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Jul 25 2014

When I Converted, I Never Expected It Would Come to This

By at 10:13 am

Boycott-Israel-Protest

I’m scared.

I’m scared, and I have no idea how, or if, I should be sharing this fear with my children. With my daughter, specifically. She’s seven months away from her bat mitzvah. Luckily, it’s summer vacation and she’s not watching the news all that much. She’s not on Facebook like I am, with a newsfeed filled with reports of violence in Paris and endless updates about what’s happening in Israel.

See, I’m new to being Jewish. I wonder sometimes, five years after converting, if I’ll always feel somewhat new to being Jewish. I don’t have a protective, defensive shell built up. When I talk to my husband, to my friends who grew up Jewish, they aren’t shocked by the recent waves of anti-Semitism. They expect it, almost. One of the questions the beit din (rabbinical court) asked me before we went to the mikveh was why I would want to become Jewish. Why would I want to be a part of a group of people who were so often discriminated against and the object of so much hate? I replied that I felt like I already was Jewish: I was married to a Jewish man and raising Jewish children. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 27 2014

Why I Am Choosing to Convert My Preschool Son

By at 10:19 am

why i'm converting my preschool son

When my husband and I met, he was Jewish. I was an absentee Catholic. Very early on, we agreed that we both wanted kids, and that they would be raised Jewish. At the time, I didn’t fully grasp what that meant.

Over the course of the next few years, I learned about Jewish traditions and culture. We had as Jewish of a wedding as a Jew and a non-Jew can have. When our son came along, my husband searched the Bay Area for a mohel who would ritually circumcise Sam. Since I was not Jewish and so neither was Sam, this was not an easy task. Finally, we found one and our son had his bris at home on his eighth day of life.

Sometime in the following few years, I decided to convert. My year of studying with the rabbi was one of the most important of my life. The rabbi said, “You’ll know you’re ready when you stop thinking of Jews as ‘them’ and think of it as ‘us’.” My studies, attending shul, searching my soul, and my time speaking with the rabbis gradually, over time, transformed me into a Jew. When the scheduler called with my date for the mikveh, I was as excited as I was about scheduling my wedding day. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 7 2013

I’ve Got a Bad Case of Conversion Envy

By at 3:28 pm

Recently, I watched three people from my conversion class become full members of the Jewish tribe. It was an intensely moving, yet brief ceremony, which took place on the bimah.

Now, I’m a bit of sap when it comes to ceremonies. I’m the type that needs tissues at graduations, bar mitzvahs, and weddings. But when it comes to the conversion ceremonies, I simply want it to be my turn. I have been suffering from conversion envy since I first heard that someone in our class had converted. I am a bit of a conversion junkie… I want to know all of the details from the Beit Din to the mikvah.  (My two friends recently gave me a great mikvah tip– bring a towel!  One of them forgot hers, so they had this great bonding moment where they shared one between them.) Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 13 2011

Now I’m a Jew Too

By at 8:52 am

My husband was the first Jew I’ve ever met.

I’m exaggerating–ish,  I’m sure I knew someone, who met someone whose aunt went to undergrad with a Jewish person. I’m sure there were chosen people living on the same street as my Lutheran grandparents on Long Island.  I think my brother had a friend who wet his pants whose last name was Greenberg and I’m positive the guy who owned the bagel shop in town (with the salt sticks, swoon!) was Jewish. But personally, I didn’t know a single one. I’d never heard of a Sedar and I probably thought that Kwanza was the Jewish equivalent to Christmas.  In college I auditioned for Fiddler on the Roof and was cut before I even opened my mouth because I “didn’t look Jewish enough.”

I met my husband while in graduate school, at the ripe old age of 22. I found him to be gorgeously obnoxious, crude and absolutely perfect for me.

He was an only child raised in an interfaith household (faith in the sense that bacon was served at his bar mitzvah) to a Jewish mother and Christian father. His mother passed away when he was a teenager. His step-mother is a Presbyterian minister.  Somehow despite all of the theological marriage swap – he still identifies as Jewish.

When life brought us together, we had to have grown-up conversations about things like my fecundity, religion and obsession with hoarding toiletries. I was pretty sure I wanted a baby, I was willing to donate HALF of my unopened lotion to a women’s shelter and I wasn’t tied down to any one idea of religion. My husband, always quick to offer up a suitable compromise, shared his views of what our hypothetical “interfaith” marriage might look like: “I’m not down with Jesus.”

Me: “Okay, what do you know about Judaism?”

Him: “Little to nothing.  Just that I’m Jewish. My mother was Jewish and my grandmother is Jewish.”

Me: “Do you believe in God? Or heaven?”

Him: “I don’t think Jews believe in heaven.”

Me: “But I’ve never seen you eat salmon on your bagel or wear a tiny hat?”

Him: “Like I said, I have a lot to learn–and I look terrible in hats.”

Over the next four months we attended weekly “Introduction to Judaism” sessions led by the local synagogue forum. I converted in the reform temple August 22, 2007 after two years of careful thought, study and reflection.  I took a naked bath in front of strangers and I have a new name and a certificate to prove it.

Now I am charged with building a Jewish home. This daunting task would be difficult for a Midwest gentile WITH an overbearing Jewish mother-in-law – yet somehow I am stumbling through it with a distant Jewish aunt, my own study (thank you Kveller) and my husband’s bad memory (but good intentions). My infant son doesn’t have a Bubbie or a Zadie–but he has us.

When I converted I told my Rabbi that I felt like an impostor, like my green eyes and red hair were screaming that I shouldn’t be wearing this star around my neck. He told me that the best way to truly feel Jewish was by making Jewish memories. I taught Hebrew to rambunctious third graders at Jewish Day School. I composed the text for our custom ketuba and was married under a chuppah in front of our Christian friends and family. I managed to pull my post-partum-self together to host 20 people in my home a week after my son was born for minor surgery and brunch.  I had a sukkah in my front yard a few months ago (although it wasn’t ours) and managed to light the Hanukkah candles on the right night in the wrong order.  I’ve proudly friended 16 Jews (including a Rabbi!) on Facebook – all of whom I know–PERSONALLY!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, my inner Yentl has arrived.

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