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Mychal

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PostSubject: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:06 pm

I'm always thinking about Judaism, and I do some of my best thinking on paper (and in my car). I'm working on... something written. Not sure where it's headed, if it's headed anywhere. It's sort of an essay at this point--possibly some sort of page for my blog one day.

This particular essay is about conversion, and I'm thinking about all the different facets of conversion---both from the point of view of the convert and from born-Jews interacting with converts.

What are the negative/ugly things people have heard about why they shouldn't covert or why they weren't welcome as converts? I am aware that some people believe you can never convert (i.e. if you're not a Jew by blood, you're not a Jew), and that some rabbis won't convert because of the difficulty of getting converts accepted/recognized by others (especially the Rabbinate), and the old classic: converts will backslide. But has anyone heard any other argument against the creation of converts?
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:16 pm

Mychal wrote:
I'm always thinking about Judaism, and I do some of my best thinking on paper (and in my car). I'm working on... something written. Not sure where it's headed, if it's headed anywhere. It's sort of an essay at this point--possibly some sort of page for my blog one day.

This particular essay is about conversion, and I'm thinking about all the different facets of conversion---both from the point of view of the convert and from born-Jews interacting with converts.

What are the negative/ugly things people have heard about why they shouldn't covert or why they weren't welcome as converts? I am aware that some people believe you can never convert (i.e. if you're not a Jew by blood, you're not a Jew), and that some rabbis won't convert because of the difficulty of getting converts accepted/recognized by others (especially the Rabbinate), and the old classic: converts will backslide. But has anyone heard any other argument against the creation of converts?

I have never felt unwelcome by my 2 communities. Today I went to my class covering the different movements. I think in many religions people who convert are held to a higher standard then those born into a particular faith. I know that the only time I feel different is when I am confronted by the heritage Jbb have in their Jewish extended families. There are 3 of us in my family who are Jewish. My children and myself.

I also know that those of us who come to Judaism through choice are to be held in high esteem because we choose to be here. We are not supposed to be segregated or treated differently. We are as Jewish as a Jbb.

But given the history of the Jewish people and the bad things that we have come our way in history I understand the insular nature and the tendency to not trust those from the outside.

What I have come to accept is that in the orthodox circles I won't be accepted but I am ok with that. I do not want to be orthodox. I want to be a Jew in the tradition that allows me to express my Jewishness in a way that works.

The times I have been angry have been when I have read hateful things coming from other Jews. The sorts of things they feel comfortable writing but would never say to a jbc face. I also have been stunned at the misinformation that many Jews have about the liberal ends of Judaism. Many Jews are not knowledgable about Judaism.

Today as I sat with the other women in my class and we discussed how the Reform movement came about and truly what we believe as Jews in the Reform movement I realized how proud I was to be in the group and I again felt Jewish.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:07 am

I haven't had other Jews say negative things to me in particular. I have read things mostly pertaining to non-Orthodox conversion being invalid. I had a Rabbi discouraged me, tell me to try UU instead of converting to Judaism but I would not call that "negative". It's his job. Redirecting a person isn't ugly or negative.

Honestly, I've heard more ugly things from Christians.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:39 am

Dena wrote:
I haven't had other Jews say negative things to me in particular. I have read things mostly pertaining to non-Orthodox conversion being invalid. I had a Rabbi discouraged me, tell me to try UU instead of converting to Judaism but I would not call that "negative". It's his job. Redirecting a person isn't ugly or negative.

Honestly, I've heard more ugly things from Christians.

I have heard ugly things from Christians too. What Christians think does not bother me or affect me. What other Jews think does. that is the difference.

Orthodox think they have the only valid form of Judaism, they don't. They have done more to divide the Jewish people then gentiles could ever do.

Those of us who converted under other movements that don't make up Orthodoxy are not wanted or accepted by them. But we are accepted by the other movements if we underwent the rituals of conversion.

As to his view that being UU is better then being Jewish if you won't be Orthodox is wrong. There is a vibrant Judaism outside of Orthodoxy and instead of the constant fighting of "who is a Jew", we ought to just move forward and be accepting.

