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mrenziboi



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PostSubject: best decision of my life    Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:02 pm

so i realized earlier this week that i am in such a great place in my life. my decision to convert was one of the best decision of my life. I am also in such a great place and feeling like my life is becoming more integrated. I feel like a new man after the high h oly day services its so amazing
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:30 pm

Have you just made the decision to convert, or have you just completed the process?

Almost all converts refer to becoming Jewish as "coming home." There's something that just feels right, clicks into place, makes total sense, etc.

I have seen these questions listed as a sort of "Jewish soul test":

1. Do you like to ask questions especially about religion? But when you asked them as a child, you were told faith is a gift from God and you shouldn’t question it. This never satisfied you, although others didn’t question it.

2. The Trinity never made any sense to you even as a young child. You prayed to God the father more easily than Jesus, the son of God, even though you were told to pray to Jesus. You never could believe that people who didn’t believe in Jesus couldn’t go to Heaven.

3. On first learning of the Holocaust you reacted more emotionally than your friends or other members of your family. You feel some sense of connection with the Jewish struggle to defend Israel.

4. You have an attraction to Jewish people, or to Judaism and Jewish culture. You have always been more open to people who were culturally, nationally or religiously different from your own family, than your friends or class mates.

5. When you start to learn about Judaism: the ideas and values seem reasonable to you; the traditions and heritage are very attractive to you; and the non-Jews around you, and you yourself, are surprised that you slowly come to feel that you are coming home.

A number of rabbis over the centuries have said that 1) every soul destined to be a Jew was at Sinai, whether in the flesh or in spirit-form; 2) converts are Jewish souls attempting to get back to their people; 3) that most (or even all) converts have a genetic Jewish ancestor, and that those ancestors will often reincarnate in their non-Jewish descendants in order to bring a part of the family line back to Judaism.

Oddly enough, even Hitler said that Jews have a Jewish soul which would show itself even if a child was not raised as a Jew or was denied a Jewish education. Of course, he thought that was a bad thing and that was why he ultimately pursued total annihilation. But he obviously was fighting a losing battle, because if the rabbis are right, you can never change or subdue the Jewish soul, and it will always find a way to be Jewish again.
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mrenziboi



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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:57 pm

Mychal to answer your first question i am in the process i am not decidint rather it is the right choice for me because i realized that a while ago i am fully inolved in my synagogue and yes feel very much like i am coming home. may i ask the intent of the "jewish soul test" i cannot make assumptions about ones intent but as a person of color who is in the process of conversion anything that seems to be pointing out that i am not jewish enough seems a little icky to me and that is the last way I would want to feel from this group.
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diana113



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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:02 pm

I hope Judaism will always be wonderful for you. We're lucky you found us.
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mrenziboi



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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:19 pm

thanks Diana i am sure like everything it will be full of ups and downs but I am lucky to be in this space
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:33 am

mrenziboi, I'm so glad for you! It's so wonderful that you've find a place to be home in Judaism, and that you've found such a congregation that makes you feel welcomed!

I'm still a bit of soloist on my journey (I'll update you about it soon), but, to turn back on Mychal's questions
1. YES
2. I was not raised Christian, but I live in a dominantly Christian society so I feel it - yes.
3. yes
4. absolutely yes
5. YES.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Tue Oct 09, 2012 2:20 pm

The "soul test" is just something I found on a rabbi's blog. I think it's really meant more for people who are still trying to figure out if they want to convert, or figure out why on earth they feel the desire to convert. He says if you answer the majority of those questions "yes," you probably have a Jewish soul.

Some rabbis hold that most converts are people with a "Jewish soul." (You especially find this in a Kabbalistic context, but even rabbis who aren't students of Kabbalah often recognize something in the soul of a convert which is inherently Jewish.) Meaning, it's like a destiny to become a Jew.

I find the test interesting because I had never really considered the idea that I might have a Jewish soul (i.e. was born with the inherent desire to become a Jew). I also found it surprising that the things that I've always done--asked questions about religion, had issues with the Trinity, etc.--are normal for other converts.

See, I used to think that I was just a bad Christian for questioning and doubting. Having grown up in an evangelical Protestant home, my "experimentation" with religious ideas was not encouraged. My mother didn't like me saying, as a teenager, that I didn't think you needed to be Christian to get to heaven. I had no problem thinking that someone righteous, like Gandhi, could go to heaven. (A concept known as "universalism.")

In other words, despite my upbringing in the Baptist church, despite my family's influence, despite having no Jewish influences whatsoever while I was growing up, no Jewish relatives, ancestors, or in-laws, etc., I STILL find myself in love with Jewish concepts and Judaism. Logically, there's no good reason for why I would want to be a Jew.

That's where the idea of a "Jewish soul" comes in--that you can have a Jewish soul and be born into a Gentile family, but despite everything, you will inexplicably gravitate towards Judaism.

That's not to say that you can't like Judaism (and even convert) just because you like Judaism's rational approach to God. My husband has made the statement that if he felt the need to belong to an organized religion, he would prefer Judaism over anything else because it appeals to his rational view of God. But I'd wager that most converts convert because of something deeper than logic--something that goes beyond the rational. That's when you say it's something in your soul.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:20 pm

Mychal,

the idea of the Jewish soul has always been fascinating to me, partly because I've always found Jewish people, tradition and culture so close to me even without an obvious reason, even before I actually knew Judaism, and partly because in the most cases, paradoxically, I tend not to believe in anything inherent to human subject (since that would be the ground for thinking of inherent differences between people, which, in the worst case, leads to power-hierarchizations of those structures, various dogmatic discriminations, stereotyping etc). In the other words, I believe we were not born with something, but rather we learn most of our preferences, cultural reactions and "characteristics" just living in some society and inheriting those patterns of thought and behavior. But...

