Liberal convert, 72, reveals why it took him so long

Work and care commitments stopped Philip Gwilliams from fulfilling his longstanding wish - until now


A Shropshire man who only discovered his Jewish background as a teenager has fulfilled a longstanding wish of converting to Liberal Judaism — at the age of 72.

Philip Gwilliams said that he had wanted to become Jewish even before learning of his heritage. “I don’t know why. It was just something that was in me.”

He was 16 when his mother revealed the family’s Jewish links. His maternal grandfather was a Jew who came to England before the First World War. “He didn’t speak a lot about his life or the family in Germany.” But he “put my mother into the Jewish faith”.

The retired engineer, who belongs to Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, said the demands of his job had prevented him from converting earlier. He was regularly asked to work on Shabbat and “living in a rural area where work was not plentiful, it was either do it or lose a job”.

Then at 59, he gave up work to become a full-time carer for his wife, who was paralysed after a severe stroke.

He finally embarked on the conversion process after her death.

“I had finished grieving and thought ‘now is my opportunity’. I know I’m a bit old but it’s better late than never.”

He said he had been welcomed with “open arms” into the Liberal fold, being “greeted just like a brother.

“If you want something bad enough, you will do your best and you’ll keep at it,” he added. “You’ve got to really want to do it and I really wanted it. I didn’t miss a week.”

Mr Gwilliams believed his mother would have been “very pleased” by his conversion.

Liberal Judaism considers someone with one Jewish parent as Jewish — provided they were brought up in the faith.

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