Although I will say the Reform Rabbi I spoke with early on also said what did I think about attending the UU, I told him if I wanted to be UU I would have gone there. I wanted nothing that had any connection to Christianity. UU's may not consider themselves Christian but the UU's where I live absolutely celebrate Christian holidays.



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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:17 am

tamar wrote:

Orthodox think they have the only valid form of Judaism, they don't. They have done more to divide the Jewish people then gentiles could ever do.

Those of us who converted under other movements that don't make up Orthodoxy are not wanted or accepted by them. But we are accepted by the other movements if we underwent the rituals of conversion.

I have always felt the Orthodox have the right to their opinion and I understand it in many ways. I may disagree but I can understand some of their points. I try not to let it bother me that they do not view me as a Jew. On a whole, no they do not but as individuals there may be some who do and some who don't.

tamar wrote:
As to his view that being UU is better then being Jewish if you won't be Orthodox is wrong. There is a vibrant Judaism outside of Orthodoxy and instead of the constant fighting of "who is a Jew", we ought to just move forward and be accepting.

He isn't an Orthodox Rabbi. His comments had nothing to do with Orthodoxy.





Last edited by Dena on Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:23 am; edited 2 times in total
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:22 am

Dena wrote:
tamar wrote:

Orthodox think they have the only valid form of Judaism, they don't. They have done more to divide the Jewish people then gentiles could ever do.

Those of us who converted under other movements that don't make up Orthodoxy are not wanted or accepted by them. But we are accepted by the other movements if we underwent the rituals of conversion.

I have always felt the Orthodox have the right to their opinion and I understand it in many ways. I may disagree but I can understand some of their points. I try not to let it bother me that they do not view me as a Jew. On a whole, no they do not but as individuals there may be some who do and some who don't.

tamar wrote:
As to his view that being UU is better then being Jewish if you won't be Orthodox is wrong. There is a vibrant Judaism outside of Orthodoxy and instead of the constant fighting of "who is a Jew", we ought to just move forward and be accepting.

He wasn't an Orthodox Rabbi.


The Orthodox have every right to their views. But at the moment their views have caused a huge gulf between the Jewish people. They do not have a right to determine what is Judaism for all of the Jewish world.

That is my issue. There needs to be pluralism within Judaism.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:24 am


How do you think this issue could be handled?
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:30 am

I actually don't think the Orthodox community determines what is Judaism for the entire world. They are in many places, like the US, still the minority. Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative shuls are still around, converts are still choosing these movements and Jews of all affiliations (or no affiliation) are thriving. Now, are there some issues? Absolutely. But I don't feel the Orthodox community is controlling all of Judaism for everyone nor are they a negative force. The Orthodox world does some very good things for the Jewish people.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:35 am

Dena wrote:
tamar wrote:

That is my issue. There needs to be pluralism within Judaism.

You feel they should accept non-Orthodox converts regardless of their thoughts, feelings and view of halacha? Or am I misunderstanding?

I feel that if they don't want to marry non Orthodox Jews then don't, if they don't want to associate with non Orthodox Jews then don't. I don't believe one group gets to determine what is Judaism and who can be a Jew for all Jews.

But to say they are not Jews is not acceptable. There have been many discussions through the ages as to conversion and different points of view.

Hillel when confronted with someone who wanted to convert said don't do what is hateful to another, this is the whole of Torah now go and learn. His view was that you spend a lifetime learning. His view was the opposite of Shammai.

My point is those who are Orthodox can live their Judaism and those who are not Orthodox can live theirs and both can exist with a Judaism that is pluralistic.

As to halacha there are different understanding of halacha. If you want to follow all of halacha fine but again that is how they choose to follow their understanding of Judaism. The other movements have a different understanding.

I believe all the Jewish views of halacha ought to be respected and that includes non Orthodox.






Last edited by tamar on Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:01 pm

Actually, no. Only Reform and Reconstructionist have a different understanding. Conservative agrees that you should follow all of halacha, but most people affiliating with it don't and the pressure/education isn't there to compel them to.

