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rakhel



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PostSubject: How do I explain this...   Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:56 am

Ok. I'm gonna get a little personal here, and what I say may come off as a little offensive, but please understand this is just my opinion on the matter.

I don't like the word "conversion." I like it about as much as I like the word "normal." But I do understand that it may not mean exactly what the dictionary says it does.

My mother was not religious. My father was even less religious than she was. It's not that they hated religion. It's just it wasn't a part of their daily lives, so therefor, it wasn't a part of their children's lives either.

I don't know why the subject came up but I started asking about G-d. My mother didn't have an answer for me so she did the next best thing. She sent me to church. A Mormon church at that. I remember asking question after question, only to have it ignored or to be told "it just happened that way."

This was a common theme no matter which church I went to.

As a teen, I attended church for the community and friendships I had, but could never accept the idea that there was anything other than G-d out there. Sure, I sang the songs, said the prayers, participated in activities. But, I could never feel what they felt. and to be honest, I had figured that the Jewish religion was no more and they were all Christian.(the ignorance of small town churches)

Moved on with my life, without church. Had a few kids, and then my oldest started asking the same questions I did. So I did for her what my mother did for me. Only I gave her a choice as to which church to attend(there were only two, so the choice was large Laughing ) I sent her by herself the first time, but realized that I needed to get out of the house more often, so I went with her. I still didn't by the rhetoric. There was still only one G-d as far as I was concerned and nothing had or could change that. I felt isolated in a community that had so much.

Fast forward a few years and I meet my, soon-to-be, husband. He tells me he's Jewish. I go, "okay..." So I ask questions. To my amazement, I get answers. I start feeling like there is someone out there who understands. Someone who shares the same feeling and thoughts about the universe that I do. I am so not alone. I think that was when I realized who and what I was.

I was and am a Jew. No one told me I was Jewish. I just knew.
Then came the sticky part. To tell my family. Mom flips. You're going to be subjugated and be forced to submit. The whole "this is what the feminist movement was against," bit. I told her it was not the case. and if it what I wanted for myself, so what?

I moved to a more Jewish community and found that the Orthodox rabbis would not convert me. Why? I don't know. One was Chabad. and refused to even talk to me and the other...well he ran into problems down the line with Messianic statements, so it was probably for the best.
And like I said in another thread, Rabbi Levy would not have written a Ketubah if he had not believed me to be Jewish. I didn't lie to the man, Just basically told him what I'm tell you.

So that was my conversion. My marriage.

Now why I have a problem with the word. I don't think a rabbi can convert a person. I don't think they have this ability. I believe the only one who has the ability to convert anyone from on religion to another is Hashem. And a rabbi is not Hashem. However, I can see where the word, "convert" would make the most sense and have to force myself to use it in this sense. A rabbi is not converting anyone from one religion to another. He is converting them from one lifestyle to another.

So if I have offended anyone, I apologize. And if I come off as harsh concerning particular word, again, I apologize. AND if I come off as more harsh about one sect of Judaism over another...well. I'm not sure I'm going to apologize for that. I've had a few bad experiences with that particular group of Jews.
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James

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:49 am

I didn't find it offensive, rakhel.

And I think it mirrors what a lot of people feel.

My rabbi and I still have issues, but I do like his approach on some things. For instance, how he explains things like the blessings. We get a surprising number of Christians visiting our small synagogue, and rabbi always explains the blessing prior to reciting it. He tells that the blessing doesn't do anything to the wine; man does not change the nature of a thing nor does he imbue it with some sort of quality. The blessing is for haShem.

He explained the conversion process to me in a similar way: he wasn't going to magically change into something new. I am what I am. The process is there to connect me to both my local community and to all Jews everywhere.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:08 pm

I would bet just about everyone agrees that a Jew by Choice was born with a Jewish soul, so to speak. I see conversion as the process of going from the old life to the new life. For example, you and your oldest were not living Jewish lives. Now you live a Jewish life with a Jewish husband so there was a substantial change in lifestyle and probably at least a small change in worldview. I don't know but that's how I see it. Now, I will admit I am a pretty big fan of the whole process. Involving the Rabbi, the community, the beit din, mikveh - the whole thing. But that isn't to say those things are necessarily what makes us Jewish. What makes us Jewish is being Jewish.

And no, your post was not offensive. This is a place to share. Very Happy
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rakhel



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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:42 pm

Thanks. Most Jews(some of them converts) find it crazy that I don't like the idea of the Bet Din and the "paper chase" and that a person has the right to tell you whether or not you're Jewish. I have seen so many give up and settle for Noahide because a rabbi told them that no matter how hard they tried, they weren't Jewish.

