LEWISTON — For years, Madeline Strange sought faith.
She’d had it as a young child raised in the Protestant faith, but some of the Sunday school teachings didn’t settle right with her as she grew older.
“Like that Jesus was God in flesh, that he was the only way to God, the only way to salvation. I kind of went, ‘Hmm. This doesn’t sound right to me,'” she said.
In her early teens, Strange had what she described as a breakdown. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and any spiritual faith she’d had evaporated.
“I was very confused, very bitter,” she said. “That was pretty much a faithless time for me. I kind of went ‘OK, God wouldn’t let this happen; maybe there is no God.'”
She studied the world’s major religions in an effort to recapture her faith. She discovered an underlying tenet they all shared: love.
“You’re supposed to love your fellow man. You’re supposed to have compassion and do anything you can to help people,” she said.
Strange drifted from one religion to another. Ultimately, she found what she’d been seeking — the encouragement to ask spiritual questions, help people and be generous — in Judaism.
“I went to visit Temple Shalom and I just had this feeling as soon as I got there and the service started like, ‘I’m home,'” she said.
Strange is now 35 and living in Lewiston. She officially converted to Judaism in September 2016, though her daily life still incorporates practices from other religions, such as Zen Buddhism meditation. She reads the Bible every day and finds comfort in her spirituality.
Strange’s life didn’t turn out the way she expected. As a child, she dreamed she’d grow up to be highly educated, married with children, rich.
“It kind of didn’t work out that way, but I’m happy. I have a beautiful family, beautiful friends. I’m happy,” she said.
She credits her faith.
“I know that God is always with me and God is with all of us,” she said. “I believe as the Hasidic Jews believe, that God’s presence is everywhere and in everything.”
Congregants at Temple Shalom light the gigantic outdoor menorah in Auburn on Dec. 17 to mark the sixth night of Hanukkah. (Sun Journal file photo)