Orthodox Jews will also say the same thing for the people that set "other movements" in force. It's all perspective and it's not different from any other religion. We live in an age of choice and as such, things will divide and people will be forced to choose lines. The negative influences you see are reacting to fear: fear of disappearance, fear of "other," what have you. It does not make the movement a bad one.
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EstherK

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:23 am

First of all, the title of this topic why are converts unwanted is a little disturbing. I don't think they are unwanted, but we aren't an evangelistic group in any form of Judaism.
The first Rabbi I met up with was older and he basically said it was easier to be a non-Jew. The younger rabbi was more welcoming...but it was definitely a no pressure situation.
In the US, I don't know about other countries, the Christian Evangelists are on the rise, maybe because the Jews aren't out recruiting for converts we feel like we are unwanted.

I felt welcomed in my Community by everyone except the Chabad rabbi. Even the Modern Orthodox Rabbi didn't make me feel unwelcome. I think I just needed to show some sincere effort and love of Judaism.

I will be honest, as a Reform Jew, the ultra-Orthodox types irritate me. It irritates me that they came to power in Israel as a matter of politics....in order to get someone elected.

However, I don't live in Israel. I wish there was more acceptance there, but in all parts of the world we have difficult people. We cannot let them run are lives. It is sort of like trying to convince a Republican to become a Democrat or vice versa (forgive the American analogy). You can talk yourself until you are blue in the face, it probably isn't going to change their opinion.

So as far as the individual's opinion, I don't care. Everyone is allowed their opinion and if some Hassid from the Lower East Side, thinks I am a shiksa, then so be it.

I think the important thing is to support people like Anat Hoffman and ARZA who are really trying to create pluralism and know the Israeli government.

I do agree with Maculated fear is a big issue. All I hear from the anti-intermarriage crowd is "we are all going to die off", even though this religion is nearly 5,000 years old.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:45 am

Can I point something out? This isn't totally about "difficult people" as it is "world view."

"Orthodox" as defined means that you accept the Torah as given to Moses by G-d at Sinai. With that in mind, if you do accept that, you have very big limitations about where that can go in terms of "acceptance."

The Orthodox think you're being difficult because you're tossing out what the Torah explicitly states. And they have a good point that Jewish affiliation is dwindling. In a time where 50 years ago, 6 million Jews were exterminated, intermarriage and non-affiliation is a big deal. Like it or not, those issues are of stronger concern in the less isolated branches of Judaism for a reason. My husband, for example, is very happy that in his eyes he didn't "intermarry" even if his parents think he did. I personally wish that my choice to embrace Judaism didn't have to be a big deal to either party, but it is in their value system.

We are all here because we see something precious in Judaism and feel we have the "spark" of that preciousness that is the same bestowed to born-Jews. It's valiant to want to protect it, in my opinion. And if fear leads to some poor behavior in some, fine. In others, it doesn't. In most, it doesn't.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:55 am

EstherK wrote:
All I hear from the anti-intermarriage crowd is "we are all going to die off", even though this religion is nearly 5,000 years old.

I can understand their concern. The intermarriage rate is pretty high and we tend to have fewer children these days (except some of the Orthodox).
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EstherK

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:34 am

Don't get me wrong, I do respect the Orthodox and their traditions. It is just I don't care for intolerance of others among the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel. Especially the recent incident of a Haredi man spitting on an 8 year old girl on the way to her Orthodox school.
Quote :
"In a time where 50 years ago, 6 million Jews were exterminated, intermarriage and non-affiliation is a big deal. "
Thanks, I am aware of that, my paternal grandmother lost her two uncles, an aunt and cousins in the Shoah.
Is it time to go back to my liberal website now, before I become a troll? I don't like that image.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:12 pm

EstherK wrote:
Don't get me wrong, I do respect the Orthodox and their traditions. It is just I don't care for intolerance of others among the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel. Especially the recent incident of a Haredi man spitting on an 8 year old girl on the way to her Orthodox school.

I don't think anyone here cares for that sort of behavior. It's disgusting.

Quote :

Is it time to go back to my liberal website now, before I become a troll? I don't like that image.

I'm not sure what you mean? We can all have opinions here.


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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Why Are Converts Unwanted?   Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:00 pm

Esther, why do you say "become a troll"? I'm not a convert (may be in the future) and I feel very welcomed here and appreciate when I'm challenged to consider other views. I have learned so much and feel that all have something to contribute to this online community Very Happy and that includes you!
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