A Journey of Faith

May 08, 2023

A Journey of Faith

The Melissas family with Rabbi Judith Beiner (second from left)

A young man named Grant Melissas was 27 years old when decided to take formal steps toward his Jewish faith, and was able to do so with a little help from JF&CS. At the time, he was living in Germany, 4,000 miles away from his family in metro Atlanta.

Grant’s grandparents, Howie and Myra, were living at Vickery Rose Retirement Community in Roswell, near to his mother Lori. The Melissas family became connected to Rabbi Judith Beiner, JF&CS Community Chaplain, through her monthly Torah reading groups at Vickery Rose. As she got to know them better and learned more about their needs, Rabbi Beiner connected them with the agency’s Aviv Older Adult Services for additional support.

Grant was interested in traveling to Israel to make Aliyah but needed to prove his Jewish-ness to do so, which would require a Rabbi. Lori connected him with Rabbi Beiner, and she “met” with him via Zoom, getting to know him and providing the necessary documentation for the first steps of his Aliyah journey.

When Grant was in Israel, his journey into his faith grew deeper and he wanted to become a Bar Mitzvah. He shared that his mom had offered it when he was 12, but like many preteens he was “not so interested in spending extra time in school!”

He shared that, as he grew older, “the feeling of missing out on this experience had never left me. I have been interested in my Jewish identity throughout my life, and this feeling has grown as I’ve spent time in both Germany and Israel, two places significant in Jewish history,” he added.

Over the course of several months, Grant and Rabbi Beiner again met virtually to study for his Bar Mitzvah. Of that time, he recalls “Rabbi Beiner struck a perfect balance of being a very encouraging person while not being too permissive. She made me feel totally accepted in where I’m at in relation to Judaism, and particularly comfortable having a bar mitzvah at age 27, while at the same time keeping me on track with my learning.”

So that Howie and Myra could be involved, Grant opted to host his bar mitzvah at Vickery Rose. The ceremony and location “were so special and emotional for them!” said Lori. “My parents were more than thrilled that Grant wanted to have his bar mitzvah at their place of residence and that they could be the hosts.”

“I really enjoyed bringing together all of my family and close friends for an event that was full of joy, especially living so far from home,” said Grant. “Especially now, it was so nice to give something back to my grandparents, who were so happy to see me do this, after they’ve done so much for me throughout my life.”

This spring, Howie passed away after an extended illness.  Rabbi Beiner was called to be with the family in his last moments to provide comfort and prayers. “I felt so blessed to know this family, and to be with them in both happy and sad times,” she said.