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alexinnit



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PostSubject: I haven't decided yet....   Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:02 am

I've been lurking for a few weeks, reading your posts, hearing your stories and have been really pleased to see so many helpful links to other sites for more reading.

My situation is that I have had 'thoughts' of Judaism and conversion for about ten years, but have only started to do something about it in the last six months. I approached a Liberal Rabbi (I'm a gay man, in the UK and am sure that I would only consider conversion via the Liberal or Reform movements) and spoke to her, she was keen for us to move forward and I began attending classes. I was upfront with her that I haven't completely made my mind up, that I didn't want to formally register as a convert quite yet - and that I had done a lot of reading but couldn't equate that to making a decision as yet. She was really nice, and told me to take my time and engage in 'doing' Judaism rather than theorising.

I'm doing that, but I'm still not sure. I don't actually know whether it's the big deal that I'm making it out to be - but I think it is a decision of such significance that I want to be completely sure - and I'm not. It's not that I have doubts per se, it's just that I don't know whether this is *me* - if that makes sense. I'm not converting for a partner, so don't have that added complication.

So, my question is - when were you sure? Did you know before you met with a Rabbi that this was right for you? Was it a process of learning that led you to a place of peace and surety that this was where you belonged? Did you convert with some residual, perhaps fleeting, doubt still? Can we ever be completely sure?
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James

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:54 am

First off, welcome and thank you for sharing that with us. I think that a lot go through a similar process, although with differences. It took me several years to decide to convert, while a lovely lady in my congregation has been attending services for over 40 years and still hasn't decide to. I agree with the rabbi you spoke to; take your time and start living "Jewishly". See if it really is something that you're ready for.

As for my case, I had pretty much made up my mind before I approached the rabbi to talk about conversion. I had already spoke to him briefly and had received a reading list for the conversion. My decision came after several years of studying various religions and I kept returning to Judaism; the theology and philosophy was everything I had been looking for.

I am positive this is where I belong, but I agree that it is a major decision that should be carefully considered. And remember, Judaism isn't a proselytizing religion; there isn't a requirment to be Jewish in order to see the World to Come.. Conversion is much more than just joining a religion; you're joining a people with a rich history and culture.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:27 am

I was introduced to Judaism a couple times over a 10-year period. Every time I saw it, I liked it, but I didn't think conversion was an option (for one reason or another).

Finally, the third time I did some study of Judaism--and found myself drawn to it--I began to seriously ask myself if I was being called to be a Jew. I found a parallel between myself and Samuel, who kept hearing the voice of God calling out to him, but didn't recognize it at first.

I was in church at the time, and while I loved all my friends and the priest, it just wasn't filling my spiritual needs; there were too many things I disagreed with. But when I began to study Judaism in earnest, I realized that it aligned with my beliefs perfectly. All the things that bothered me about Christianity weren't in Judaism.

I felt like I wrestled with the decision to convert for ages, but it was really only 2-3 weeks. I just thought about it from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep that night. The hours I spent on it were considerable!

Finally, I decided I would pursue conversion (although I didn't start telling anyone for a couple of weeks). I can remember being at work the day after I made the decision and thinking, "I'm a Jew. I'm not the person I was yesterday. I'll never be that person again." It was an odd feeling--thinking about how different I suddenly was, and how my place in the world had suddenly shifted--but I adapted to it very quickly. And once I was sure I could handle that, I started to tell people I was converting, and I started to try to find a rabbi to work with me (that took a year).

It's been close to a year and a half since I made my decision and I can't see myself as anything else. I think of myself as a Jew. I switched synagogues a few months ago and have recently started to work with the rabbi. I'm certainly willing to do anything he asks (he assigned me six essays for the course of my study... I did them and returned them in less than 48 hours), but I see conversion study/class as a technicality. I'm ready to officially move into being a Jew.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:52 am

Hello, alexinnit!

Thank you for starting this conversation. I am myself caught in the situation of seriously considering conversion. And, for what is best, I'm discovering every day more that it is not uncomfortable position at all, although it is demanding and certainly takes a lot of your time and devotion, but it is so inspiring and uplifting for me. Mychal wrote about wrestling with the decision - that is beautifully said, I have a similar feeling.

