This website is made possible by generous donations from users just like you. $18 helps keep JWA online for one day.  Please consider making a gift to JWA today!
Close [x]


You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

May Podcast: A Conversion Story for Shavuot

Tomorrow starts the festival of Shavuot, a time of spiritual liberation that commemorates the ancient Israelites receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. The holiday is also linked to the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman, and her relationship with her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi. As recounted in the Book of Ruth, traditionally read on Shavuot, after Naomi and her daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah all become widows, Naomi urges the two younger women to leave her and find new husbands. Orpah does as Naomi suggests but Ruth refuses, telling her: "wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God." (Ruth 1:16). Jewish tradition reads this moment as Ruth's acceptance of Judaism. Ruth is known as the first convert, and her story has come to serve as a source book and inspiration for conversion.

So, in keeping with the themes of the Jewish calendar, we bring you a conversion story as our podcast of the month. It's the story of Arva Gray, a Mormon who converted to Judaism in the 1950s and became a leader in the Seattle Jewish community. In listening to Gray's story, I'm struck by two things: the challenge of transcending the "insider" / "outsider" dynamics of Jewish community, and figuring out what it means to feel culturally and spiritually at home. Listen to Gray recount her Jewish journey in the kitchen, the "Sephardic Heights," and in positions of Jewish leadership.

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share
More on: Shavuot, conversion
1 Comment

As an adult convert to Judiasm, I sympathize with the difficulties. Thank you for sharing Arva Gray's story -- while Ruth is the role model for women who convert, it's empowering to hear of the stories of more recent women as well.

Arva Davis Gray
Full image
Arva Gray.
Full image

Arva Gray reflects on her journey as a Jew by Choice. She discusses finding Jewish community, bonding through food, and the process of conversion.

Subscribe to Jewish Women, Amplified and get notifications sent to your email.

How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "May Podcast: A Conversion Story for Shavuot." 27 May 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

listen now


How do you prefer your latkes?

Sign Up for JWA eNews



11 hr
in 1913, poet Muriel Rukeyser was born. She famously wrote, "What would happen if one woman told the tru…
1 day
From : An exploration of how lead the charge in the fight for a free press.