...In the case of me and Judaism, it seems to be somewhat different, which brings me to the paradox I talked about. If there is nothing inherent in us and if I grew up with no contact with Judaism or Jewish people at all in my everyday living (which means that I knew Jewish culture only from books, movies and history), how can it be that I feel it so much close to me?

There is a Jewish cemetery in my hometown. By the time when I was four or five years old, there were no, as we knew then, Jewish people in my hometown (now I hear that there is actually a really, really small Jewish community there!!), so the cemetery wasn't used and basically people visited it very rarely. I remember that I was four or five years old when I came to an idea that I must visit that cemetery, so I told my father to take me there, and we went. I was so excited, it felt so unusually familiar - all those symbols, stones and everything... That day and feeling is still vivid in my memory. I went there a couple of times until I was 15 and left the town. I also remember that I've read where the synagogue in my town was and I went there often, depicting the imagined scenes from that time in my mind.

And of course, I've always asked a lot of questions about the religion, about the concepts of living, meaning of everyday life and our beliefs. I always thought we were responsible for our actions, I believed in a free will, and I felt that there is that One G-d. My grandmother was a Christian and of course, she told me that there's no room in faith for too much questions and that if you believe - you believe and that's it, but she also said that I shouldn't worry, maybe I'm just an atheist and that would be ok. But I knew that this wasn't the case.

So I lived with this closeness to Judaism for years until I actually discovered it. A couple of years ago, at my 1st year of PhD studies we had to choose our main topic/subject for that semester. They gave us about ten subjects and I didn't think twice - I chose Holocaust. So I started to read, read and read, turned to Jewish history, culture, and of course, Judaism. And it was all in it. Basically, I was in it from the first letter read, even before.

Well, maybe there was something beyond rational, some special spark that brought me here. I guess I'll never know for sure why I'm here, but I strongly feel that this is my path I walk.

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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:54 pm

It is said that when the (Jewish) fetus is in the womb, an angel teaches it Torah. Then, as it's being born, the angel hits it on the mouth and it forgets everything it learned.

Except the memory of having once known--that feeling that Torah and Jewish things are familiar--lingers. Even if that child grows up secular or is raised in another faith, when it encounters the Torah, there will be a spark of recognition.

I was really struck by that idea when I first heard it and thought it sounded rather applicable to me (I recently learned that I was born on a Yom Kippur, of all days). I felt like God picked me out to be Jewish, but for whatever reason, it wasn't for me to be born Jewish. So I got the Torah in the womb, and when I encountered it as an adult, that spark of recognition flared.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:01 pm

It's a beautiful story. I've heard it too.

Mychal wrote:

...and it forgets everything it learned.

Except the memory of having once known--that feeling that Torah and Jewish things are familiar--lingers. Even if that child grows up secular or is raised in another faith, when it encounters the Torah, there will be a spark of recognition.

That feels so familiar. :)
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mrenziboi



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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:34 pm

hey mychal thanks for your response i try to not jump to assumptions... yes i grew up evangelical was even a pastor. there are some crazy stories and connections i have i will admit. my twin sisters name is takiyah so in essence i have heard the call of takiya since the day i was born. it all feels home and normal as if this is something i have done my whole life.. my rabbi mentioned today that he forgot this was my first high holy day season because it would have been weird if i was not there because i belong o much in the community !
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:28 pm

The rabbi at my old Reform shul said she once called up all the converts for an aliyah on Shavuot and she said she was absolutely stunned, because 1) she didn't know there were that many converts in the synagogue, and 2) there were a number of people there that she would have sworn were Jews by birth. She had no idea they were converts because they blended into the community so seamlessly, it was like they had been born into it.

I don't think I'm quite there yet, lol. For one thing, I have a very distinctive Southern accent--unusual even among non-Jews in our area, but especially so among my congregation, which is made up of non-natives. I plan on reading from Torah as part of (or immediately after) my conversion ceremony and I'll bet it'll be the first time anyone there has heard Hebrew with a Southern drawl! LOL.
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ilovetchotchkes

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PostSubject: Re: best decision of my life    Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:27 pm

Mychal wrote:
It is said that when the (Jewish) fetus is in the womb, an angel teaches it Torah. Then, as it's being born, the angel hits it on the mouth and it forgets everything it learned.

Except the memory of having once known--that feeling that Torah and Jewish things are familiar--lingers. Even if that child grows up secular or is raised in another faith, when it encounters the Torah, there will be a spark of recognition.

I was really struck by that idea when I first heard it and thought it sounded rather applicable to me (I recently learned that I was born on a Yom Kippur, of all days). I felt like God picked me out to be Jewish, but for whatever reason, it wasn't for me to be born Jewish. So I got the Torah in the womb, and when I encountered it as an adult, that spark of recognition flared.

We joke in our house that the angel didn't hit my son hard enough - he's a better Jew than both my husband and I!

that being said, I thought it was maybe just ME when I found myself picking up stuff faster in a Jewish context than my 20 years trying to be Catholic. I always used to wonder as a kid why my birthday some years fell on something called Yom Kippur when i'd see it on calendars. And after you mentioned you were born on it, so was I!

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