I want to make up my mind before approaching the rabbi. In other words, I want to read and learn as much as I can and come with a serious and formed decision. I want to define by myself firstly why Judaism feels so familiar and "right in place" for me, where and how I see myself and Judaism, and where I see Judaism in me.

Approaching Judaism was a gradual process for me, but in the past few months it's been happening faster and faster - probably because I'm reading, thinking and learning more and more. I started to talk about my idea of conversion with my family and friends - so that was and is a very serious step for me.

You've asked if we felt that this is really *us* in Judaism. Well, yes - I've kind of always felt, from the moment that I first was introduced to Judaism and Jewish culture that this is the place for me, but I will take my time. I will not hurry anything up - all in its time - although often I feel the urge to jump into everything as soon as possible!

I don't know; I feel happy in Judaism, I feel calm, it feels *right* somehow, and I feel motivated to go on and to delve deeper. That is really what matters to me.

......................................
*excuse my English if it's not perfect - it's not my first language* Embarassed


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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:38 pm

I feel like I hit a milestone last night.

I had a dream in which I inexplicably found myself in a crowd of people who were being herded into a church. Before I could figure out what to do, a preacher came over to me and started trying to sell me on Christianity and Jesus. I told him, "You do know I'm a Jew, don't you? A *practicing* Jew."

Even in my subconscious I identify as a Jew.

Can I ever be sure I'm doing the right thing? Not 100%. But then, there are times when I wonder if there's a God. All things considered, I'm about 98% sure I should be a Jew and 98% sure there's a God. But I don't think anyone can be 100% of the rightness of their conversion and of their Jewishness, just as no one lives 100% of their lives never doubting, even for a second, in the existence of a being we can't see or hear or touch.

In other words, it's okay if you sometimes look around and say, "Dear God, what have I gotten myself into? This is crazy." I think we all have days like that as part of our conversion, and even after it. Although, the newer you are to the experience, the more of those you're likely to have. After a while, though, everything becomes comfortable. It's like going to live in another country--even one that you love; there will be some initial culture shock, and maybe the occasional thing you can never adapt to, but, for 98% of the time, you'll be happy and comfortable and never think anything about it.

P.S. Sarit, I think you need to remove your footnote. I read your entire post and never realized you're not a native English speaker. In fact, you do better with grammar and punctuation than many English-speakers I know!
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James

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:38 pm

Mychal wrote:
...

In other words, it's okay if you sometimes look around and say, "Dear God, what have I gotten myself into? This is crazy." I think we all have days like that as part of our conversion, and even after it. Although, the newer you are to the experience, the more of those you're likely to have. After a while, though, everything becomes comfortable. It's like going to live in another country--even one that you love; there will be some initial culture shock, and maybe the occasional thing you can never adapt to, but, for 98% of the time, you'll be happy and comfortable and never think anything about it.

Well said!

I remember my first service..... standing in the back of the sanctuary, watching everone swaying just a little while praying in Hebrew, and thinking, "there's no way I belong here."

And now, in just a couple of weeks, I'll be counted as part of a minyan and be called to the Torah.

You're right abount not being 100% certain; but at some point you realize there's no where else you want to be.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:48 am

Mychal wrote:

P.S. Sarit, I think you need to remove your footnote. I read your entire post and never realized you're not a native English speaker. In fact, you do better with grammar and punctuation than many English-speakers I know!

Thank you, Mychal! Since I'm still new here on the forum, I thought it would be appropriate to mention that English is not my first language, just in case I make some mistakes or grammar slips. I guess will not be needing that footnote anymore. :)

And yes, I also have those moments of almost panic, like "how did this happen to me", "why now", "what have I got myself into", "what if I don't fit in [in the actual Jewish community here, at first place]" etc, but I think of those questions like of a challenge - I stop a little, sit and try to give my answers to myself. They need not to be perfect, nor complete for the moment, but they always clarify me why I'm still here, on this path. They are also always telling me that I belong here, in Judaism, and that there is no place else to feel at home.
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Rocky_girl



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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Wed May 02, 2012 7:30 pm

I started out my discussion with my Rabbi by saying that I did not want to convert to any more religions, but that I was intrigued by Judaism and wanted to check it out. I was welcomed into Torah study and made lots of friends. I debated scripture and learned a little Hebrew, I memorized prayers and songs. No one pressured me to consider conversion.

