Callah Terkeltaub - My Jewish Story

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 1:51pm

1791 My story didn’t initially begin Jewish...

From a young age I always knew I was different from my family. Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church the “Christian way” is practically taught to you from birth. I always wanted a deeper connection with my faith and struggled through my preteen and teenage years searching for meaning and trying to fill a void that I felt was in my life. No matter how many books I read and how diligently I studied I never felt a connection with Catholicism.

At the tender age of 13 I decided to not pursue confirmation classes because it became clear that it wasn’t the religion for me.

It was in that moment I unknowingly began my journey into Judaism.

I met Brandon Terkeltaub when I was 14 years old—only a year after I told my parents that I didn’t want to be confirmed in the Catholic faith. We quickly became fast friends and high school sweethearts; at this point in my life I knew of Judaism but I had no idea how greatly it would impact my life.

Throughout my high school and college career I attended numerous functions with his family and was able to experience some of the culture and tradition through countless holiday celebrations and his two youngest cousins’ bat mitzvah.

In the winter of 2012 when Brandon decided to go on the Taglit-Birthright trip I became fascinated with Israel and Judaism as a whole. I couldn’t study and research enough and it seemed like the pictures and updates he sent me during his 10-day trip only whetted my appetite more. When he arrived back in the states we began exploring Judaism together and started Shabbat dinners at home, among other home observances. A few months later, I began researching conversion options.

In April of 2013 after a year of research and late night talks, we sat both sets of parents down and told them my intentions to convert to Judaism.

We were met with the utmost support and unconditional love and we quickly began researching which movement fit our life together the best. I met with Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg from Ohef Sholom Temple in May of 2013 and with her advice began attending services and reading books on conversion and Jewish life as a whole. In July of 2013 I began researching the Conservative movement and began attending services at Beth El Temple where I fell in love with Judaism and its rich culture of traditions.

I spent the greater half of my life trying to fill a void that I felt should have been fulfilled by religion and faith and it wasn’t until my twenty-third birthday in August of 2013 that I realized I had finally found my home.

I feel blessed everyday to have found what I felt was missing in my life.

My husband spent an entire year helping me study for Hebrew exams, attending services, answering my never ending questions and watching my trial and errors with various challah recipes. I could not have asked for a better partner throughout this process and although my conversion has “ended” I feel as if I will spend my entire life learning and studying Judaism.

Many people who decide to convert are faced with a long road of isolation, confusion, and an overall sense of not quite belonging to either culture. It takes courage to go against the grain and declare yourself as “different” from family and friends.  I was fortunate enough to be supported by the people around me—however not every convert’s experience is the same.

I will always speak of my conversion with pride because there is something beautiful about choosing your faith for yourself and I chose Judaism.

I feel like my story is just beginning.

What’s your story?

Please share your Jewish story on the UJFT Facebook page and add the hashtag #shareyourstory757

Callah Davis Terkeltaub is newly wed (December, '14) and newly involved in the Young Adult Division of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater as part of YAD's 2015 Super Sunday Steering Committee. She’s excited and eager to take part in helping write the next chapter of the Tidewater Jewish Community's story.


A bright road ahead at Tidewater Jewish Foundation

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 1:51pm

Posted in: Tidewater Jewish Foundation

1787 I am thrilled to join the outstanding team at the Tidewater Jewish Foundation and to have the honor to serve this community as its president and CEO. With a rich history and longevity of professional leadership in this position, I hope to build upon our success while bringing a fresh perspective to this role.

I come from a broad background of work experience in the fields of human services as a case manager, human resource management at MassMutual Financial Group and development (planned giving) in the Federation world. For the past seven years I served as the director of the Jewish Endowment Foundation, a division of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.
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TJF and the Community Relations Council of the UJFT offer a way to support the children of Ferguson

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:41pm

Posted in: Tidewater Jewish Foundation, Community Relations Council

1775 For those of us watching the events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold on our televisions, the images are disturbing and distressing. For the residents of Ferguson, they are reality. The death of Michael Brown and the events that followed, reaching a climax last week, are particular to Ferguson. However, the underlying societal issues at play are, unfortunately, national in scope.

There are long term issues to face. However, right now, the people of Ferguson and surrounding areas are hurting badly. The children of Ferguson, especially, are facing a harsh reality. Libraries have become somewhat of a safe haven for the children in the area.

Following the lead of the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, the Tidewater Jewish Foundation and the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater have partnered to offer support by collecting new or gently used children’s books with enclosed notes of encouragement that will be delivered to the children of Ferguson.

Stop by the Sandler Family Campus on Thursday, December 18th from 12-7pm, and drop off a new or gently used children’s book with your message of support and inspiration, or choose messages we’ll have on hand, to include with your donation.

Questions? Contact Shelby Tudor at (757) 965-6105 or or Robin Mancoll at (757) 965-6120 or

Regards from Israel

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:59am

Posted in: Community Relations Council

by Dr. Einat Wilf
Israel Today Forum Expert
Danger Zone:  What Regional Turmoil Means for Israel
Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 7:30pm at the Sandler Family Campus
For more information or to RSVP today by click here.