I wish we were living in the time of Yosef Caro ,or even better Ruth, when things were much simpler and there wasn't this whole thing. Where all it required was the convert accepting the community and Hashem as theirs.
Don't get me wrong, I understand why it is what it is. I understand it's to prevent proselytizers from destroying the Jewish soul. I just don't like it. I don't like the way converts are treated. Just for being converts.

I look at stories like R. Druckman who's conversions were called into question, just because one woman faltered 15 yrs down the road. OR stories like the one on this forum who's fiance's parents would probably have preferred a Yenta to find him a "proper" bride, and it disgusts me. Some day down the road, your conversion is annulled because one of the people your rabbi converted slipped up and ate pork. It may not have even been on purpose, or it may have been the only thing they had to eat and were starving(which makes the consumption of pork allowable), yet some jack-off can come along and rip your whole life out from under you.
The hoops we have to go through just to prove we are who we are, and the honor and pride we have in being who we are is stomped on just for being converts.

Sorry, Venting I'm ranting and could go on. It's one of my biggest issues, pet peeves, if you will. Rabbis assuming the position of G-d.
Conversions are one of the few areas within Judaism that I have always bit my tongue on because I always felt I couldn't express my true feeling about the whole mess. I'm not a staunch objector to the process, I just don't like the process as it stands. And now you guys know where I stand Very Happy
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:49 am

Quote :
what I say may come off as a little offensive, but please understand this is just my opinion on the matter.

I don't see how your post could be "offensive" although I do think that many Jews would disagree with your understanding of Judaism and conversion.

{Comments redacted by author}

I would also like to respond to your statement:
Quote :
I don't think a rabbi can convert a person. I don't think they have this ability. I believe the only one who has the ability to convert anyone from on religion to another is Hashem. And a rabbi is not Hashem. However, I can see where the word, "convert" would make the most sense and have to force myself to use it in this sense. A rabbi is not converting anyone from one religion to another. He is converting them from one lifestyle to another.

The rabbis of the Beit Din don't make the convert Jewish; they merely certify as official witnesses hat the convert has the necessary beliefs and commitments and that certain ritual actions are carried out.

The first time I met with my sponsoring rabbi to discuss conversion, he asked me to "tell my story" and after I finished, he responded something like this: "So in some sense conversion would be an official acknowledgement of the change that you feel has already taken place." Now although it is indeed what I felt (and what I expect that all sincere converts feel if they are really ready for conversion), it is something that I did not even hint at. He was the one who stated it that way.

Note that is not halachically necessary for the members of the Beit Din to be "rabbis", but they must simply be kosher witnesses who are knowledgeable about the rules of conversion---the last part is why the BD members are usually rabbis these days. The whole business of "ordained rabbis" who have a certificate from a rabbinical school is a very modern invention. So even rabbis don't think they are endowed with some kind of magical ability to make a non-Jew into a Jew. In a way, they function like a Notary Public who notarizes that for example a signature was actually written by a person who had some proof of identity. And identity is the whole issue behind conversion. I think embossing the paper with the stamp of the notary is like the immersion and circumcision. It doesn't make the signature valid, but it is part of the agreed upon procedure for certification.

The conversion itself does not necessarily correspond to when related "changes in lifestyle" are made. I made most of my lifestyle changes many years (over 20 years for some observances) before I converted. I even knew how to chant Torah, but simply couldn't use the skill, before I converted. For me, conversion was a very important acknowledgement that I was committing myself fully to a Jewish relationship between myself and God, and this action was witnessed by three rabbis. But it is also true that those three rabbis verified that my understanding of Judaism was in keeping with their religion. I was joining the Jewish people and that new relationship had to be mutually accepted. It is also simply the way I wanted to do things that I made the changes in my lifestyle first in order to get ready for the spiritual change. I suppose a lot of other converts do it in the other order.

Quote :
I wish we were living in the time of Yosef Caro ,or even better Ruth, when things were much simpler and there wasn't this whole thing. Where all it required was the convert accepting the community and Hashem as theirs.

Yosef Caro did not that that any less was required for conversion than what is required by traditional rabbis today: circumcision for men and immersion for all converts, in particular. In fact, the "Shulchan Aruch" is the source quoted for support of the extreme Orthodox position that converts must show perfect acceptance of "all mitzvot" by perfect observance. Thus it is reasoned that less than perfect observance is reason to revoke the conversion even many years later saying that later improper actions proved lack of true acceptance. That is what happened with the Israeli Rabbinate declaring that R. Druckman's conversions were invalid---although that was later reversed.


