Avraham Sosa, 29


Sosa was a stranger in a strange landscape — that of New York City and its Jewish community — when he came here about three years ago.

A native of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, a product of a secular family with Catholic roots and Mayan genealogy, he had developed an interest in Judaism and arrived, after studying English for a year in London and visiting Jewish communities throughout Europe, to see if it were possible to become a Jew.

It was, he learned.

Jewish history fascinated him. “I wanted to be part of that history.”

Sosa, who at first felt out of place at a Manhattan congregation where he went to get a taste of Jewish worship (“I had no idea what was going on,” he said), eventually found a rabbi who would instruct him, a Beit Din that would approve his conversion, and a synagogue that would accept him with open arms.

He scheduled his conversion on the first day of Sivan, five days before the Shavuot holiday which commemorates the giving of the Torah. “There was no better day [for converting] than at the exact moment that we receive the Torah,” he said. Amilcar Adolfo Sosa Quiñones became Avraham Reuven ben Avraham.

Now an active member of the Stanton Street Shul on the Lower East Side, he serves as gabbai, assigning aliyot and other ritual honors, ensuring that the minyan runs smoothly.

And Sosa, who originally planned to follow his father’s career path as an engineer, serves as unpaid guide to other prospective converts, many of them also Spanish-speaking, who may otherwise feel overwhelmed by the social, cultural, and linguistic barriers he overcame on the way to becoming Jewish.

A student in Yeshiva University’s rabbinical ordination program, he brings to his advisory work a combination of advanced Jewish scholarship and heimishe practical advice.

A highlight: one woman whose conversion he had facilitated asked him to co-officiate (officially he acted as translator) at her wedding.

An interest in the heavens: Sosa has a lifelong interest in astronomy. “I believe there are two paths to belief in God — the Torah and the contemplation of the universe,” he said.

Meet the rest of this year’s 36 Under 36 here.