Bill Spry grew up in greater Cincinnati “on the westside, in Colerain.” At seven years old his parents separated, and he lived with his mom and younger sister, though “I maintained a relationship with my dad.” His family was heavily involved in White Oak Christian Church in Colerain. It was a non-denominational church with around a thousand congregants and a “strong youth program.” Bill describes himself as a “strong believer” during his adolescence. “I really enjoyed reading the Bible.” However, even during his time at White Oak, he remembers feeling an “odd disconnect” between what “I was reading in what I then called the Old Testament” and what he was taught at church. The content of Torah and church praxis were split in ways that felt strange to Bill. This is how Judaism first became attractive. Judaism “reconciled this disconnect.”
In addition, Bill was having many reservations about Paul’s writings in the New Testament. Paul seemed “arrogant and demeaning.” Bill wondered how someone claiming to speak for God could be so disparaging of Torah. Simultaneously, Bill was becoming more interested in the historical practices of Judaism. During his late teens and early 20s he began observing some Kashrut principles. Finally, at 23, Bill began attending Rockdale Temple and started meeting with Rabbi Coran.
Rabbi Coran sponsored his conversion, and he began taking classes with Rabbi Krause. After about six months Bill realized he was not yet ready to commit to Judaism. “I was suffering some emotional turmoil at that time. I needed to pause everything.” However, Rabbi Coran was open to him continuing the process when he felt ready. He did not pursue conversion for the next 15 years. “My beliefs did not change all that much.” Considering himself a Noahide at the time, he would have considered “my religion Judaism, even though I wasn’t a Jew.” In the course of these 15 years, Bill was married and had a few children which motivated him to examine his beliefs more deeply. “I started to miss having a religious community, and my walk with God had become muted.”
Bill had attended a few “Hebrew-language services” at Adath with Rabbi Wise back when he was first considering conversion. Having built an admiration for Adath, Bill connected with Rabbi Smolkin in 2020. “I began regularly attending services through Zoom during COVID.” Bill realized he was ready to convert. However, he wanted to take the process slowly since this time around converting would affect “my entire family.” The conversion process took about a year and a half, and he entered the mikvah in early 2022. “The mikvah was beautiful. I kept thinking, ‘wow this is finally happening.’”
His family feels at home at Adath, often enjoying family services. “My eldest daughter is very plugged in. She has a lot of friends there.” Bill is thankful Adath “allows me to connect more with my beliefs” while filling “the community gap” for his family in so many ways. On Shabbat, “we do drive to services,” but we try to “keep a low profile.” On Shabbat, Bill and his family will walk to the community park and minimize food preparation.
Also, Bill keeps a “kosher style” diet while emphasizing ethical food consumption. He separates meat and dairy, eats only permissible animals, but is not worried about maintaining separate dishes in the home. During Pesah — Bill’s favorite holiday — the family enjoys clearing out the leaven. For Yom Kippur he fasts. When asked about which holidays his kids like best, he says, “Hannukah…for obvious reasons. They also enjoy Pesah and Sukkot!”
During his early 20s, when he was exploring Judaism initially, Bill was “very anxious to talk to my parents.” He assumed his “parents would worry about me going to hell since I no longer believed in Jesus.” Bill was pleasantly surprised that when he finally converted, 15 years later, his family was quite supportive. “I think my mom was relieved I was creating some sort of faith system for my children.” That 15-year gap also provided Bill enough room to separate himself from the “Christian way of approaching God. I didn’t want my Christian influence to affect how I practiced Judaism.” He likens this process to a long-term relationship. “When you get out of a relationship, it is often healthy to give yourself space before entering another one.”
His advice for anyone looking to convert is to “explore!” He emphasizes there is no need to rush. “I took 15 years.” If “your heart is leading you toward Judaism, great. Make sure you find community.” Bill is most thankful for the Cincinnati Jewish community’s openness towards him during his lengthy journey to Judaism. Their support encouraged him on his journey to becoming a Jew by choice.