October 2021
From Conservadox to Chabad Connection: How Marisa Found Her “Jewish Niche”

MarisaDo you consider yourself observant, non-observant? Orthodox, “Conservadox”? Conservative, Reform? Reconstructionist? Don’t know? Don’t worry! All paths lead to Harford Chabad, simply because ALL Jews, no matter their religious affiliation or non-affiliation, observance or non-observance, receive a warm, supportive welcome at our full-service Bel Air Jewish Community Center.

For Marisa, whose family moved to Bel Air from New Jersey, Harford Chabad and Rabbi Kushi helped Marisa feel like she had built-in support ready and waiting when she arrived in her new home. “It helped us feel like there was someone there to help us if we needed anything. Rabbi Kushi is full of knowledge and resources. That was really helpful. We didn't have to work on finding our own little Jewish niche. It was already there waiting for us.”

“Judaism was definitely part of my upbringing,” Marisa recalled, about growing up in a “somewhat” kosher New Jersey household where the family celebrated the major Jewish holidays. Marisa went to Hebrew school, Hebrew high school, Jewish sleepaways camps and was bat mitzvahed. But, even with all that immersion in her Judaism, she never felt quite connected to the rabbis at the “Conservadox” synagogues she  attended with her family, until she ultimately found Harford Chabad.

“My dad actually moved my senior year of high school,” she said about her father’s job transfer to Aberdeen Proving Ground. “And then, me and my mom made the final move right after I graduated.”

The family moved within walking distance of Harford Chabad, where her father started receiving personal guidance on his new “spiritual journey” toward a more observance since relocating.
“It was nice that he had a place to go, someone to talk to. Especially when he was living alone. For him, it made the move to Maryland a lot easier.”

Beyond her newfound “Jewish niche,” where Marisa found welcome, support and comfort, Harford Chabad also offered opportunities that even more deeply connected her to her new Jewish community, like babysitting at the Chabad Center during the High Holidays. Later, when Marisa was an undergraduate at Towson University, she accepted the opportunity of teaching at a Cheder Chabad a Children’s Day School in Pikesville where Rabbi Kushi was a board member.

“That was the most fabulous experience of my entire life,” she says, the joy obvious in her voice. “I felt such a connection there. I felt so welcome there. And it was just absolutely amazing.”

Well, Marisa now lives in the Lutherville area after earning her master’s degrees. She is a social worker and engaged to be married. Her connection with Rabbi Kushi, his wife Fraida and their children has kept her close to Harford Chabad, where she still attends when visiting her folks. That connection also led her to ask Rabbi Kushi to officiate at her wedding next year.

“I would definitely say I feel more connected to my Judaism,” Marisa says. “Whenever I go to visit my parents I go to Harford Chabad. I know that I have a place where I feel comfortable. I can talk to Rabbi Kushi and his wife about anything. I don't see myself being married by any other rabbi, because I don't want just some random rabbi, I want someone that I know that I feel connected to, that I know I can trust, that we can have a genuine conversation with. And that we can rely on as a married couple to guide us through this process. I don't feel that as much elsewhere.”

Because of that sense of welcoming and “non-judgmental vibe” in the air, Marisa says “People looking to find a home and to find a community – I would not hesitate to recommend talking to Rabbi Kushi about anything.”

Marisa and her fiancé recently purchased a home and are looking to establish themselves in a new Jewish community and begin “working on becoming more observant and connected.” Looking ahead, she takes comfort in knowing Rabbi Kushi and Harford Chabad will be there to guide them. 

“He's going to help us put up our Mezuzah, and do a little prayer for, you know, future endeavors...”

Thank you for your support of Harford Chabad, which allows everyone, at any level of observance of their Judaism, to feel that same warm, supportive “vibe”!