Join the CRC and community partners for a “tour d’horizon” of the geopolitical condition of the Middle East and the powers at play as The Honorable Einat Wilf, former member of Knesset discusses what this most recent turmoil means for Israel. Known as one of Israel’s most articulate representatives on the international stage and a leading intellectual and original thinker on matters of economics, education, foreign policy, Jewish peoplehood and society, Dr. Wilf was born and raised in Israel. She served as an Intelligence Officer in the Israel Defense Forces before receiving undergraduate degrees in Government and Fine Arts from Harvard, an MBA from INSEAD in France, and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cambridge. This mother of three kids under the age of four, offers a strong female voice as the first woman expert to take part in the Israel Today series. For more information on this and other Israel Today Forum events, click here


Dear Friends,
Let’s face it, it has been a terrible summer. Even for those of us lucky enough not to have had to mourn the personal loss of a loved one, this summer of war has taken an emotional and mental toll much greater than many of us initially admitted. The spirit was one of “a stiff upper lip”, but nerves were frayed and, in between the sirens, few of us were able to do anything more than stay glued to the television.
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Sunny with a Chance of Rockets: Part 6

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 2:36pm

Posted in: Holocaust Commission, Stop the Sirens

1728 By Elena Barr Baum
Read Part 5 here.

Friday morning dawned, and we were no longer under the protective wing of Yad Vashem, what to me felt like, next to the Knesset, the safest place in Israel. We looked at the forecast for Tel Aviv on the Ha’Aretz website. It was SUNNY, WITH A CHANCE OF ROCKETS. I think that headline tipped the scales for us.

After much back and forth – wanting to be tough; wanting to believe that everything would be ok; wanting to stand strong for Israel; and not seem like we were “abandoning it” when it needed us and our economic boost the most - I finally took the advice of my Israeli friends, and listened to my concerned family back at home, and rebooked myself to come back to the US early. The first flight I could get on at that point was late Saturday night. Deb worked out her travel plans, also to leave earlier than scheduled, on Sunday morning. Mickey was scheduled to fly out Friday night, so she, Deb and I did not go to Tel Aviv Friday as originally planned, but took in some of Jerusalem, since we had not seen much but Yad Vashem since we arrived. We had a lovely day, wandering, dining and shopping. Deb and I waved farewell to Mickey’s taxi that evening and sent her off to the airport. (She can tell you about that story!).
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Sunny with a Chance of Rockets: Part 5

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 11:53am

Posted in: Holocaust Commission, Stop the Sirens

1724 By Elena Barr Baum
Read Part 4 here.

Photo by Janice Engel

It seemed as soon as we began our presentation, it was time to pack up, as the conference only had 2 more sessions. The one that followed ours brought the entire cohort back together again for “the voices of the fourth generation.” What a powerful way to wrap up the week! Six young people (ages 18-25) from six different countries (England, China, Canada, Poland, Argentina, and Israel) shared with the delegates why Holocaust education was important to them, and what motivates them to promote it in their countries. I looked at these young adults with pride in their purpose. I am glad to know that their parents, who like my mother were probably sitting thousands of miles away worrying, and wondering when their child would be leaving Israel, can look online and see how poised and accomplished they were in front of such a formidable group.
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Thoughts on the Eve of Tisha B'av

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 2:23pm

Posted in: Holocaust Commission, Stop the Sirens

1708 By: Elena Barr Baum

Elena Barr Baum shared the following in a panel discussion at Congregation Beth El before Tisha B’Av services on August 4. Elena is the Director of the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

I was in the enviable position of taking a professional trip to Israel, at the unenviable time of what turned out to be the outset of Operation Protective Edge, the latest in the string of wars with Israel’s hostile neighbors. While many of my thoughts and feelings about the time I spent in Israel in early July are posted on the UJFT Blog and will also be reprised in the Jewish News’ next edition, tonight I wanted to share with you how I feel about my experience as it relates to Tisha B’av.
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Small Steps to Counter This Big Feeling of Helplessness

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 12:45pm

Posted in: Stop the Sirens

1682 By Liz Dovrat

Liz Dovrat is an American-Israeli living with her Israeli-born husband Lior in Kibbutz Yiftach, a kibbutz in the northern tip of Israel on the border with Lebanon.  Currently she works as an English teacher at the local college, Tel Hai Academic College.   Liz spent most of her childhood summers in Virginia Beach, where her parents, Noel and Barbara Dudley now reside. - See more here.

When I last wrote, I hoped that the war would be over, that I wouldn't be stirred to write again.  I've had difficulty dragging myself to the computer, to describe again the mixture of fear, anger and worry that I feel on a daily basis.  To repeat I'm the lucky one, I can still blissfully tune out the news by throwing myself into work or diving into a book.
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Your Voice Matters!

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 9:42am

Posted in: Community Relations Council, Stop the Sirens

By Robin Mancoll, Director, Community Relations Council, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater

1706 What does that really mean?  “Your Voice Matters?”

It means that this war is not only taking place in Israel and Gaza, but is also a fully global social media campaign – and YOU must take part.  If you’ve ever hesitated about posting something about Israel on your facebook page, or thought you couldn’t figure out twitter, NOW is the time to stop wondering and start ACTING.  If you’ve never called or emailed your Congressperson, DO IT, it’s easy, quick and it really does make a difference.  If you’re frustrated by media coverage, start writing and let it out!
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Hi, All. Yes, I’m Safe.

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 2:08pm

Posted in: Holocaust Commission, Stop the Sirens

1707 By Janice Engel

From left, Deb Segaloff, Janice Engel, Mickey Held and Elena Baum

The Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater was invited to present its innovative original program, What We Carry, at the 9th International Conference on Holocaust Education at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, July 7 – 10, 2014. This blog is part of a series, written by those who represented What We Carry, the Holocaust Commission, and the Tidewater community (and beyond) at Yad Vashem, and whose visit to Israel coincided with the start of Operation Protective Edge.

The following is taken from an email sent to Janice’s friends and family, just after the siren went off at the closing session of the conference at Yad Vashem:

Hi All,

I've received a few messages from you re: the recent escalation of tensions here in Israel and the Gaza Strip.  I went to email you “all right” after it was over, but my cell phone juice ran out—so better late than not at all.
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