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Dena

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PostSubject: Conversion Without Community?   Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:43 am

I know that there are Rabbis out there like Rabbi Ginsburg who will help converts along through the internet, videos and phone. He requires they actually work for it, they do go to the mikveh, etc. However I am hearing about people who live hours from any community do a fully online conversion. How is this done? Do they go to the mikveh? I guess one of my questions is should this be acceptable? It seems very difficult to learn to be a Jew when you are never able to go to services, when you can't go to shul for Yom Kippur, when you don't have anyone with which to do a Sedar, etc.


This is almost a second topic as it sounds so unbelievable. I kid you not, I have actually seen someone ask if they should circumcise their own children because they haven't got anyone to do it for them. If there isn't anyone around to do that then I assume there isn't anyone around for the mikveh either. How is this acceptable? I would think they will eventually find out their conversions are not valid. I would like to believe this sort of person isn't serious but who knows. The idea of some family out in the middle of nowhere holding down their child for his unprofessional circumcision makes me cringe.
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rakhel



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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:54 am

I suppose it's the "build it, they will come" mentality.

There are a number of communities here in New York that were not Jewish for the longest time. Then one Jew moved in, followed by another and another and another, until you have a minyan.

As for the Self-circumcision? I'm not even sure I want to touch that.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:11 am

Yikes! I get the online thing but not for complete conversion. Right now online is how I get together with others and study with Rabbi's via teleconference, video conferencing, emails, because my hubby is a contractor/consultant and travels so much its hard to find a community. We are not too far thankfully from a town that has a Shul. It does take almost an hour to get there. Our Noahide group is over three hours away but we do it online and the studies are very intense. The Rabbi's we communicate range from west coast to east coast, and Israel. I believe it was voted on last year in california to make it illegal for circumcision. I have no idea if it was passed and I just remember it had alot of people behind it. I hope not because of stories like self circumcision is crazy.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:21 pm

rakhel wrote:
I suppose it's the "build it, they will come" mentality.

There are a number of communities here in New York that were not Jewish for the longest time. Then one Jew moved in, followed by another and another and another, until you have a minyan.

One of the differences here is that they were already Jews (and I doubt they had to drive 4 hours to find another Jew). They were not trying to change their entire lives, learn what it means to be Jewish and learn to celebrate the Jewish life cycle all while never encountering another Jew. You know what I mean? That would be very difficult and extremely lonely.

Bee, San Francisco tried to pass the law but I believe it failed.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:41 pm

[quote="Dena"]

Quote :
Bee, San Francisco tried to pass the law but I believe it failed. [/color]
So happy to hear that!
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:05 am

My community doesn't have a mikveh (but we do have oceans, lakes, and rivers), and I know the reform community does conversions all the time. I think it depends on outlook.

Having done Ginsburg's conversion after going through an Orthodox program, I found it very much Judaism lite. My thought was that he was teaching you the basics and hopefully creating more Jewish families where there otherwise wouldn't be. But it seems to me that outside of Orthodox conversion (that, at least here in CA are highly prescriptive), no matter what you do, you're on your own to create your own version of that.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:27 am

maculated wrote:


Having done Ginsburg's conversion after going through an Orthodox program, I found it very much Judaism lite.

Yes, I could see where that would be true. Do you think he requires any less of you because he knew you already had an Orthodox education? Or do you think he may have even pushed you more because of it?



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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:49 am

I wouldn't judge Conservative conversions based on Rabbi Ginsburg's online conversion program. I have seen a number of Conservative programs that are not only much more thorough, but expect a fairly high level of observance of the converts. They have a full year of a lot of learning, and fairly strict Kashrut and Shabbat observance requirements.

I met a convert who went through R. Ginsburg's program and concluded that the program's standards of knowledge were quite low.

This is similar to the fact that Jews who call themselves "Conservative Jews" range from non-observant High Holiday Jews who don't keep kosher or observe Shabbat or most holidays (but simply pay membership fees to a CJ shul) to Orthoprax Jews whose only deviation from Orthodox practice is that they daven in egalitarian congregations with no mechitza and which allow women full participation in all ritual roles. I know a couple of Jews who grew up in observant Conservative homes and married Orthodox spouses and now attend Orthodox shuls and send their kids to Orthodox day schools. They really didn't change their lifestyle at all, although I suppose one of them would probably not be wearing a tallit kattan if he had not come to self-identify as Orthodox.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:19 am

Ginsburg's program is pretty much out of the box. He did say my speed through the program was acceptable because of my prior education.

