Secord converting to Judaism: formalising life-long connection

May 21, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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NSW Shadow Treasurer and NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair, Walt Secord has confirmed that he was converting to Judaism through Sydney’s Emanuel Synagogue – saying it was a “logical step of a life-long journey that was inevitable”.

Julia Levitina and Walt Secord

Mr Secord said: “I thank my friends at J-Wire, who have known for some time and respected my privacy – but I have decided that it was time to go public with my decision.”

Mr Secord, 55 of North Bondi who is a Labor MLC in the NSW Parliament and co-patron of the NSW Labor Israel Action Committee has had a life-long connection to Judaism – stretching back to his childhood in rural Canada.

From 1988 to 1991, Mr Secord worked as a journalist at the Australian Jewish News. He has been the deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel since 2011.

Mr Secord has been attending Emanuel Synagogue as an “associate” member for slightly more than a year with his Jewish partner of six years, Julia Levitina.

Mr Secord said he proposed to Ms Levitina while they were “COVID isolation”.

“I loved every minute with her and proposed to Julia. Thankfully, she said `yes, but under the chuppah’. I replied that it was probably time that I talked to the rabbi as I had already decided to begin the process of conversion.”

Mr Secord, who has been to Israel four times, said “conversion is something that I had been thinking about for a long, long time” and “felt it was inevitable”.

Walt Secord as a child on the Indian reserve

He is the son of a Mohawk-Ojibway First Nation man and an Anglo-Canadian mother – and grew up on an Indian reserve in southern Canada.

His childhood mentor was a Holocaust survivor, who was frum. “I’ve been connected to the Jewish community since my childhood since about the age of five.”

Mr Secord is undertaking private Hebrew lessons and the conversion course – Darkeinu – at the Emanuel Synagogue.

“It is not a decision that you make lightly and I acknowledge that. I have been considering this for a long time.

“I’m very comfortable saying that it has been a lifelong journey; it was inevitable and hopefully, at the end of next year we can be married under the chuppah after I undergo the proper conversion process.”

In State Parliament last week during a debate on the COVID legislation, Mr Secord revealed that he had proposed to Ms Levitina and was undertaking conversion classes at the Emanuel Synagogue.

Mr Secord told NSW Parliament: “I inform the House that during the COVID lockdown I asked Julia to marry me under the chuppah, the Jewish structure or canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed. She agreed. She has come from the former Soviet Union, where religious ceremonies were banned. We have both lived in Australia for many years.

“I arrived here almost 32 years ago and she arrived 29 years ago. We will formalise the marriage as soon as I complete my Hebrew lessons and the Darkeinu course at the Emanuel Synagogue. With my ability to grasp new languages, that could take some time and may stretch well into next year.

“I beg Emanuel Synagogue chief minister Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins and his rabbinical colleagues to show me patience, as language study was never my forte. Admittedly, I am deeply struggling with the Hebrew alphabet and its complex vowel system of dots and dashes.

“Yes, ‘Your God shall be my God, and your people shall be my people.’ Her god shall be my god, and her people shall be my people. In short, I want to be buried next to her in the Jewish section of the cemetery, and I want to pass away first so that I am not in this world without her. This COVID crisis has been a time for soul searching and realising what is truly important.”

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