I am into Reform Judaism, and I am going to convert.
What I like is that I was accepted by the president of the community, but what I hate the most is feeling like many people act like I should not be there.
I think that waiting for a person to show perfection during an observation time is not so realistic, because it causes pressure and is awkward. I feel desperate. I don’t know what to do. I cannot make everyone happy, but I can show the best version of myself.
I am not going to give up on myself just because they don’t like me. I know what I want. I want to become Jewish, and I will be Jewish.
What do you think?
Thank you very much,
Waiting for Acceptance
I hereby sanctify, bless, and knight you
to the chai degree, in the order of reformhood. With full benefits, premium perks, and a lifetime supply of matzah meal and East Coast summer camps. You are as Jewish as Jewishly possible in your soul and kishkas, for now and evermore.
I’ll be honest. My word might not hold up in a rabbinic court. But it sounds to me like you are already working really hard on the spiritual evolution of converting. You just happen to be mixed up with some people who aren’t acting very Jewish.
Here is an article I love about the conversion process. In it, author Lawrence Epstein writes:
Judaism is a faith of good deeds [and other ritual observances], not forced creeds. There is more concern in Judaism that you act morally than that you have specific beliefs [at least among liberal Jews]. All Jews share a passion to make the world a better place.
I also loved this exploration of what it means to be a Jew on NPR by author Theodore Ross, who says:
If you have 60 percent of the Jewish population in the United States calling itself, quote, unquote, “just Jewish,” I think there’s a fair amount of people who have fallen away from the specifics of their denomination and are, to a certain extent, making it up as they go along. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
Waiting, we are all making it up as we go along. And I am so grateful we are, because it’s time to update some of these old labels and traditions. They’re only making us divisive.
Take out the Jewish in your question, and really this applies to all the ways we exclude and partition each other. Who amongst us has never been snubbed, judged, or shut down? I remember my first rejection letter and how even the Courier font stung my eyes. I would also gladly divulge the names and social security numbers of the boys, editors, and casting agents who told me I “should not be here.”
A gefilte fish is by nature an outsider. Pike, carp, whitefish, salmon. Really whatever you can get that’s boneless and mixes with eggs and herbs easily. Some days I feel really proud and excited by my mixed heritage. Some days I feel so confused and frustrated that I didn’t follow a direct path or have a definitive name.
It’d be great to say love yourself fully and the rest of the world will hop on the love train with you. Believe me, that’s how I like to envision this planet. But it’s not exactly realistic. I also think that seeking other people’s approval is necessary on some level. It’s like that first heartbreak. And the second. Possibly the third. We have to go through that hiccuppy guessing game of s/he loves me; s/he loves me not, so we can eventually say,
Screw her/him. I love myself.
So I have some homework questions for you, Waiting. I will try to answer them for myself too.
1. What does it mean to be a Jew?
2. Who are the people who love and accept you as you are?
3. When was the last time you enjoyed being different?
And for extra credit:
1. How can I organize something like this Say Something Nice campaign right here, right now?
Waiting, when you say you plan to show your best version of yourself, I say damn straight. You are already incredibly brave, honest, and inspiring. Just the fact that you are pursuing this conversion—devoting your time to faith and good will—makes you a superhero. There is no label, stamp, or award that can name what is in your heart. You already are an amazing, evolving creature.
I will never give up on you.
With love and schmaltz,
Have a question for Gefilte? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you might just get an answer.