As Debbie said, I think it fits in with the wide range of thoughts on the whole thing, which is why I said you sort of have to create your own community. This Rosh Hoshana, I'm stepping up as I did for Pesach by hosting all of the "misfit" Jews with a party. We don't fit in with the existing community offerings, so we're setting our own up. Orthodox, Reform, questioning, whatever - so long as you are fun to be with, you're getting a Rosh Hoshana seder. ::shrug:: We like to call ourselves Mountain Jews.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 2:24 am

Kristin,

What are you doing for a "Rosh Hashanah seder"? Is it your own or created by someone else?

I've never experienced a "seder" for Rosh Hashanah before.
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FaustianSlip

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:31 am

Debbie's description of Conservative conversions sounds about right. I had one sponsoring rabbi for my conversion but took a Judaism 101 class with another rabbi; my rabbi (and my shul) was very observant, definitely closer to the Orthodox end of the Conservative spectrum, while the rabbi teaching the class was on the more "Reformative" end. It was a good illustration of the range you find in Conservative Judaism, though there were definitely occasions in the class where the rabbi would say something about, say, shortening the service to make it more palatable to people without a lot of experience davening or using more English instead of Hebrew, with which I completely disagreed. I suspect that was why my rabbi wanted me to take the class, though; given that I'd been observing Jewishly for about ten years prior to formally starting the conversion process, I don't think he was expecting me to, say, learn why we celebrate Sukkot or something.

In terms of my own conversion, it took just about a full year; a little less because I was shipping out to China, so we wanted to make sure it was done before then, obviously, but (not to pat myself on the back) I was fairly well-educated in terms of ritual and theology before showing up on my rabbi's doorstep. Ironically, he pushed me not so much in terms of observance as to work on the cultural aspects, attend area social events, et cetera. It was definitely harder for me than the intellectual stuff, but in retrospect, it was a good thing. I also think my being immersed in Jewish life in various places for so long prior to pulling the trigger on conversion worked in my favor, in that my Jewish identity is probably stronger for it than it might have been otherwise. I think that's the part, though, that would be really difficult to convey via an online conversion class. By it's very definition, there is no community, so where do you start?

And speaking as someone who, to some extent, has to do the solo thing now, it is lonely, and sometimes it sucks. That said, I was in another city for work, and a couple of colleagues there are Jewish (I work with a couple of people here who are, as well, but they're very secular), and it felt so great to be able to hang out with other Jews and talk about Jewish stuff that it was almost worth being a lone ranger for a while. It's funny- this guy and I were talking about possible next postings and where we wanted to go, and I alluded to a place that's... not on the top of many people's lists (it's a border town). He wanted to know why I'd want to go there, and I said, "Well, it's near such-and-such, which actually has synagogues," and he blinks and goes, "Wait- are you a 'member'?" Cracked me up. And it feels pretty great to know what that means and be able to say, "Yeah, actually, I am."

Anyway, this is off topic, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is possible to do the solo thing, but doing it when you haven't had some kind of a community conversion experience is really difficult, I think. You have to really dig deep sometimes and create opportunities for yourself to share holidays with people (even non-Jewish people), and that's not easy to do even if you have an idea of what your options are. That said, if you're out in the middle of nowhere with no way to move, what else can you do?
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 2:02 pm

Debbie,

I think it's a Sephardic thing. We were invited to one last year and I thought it was lovely so we're doing it again. My Persian friend wanted some influence, so here's what we're doing: http://books.google.com/books?id=Z5zSIsAlm6YC&lpg=PA16&ots=DTKl9iLC9r&dq=persian+rosh+hashanah+seder&pg=PA16#v=onepage&q&f=true
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:13 pm

Sounds like fun. Thanks for the link. We're doing the second night RH dinner at our home, so maybe we'll try it out. I don't know if I have the energy to get that together, but it would be nice to make it special since it may be the last RH with my daughter present for awhile (she is a senior in high school and planning to apply only to schools in the NE because she wants to get out of the midwest).

A Passover seder was my first Jewish experience ever and I loved it.

I've also done Tu B'Shevat seders.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:22 pm

Yeah, I know about "not having the energy to get it together" but if I don't, who will? :)
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Conversion Without Community?   Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:48 pm

So far I have absolutely no plans but I'm sure someone will find me and feed me.
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