Judaism was always a subject of curiosity for 25-year-old Lindsay Roloff. A native of La Crosse, Wis., she grew up a Roman Catholic and is converting to Judaism, working with Rabbi Susan Shankman of Washington Hebrew Congregation and taking an introduction to Judaism course there. Washington Jewish Week caught up with Roloff in Bethesda, where she lives now.
Tell us about your religious upbringing.
Half of my family is pretty non-religious. My mom’s half of the family is predominantly Catholic and that was the tradition that she wanted me to be raised in. It wasn’t something that ever really stuck with me despite, two years of going to Catholic High School, it didn’t stick with me and wasn’t something I continued when I went to college. After I had moved out I found myself continuing to be curious about Judaism in an academic sense. I just wanted to know, what were people doing at the synagogue? What is the service like? What is the community like? And so I eventually did seek that out when I was living on my own in college and in law school.
Why choose Judaism?
We had one synagogue [in La Crosse]. And even from a young age I was curious, because I never saw anyone at the synagogue, but I could see when they built the sukkah so I knew people were there. But I didn’t really know anyone who was Jewish so there was no real way for me as a young person to go and explore that.
And you studied it more in college?
In a class in college we were talking about the ideas Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote about in “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” And sort of the ideas that he was saying is stuff that you would never catch any Christian, let alone any Catholic saying. And it was like, “Oh my gosh, this is what I had been looking for.”
So that was the first thing that blew my mind. It was a process that I came to after going to [Jewish] services a number of times, and even though I was the bottom rung of the ladder as far as knowledge and being part of the community, everyone was still really welcoming to me. I was at a Saturday service, and even though I was really an outsider, I still got to contribute, and everything [I contributed] was valuable to the people around me. That’s when I really started to want to stay.”
What brought you to Washington?
I graduated from law school and thought that if I was going to have an adventure and do something that I had always wanted to do, this would be a good time. And the thing that I always wanted to do was to live here in D.C. So I did it. I packed up after graduation and drove across the country in a truck with my roommate and my cats, and here I am. It’s been really great. I’ve been looking for work, but I’ve also had some time to be a live-in tourist in a way.
What have you been learning in your intro to Judaism class?
In one of the early classes, we talked about Judaism and what is sexuality. And we talked about Sodom and Gomorrah, which in Christianity is sort of presented as a reality tale about why homosexuality is bad. And to see a different interpretation of that was pretty impactful. Getting to unpack a lot of stuff that I hadn’t thought about before is valuable to me.”
What do your parents think about your conversion?
I haven’t really told them yet.