Nine months later I went to a service at my college with a friend and found the experience so alien that I couldn't help but see how far from religiously neutral I had become.

That night I wrote about the weirdness I felt and it turned into a list of things I believed and one of the things I listed was that I belonged with the Jewish people. It was a quick shift from that point and I am within a month of my official conversion.
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LBR



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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Wed May 09, 2012 10:10 pm

Thanks for writing this. I've been lurking awhile and your comment made me finally feel comfortable posting.

I've actually be thinking about converting on and off for 12ish years , with it becoming a more pressing idea the last 3-4. I'm a woman in my mid-twenties, so yeah that means I've thought about it since I was in 5th or 6th grade (though I didn't know what the process entailed at the time). It's been really frustrating. Sometimes I feel profoundly Jewish and would be ready to convert then and there, and other times I am plagued by self-doubt and insecurity about never being "Jewish enough."

I'll get into more details in an official introduction post (which I don't have time to write right now), but I just wanted to let you know I totally feel you. Also, hi nice JBC forum people. You all seem like a pretty nice bunch. :)
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Thu May 10, 2012 11:20 am

I don't think any JBC feels Jewish enough. I think that's why we're all here.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Thu May 10, 2012 1:03 pm

This is so interesting to me, "not feeling Jewish enough". Is this like a self image thing, Halacha thing, intimidation, or being accepted (which I am leaning towards)? I can relate to some extent but it is mainly because I do not want to offend, mislead or unintentionally be misguided in my understanding of the culture or religious laws. I have great love and respect for the Jewish people but I am trying to adapt the religious part into my own culture and identity. Sometimes I forget that and find myself being over zealous....then I step back and think about my family traditions. I can't lose myself trying to be what I am not, but I can lose myself in the common goal to attain enlightenment, closeness to Hashem, Torah studies and charity. There are a few occasions where I have felt very intimidated whether I am at a Jewish congregation, store or Judaica. I don't understand why I feel that way, I think because I fear that I will not be welcomed. I have always been welcomed and treated kindly but I can't help feeling intimidated. At this point we have decided not to convert...but to wait and stay as Noachides, at least for the time being. We have had strong support from our Rabbi's, and am so humbled how they travel from Israel back and forth to Texas so that our studies are not just by skype, webex or online. They are mentoring us, inspiring us and heavily gaurd our path...how beautiful are they? For some reason I feel more Jewish now then when I was trying to be. I feel so priviledge to learn and be among Torah giants.
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searchinmyroots

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Thu May 10, 2012 7:45 pm

Hey, even Jews don't feel "Jewish" enough sometimes.

I should know, because I was born one. Being sort of a "returnee", I myself many times feel out of place and wish I knew more about my own culture.

Now of course it may feel completely different if you weren't born Jewish, but I just wanted to express that it is common for born Jews to feel the same way.

I've said this before and I'll try it again.

It is said there are only 2 kinds of Jews, those that are growing and those that are not.

It should all be looked at as an individual growth journey.

In my humble opinion of course.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri May 11, 2012 9:32 am

Thank you, searchinmyroots! Your words are very inspirational and comforting.

It is interesting that I, for example, although I'm still in the beginning of my Jewish learnings (which feels great, actually - I'm constantly in the state of fascination, of great motivation and inspiring joy - it's almost like being in love!), sometimes somehow feel very Jewish (although I know, of course, that there is still so much to do/learn and that this personal growth never stops - that is nicely said, serchinmyroots!), and sometimes I just don't feel Jewish enough at all. It is as I'm afraid that I'll never be recognized as fully Jewish in the community no matter how much knowledge, respect and love I have for all that is Jewish.

Now as I say it, I think it is one huge reason I didn't contact the rabbi yet, that fear of not being fully accepted. I mean, I am prepared to be turned down three times, event thirty three times if it is what it takes (and I will be coming back!) and it's not quite the fear of looking too nervous or too not-ready in front of the rabbi; it is a reaction in/of the Jewish community I fear of - fear of not being accepted or being under a kind of suspect (if I'm sincere, if I'm serious etc).

