Posted on August 1, 2011
Meet Robin and Mulu Harrison, temple members since 2010. Robin is a teacher for the Leapwood Ave. Elementary School in Carson (did you know that fellow TBD member Larry Matalon attended this school?) and Mulu also works for the same school as a liaison between the administration and parents.
Their story began when they met as theatre arts students at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Their years learning under experienced masters and being cast in leading roles for several plays made imprints on them both that they will cherish and value all of their lives.
Mulu also minored in dance and before too long waltzed her way into Robin’s life and the two were married.
Robin and Mulu’s path to Judaism began early in their college years. Robin was raised a Southern Baptist and while attending school began to question his religion and started to explore the other major religions including Judaism. The principles and values that Judaism espoused struck a chord with him but it wasn’t until many years later through chance that he would formalize his faith.
While in college, he often had serious discussions with one of his theatre arts teachers whom he considered to be a father-figure to him. He was a German-Jew who escaped Germany in 1939 and Robin and he would discuss everything from great acting to the great religions. It was this professor who told Robin that he would succeed as an actor and that helped give Robin confidence as he graduated school.
…But back to Robin and Mulu’s path to Judaism. One of their two children had a friend who was going to have a Bat Mitzvah at TBD and Robin’s family was invited. The family was so moved by how beautifully the rabbi conducted the service and by the cantor’s wonderful singing that they were ready to come back for more!
Robin had always wanted his family to have a strong religious foundation and after attending this service his wife Mulu said, “I think you’ve come home.” Robin, however, thought that the only way to be Jewish was to have been born Jewish, a common belief among many. After speaking to the rabbi, however, she explained that nothing could be further from the truth! That if his family had a desire to convert to Judaism that she would be happy to be the facilitator.
He and his wife are now in the process of converting and are attending classes at TBD and Temple Israel of Long Beach. They are so impressed with their level of instruction and also with the people who attend the classes which comprise of those seeking conversion, spouses who are there in support, and Jews who just want to become more educated regarding their Judaism.
Robin says that the fact that his family is black has actually bolstered their entry into Judaism as he sees much commonality between the Jewish people’s struggles and black people’s struggles. Robin and Mulu are already making themselves at home at TBD having joined the Brotherhood and Sisterhood, a Havurah, and with one of their daughters, the choir.
High on their list is a desire to travel to Israel, and to Ethiopia, where Mulu was born. She wants to explore her genealogy and believes that she may be a descendant of Ethiopian Jews.
Robin and Mulu like anything pertaining to the arts…theatre, concerts, museums. Mulu likes to paint and Robin likes baseball and fishing ( Castaic Lake is now his favorite haunt ).
So the next time you’re at temple and you see the Harrison family, after saying “Shabbat Shalom,” you might want to test Robin’s encyclopedic knowledge of movies and TV shows (My “TJ Hooker” question was no challenge for him at all) or ask him why he’s a big Yankees fan!