays, which really bothered me at the time. At some point I made the decision to quit the job because I knew that Hashem will guide me in the right direction. Few months later, I found a job that did not require to work on Shabbas. At the same time my wife started going to the Mikvah and light Shabbas candles. We started attending Jewish Lectures, and Gateway Shabbaton, where my wife and I were inspired by the speakers. Following that experience we met observant couples who invited us over for Shabbas Dinners, and that was what finally pushed us to keep Shabbas and Kasher our kitchen. Rabbi Boruch Shlein, who became a good friend later on, was guiding us with Kashering our house and Shabbas observance. Once my wife started covering her hair, and I quit my job, we found out that we were expecting our first child. After not being able to get pregnant for three years, finally with Hashem's help we experienced a true miracle. Our daughter Elisheva Yaffa was born in 2010, a year later in 2011 we had a baby boy, Raphael Noam. Our third son, Yonatan Levi, came two years later in 2013. We truly are thankful to Hashem for the open miracles he made for us, and for sending us on this wonderful journey of discovering our Jewish tradition. Two years ago, we finally moved into a thriving Jewish community, Congregation Beth Solomon in Northeast Philadelphia. Our kids are now attending a Jewish Day School, Politz Hebrew Academy.
It all started from that little spark of learning about Bris Mila, and it changed our life completely. This "little" Mitzvah made me want to convince others to make Bris Mila as well. With Hashem's help I was able to be part of six other Bris Mila's, where after hearing my story, they were convinced to go through it as well. I was lucky to be a Sundek of some of those Bris Mila friends.
Shlomo Panayev 2017