Probably I just keep imagining things and probably I should just go and check it out - maybe I'm just projecting my own stories of fear in my head.

It is just that Judaism and feeling Jewish means to me so much and I would like the Jewish community to see it too. In other words, as much as I love Judaism, I need the acceptance in the Jewish community. These two aspects are intertwined for me and would be essential for my Jewish identity.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri May 11, 2012 1:04 pm

Quote :
This is so interesting to me, "not feeling Jewish enough". Is this like a self image thing, Halacha thing, intimidation, or being accepted (which I am leaning towards)?

Some of everything. I grew up in a traditional, small Southern town. Most of the Jews in my congregation are not from the South, and none of them are from a small town. My accent is very noticeable in that company. The culture I was raised in is very different than typical American Jewish culture.

I also find myself questioning what I say before I say it. Because I grew up in a church, then in a religious high school, I tend to compare and contrast what I am exposed to in synagogue to church--just as I view Judaism through a Christian lens. There are times when I go to quote the Bible and ask myself, "Is that New Testament?" In fact, I still think in terms of New Testament and Old. That's just how the Bible was always divided when I was a kid. And having rejected the validity of the new covenant, I see no problem with saying I believe only in the old, original one.

I am also conscious of the fact that I will never be accepted as a Jew by other Jews. I'll be Jewish enough to live in Israel, but not to marry another Jew in a religious ceremony there or be buried in a Jewish cemetery there.

This is why the Torah admonishes all Jews to respect the feelings of the convert and not make the convert feel inferior or treat them like a second-class citizen. The feeling that we don't quite fit in has always existed.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri May 11, 2012 2:19 pm

Mychal wrote:
I tend to compare and contrast what I am exposed to in synagogue to church--just as I view Judaism through a Christian lens.

This is interesting. Are you consciously comparing or does it just happen? I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say you view Judaism through a Christian lens.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri May 11, 2012 5:17 pm

Some of it is unconscious and some is conscious.

When I hear that "Judaism does X" or "believes Y," I usually think, "I like that better than Christianity." I'm constantly measuring Judaism against what I know--which is Christianity.

A born Jew doesn't do that, because a born Jew usually knows next to nothing about Christianity and has no real reason to compare Judaism to anything else.

It's like I had a bad boyfriend, and now I have a great one, and I find myself frequently thinking, "My boyfriend today is so much better than my old one. Old BF would have been mean to me, but New BF is so nice."

That's called emotional baggage. What I've got is religious baggage. LOL
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Fri May 11, 2012 5:38 pm

Mychal wrote:

A born Jew doesn't do that, because a born Jew usually knows next to nothing about Christianity and has no real reason to compare Judaism to anything else.

For the most part I assume that is true but there are a good number of born Jews who are knowledgeable when it comes to Christianity.

Mychal wrote:
It's like I had a bad boyfriend, and now I have a great one, and I find myself frequently thinking, "My boyfriend today is so much better than my old one. Old BF would have been mean to me, but New BF is so nice."

That's called emotional baggage. What I've got is religious baggage. LOL

I think it's probably something you'll stop doing eventually. You may not even notice. One day you'll just realize you haven't been doing it anymore.
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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Mon May 21, 2012 12:58 am

Mychal wrote:
Some of it is unconscious and some is conscious.

When I hear that "Judaism does X" or "believes Y," I usually think, "I like that better than Christianity." I'm constantly measuring Judaism against what I know--which is Christianity.

A born Jew doesn't do that, because a born Jew usually knows next to nothing about Christianity and has no real reason to compare Judaism to anything else.

It's like I had a bad boyfriend, and now I have a great one, and I find myself frequently thinking, "My boyfriend today is so much better than my old one. Old BF would have been mean to me, but New BF is so nice."

That's called emotional baggage. What I've got is religious baggage. LOL

I don't just have baggage, I have a matching suitcase set with a footlocker....

Christianity chewed me up, and spit me out and left me reeling with just... utter..... there's no other way to describe it but a sense of queasiness. Its to the point where I told my Catholic mother that the only way I will ever set foot in a Catholic church again is when my grandmother, her or my father passes.

Even though i've been officially Jewish for 3 years, I still sit there and compare in my head. Judaism always comes out on top. :)
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Mon May 21, 2012 12:15 pm

I don't hate Christianity, but knowing what I know about the Bible now, I feel a certain twinge of embarrassment that I ever bought into it (even though I was young), and I wonder how anyone else can believe it.

When I told my church friends that I was converting to Judaism, they were quite supportive. One man said, "I can see that. You're so smart and like to study, and I think that's very Jewish." He wasn't talking about study of mundane subjects; he was talking about theology. And that made me scratch my head a bit, because he didn't intend for it to come out the way it did, but I think it was honest. He equated a deep study of theology to Judaism. But, on the flip side, what does that say about Christianity?
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: I haven't decided yet....   Mon May 21, 2012 12:58 pm

alexinnit wrote:
I've been lurking for a few weeks, reading your posts, hearing your stories and have been really pleased to see so many helpful links to other sites for more reading.

My situation is that I have had 'thoughts' of Judaism and conversion for about ten years, but have only started to do something about it in the last six months. I approached a Liberal Rabbi (I'm a gay man, in the UK and am sure that I would only consider conversion via the Liberal or Reform movements) and spoke to her, she was keen for us to move forward and I began attending classes. I was upfront with her that I haven't completely made my mind up, that I didn't want to formally register as a convert quite yet - and that I had done a lot of reading but couldn't equate that to making a decision as yet. She was really nice, and told me to take my time and engage in 'doing' Judaism rather than theorising.

I'm doing that, but I'm still not sure. I don't actually know whether it's the big deal that I'm making it out to be - but I think it is a decision of such significance that I want to be completely sure - and I'm not. It's not that I have doubts per se, it's just that I don't know whether this is *me* - if that makes sense. I'm not converting for a partner, so don't have that added complication.

So, my question is - when were you sure? Did you know before you met with a Rabbi that this was right for you? Was it a process of learning that led you to a place of peace and surety that this was where you belonged? Did you convert with some residual, perhaps fleeting, doubt still? Can we ever be completely sure?

My path to find my home here was a very long and painful one. I was not raised with any religion although my family was what I would call secular Christian. We did Christmas and never set foot in a church. I had no indoctrination and I was allowed to figure out religion without interference from my family.

I grew up with Jewish neighbors and was always interested in them and their religion. I felt a kinship with them as both they and I were ostracized in the public school we went to because we were the only kid who had our desks out in the hallway when the religion teacher came each week.

I went to church with neighbors but my family eventually stopped me because the values I was coming home with did not mesh with the values I was learning at home.

It took me years to figure out I was not a Christian and just because that was my heritage did not make me a Christian. I walked away from it when my children were young because I realized that by taking them to church I was indoctrinating them into a religion I was not all that sure I believed in. So we stopped.

I spent a couple of years learning about Islam and eventually turned away from that. Once again Judaism crossed my path and this time I knew that people actually converted to Judaism. Before I believed that you could only be born Jewish. When I was told people converted to Judaism a lightbulb went off in my head and that is the start of my actual path towards becoming Jewish.

I studied and joined a community and became Jewish. 2 of my children became Jewish. We have been a part of a Jewish community now for 3 years and January 5 2013 my daughter will be called to the bimah to read from the Torah at her Bat Mitzvah.

I marval at how lucky I am to be part of this wonderful people.

I have always felt like when I became Jewish I came home. I have my struggles still but it is not with being Jewish it is with the separations within the Jewish community. That as a Jew by choice I am not accepted by the orthodox. I worry about my children as they grow and want to express their Jewishness that there are groups who feel like they have a right to determine Jewish status for all Jews. I struggle with my thoughts of Israel as my Jewish homeland where I could go and live. A government that would allow me to move there but I would not be registered as a Jew because the government and religious establishment have 2 criteria as to who is a Jew.

So I support those progressive groups that help to support more Jewish diversity in Israel. My hero is Anat Hoffman and the Woman of the Wall.

I hope that one day even through our differences as Jews we can have understanding and acceptance of all that is Judaism and that we will not be divided.
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