Last edited by Debbie B. on Fri Oct 07, 2011 2:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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rakhel



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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:07 am

No. You misunderstood part of the story. And I do understand how one can misunderstand it. Trust me it was even hard for me to understand and everyone in that community to understand.

I didn't make the messianic comments. The orthodox rabbi did. He was Modern Orthodox. The man came highly recommended from his previous community. He was fired very shortly after he made these comments.

Maybe I am not making myself clear enough. This is the second time you and I have come to a misunderstanding about something I have said. And I'm beginning to see where this could become a problem.
I don't know what to say other than I am not what you think I am nor am I who you were.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:56 pm

When I read the OP I did not take the Messianic statements to be a Jesus thing on Rahkel's part but I knew her on another forum. I could see where someone else might read them as a Christian reference since Christians are everywhere and do try to get into the Jewish community. Thank you, Rahkel for clarifying that part of your story for other readers.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:55 pm

Quote :
I didn't make the messianic comments. The orthodox rabbi did. He was Modern Orthodox. The man came highly recommended from his previous community. He was fired very shortly after he made these comments.
The rabbi made the messianic statements? Yikes!

I'm so sorry to have misunderstood. And I have to say that it puzzled me because I didn't expect it from your previous posts.

Quote :
Maybe I am not making myself clear enough. This is the second time you and I have come to a misunderstanding about something I have said. And I'm beginning to see where this could become a problem.
Please remember that it is impossible to convey all of your experience and thoughts into a few posts, long though they are. There are many aspects of the situation that you know that I don't. I worked for awhile in technical documentation and I currently am responsible for the content of my department's website, and I find myself constantly re-writing sections of our FAQ because I get questions indicating that the reader misunderstood.

Quote :
I don't know what to say other than I am not what you think I am nor am I who you were.
Of course your situation is very different, but I am trying, in offering my story, to find commonality. Perhaps I miss the mark, but truly I'm open to revising my understanding. For sure, knowing who made the messianic comments changes the whole picture.

One reason I may have interpreted your statements incorrectly is that a friend who became a member of my lay-led minyan after being a congregational rabbi for 17 years told me about working with a prospective convert and finding out that she thought she could become Jewish while keeping many of her Christian beliefs. Also, my daughter had a high school friend whose mother is Jewish and father is not and who was a member of a "messianic synagogue". Her mother dresses like a frum Orthodox woman (snood and long skirts and all), but she works at an Evangelical Christian school which is where her daughter attended elementary school. This girl is certainly Jewish (in fact she is a JBB by Orthodox standards given her ancestry), but she has definitely non-Jewish beliefs. (And IMHO is very confused about what "Judaism" really is.) So because I know of cases of Jews or prospective converts who have had Christian beliefs, I was more likely to understand your statement that way. And besides: who would expect a MO rabbi to make messianic comments!

For the record, I believe that people can be Jewish in a wide variety of ways, and just because some Jews would not be able to take an aliyah in my minyan does not mean that I think they are "not Jewish". I believe, for example, that Reform converts who did not immerse are still Jews. At the same time, I think that different groups have the right to define inclusion in their own group, even if I may dislike what is sometimes IMHO zenophobia, racism or elitist exclusivity, and is not really in keeping with the Halacha they claim as a basis. But then again I don't want to be a member of those groups anyway.

Since my conversion, I have been called a "skisha" and "goy" by nasty Jews and I admit that it hurts. I agree totally that I am not an "Orthodox Jew", but I don't think it is reasonable for some to say that I can't call myself a "Conservative Jew" since I am accepted as that by not only my community (which only recently became formally affiliated with the Conservative movement and was previously "independent" even if Conservative in style and belief), but also by the Conservative movement in general (and by the Reform movement as well, and they are numerically the biggest group of US Jews these days). I do not like that some Jews presume to speak for other Jews in denying non-Orthodox converts and Reform patrilineal Jews the right to calls themselves "Jewish" given that a majority of Jews in the US believe that is true. There is a difference between having a person demand entry for membership in a synagogue or Jewish group and in allowing them to define themselves in other contexts.

I have noticed that a somewhat right-wing MO friend refers to me as "Conservative", but never as a "Conservative Jew", I suppose because she want to avoid calling me a "Jew" since she doesn't believe my conversion was "Halachically valid"---which she has been polite enough to avoid saying directly, but it is clearly her view. However, she treats me respectfully and has never been pushy about her hope that I will eventually convert Orthodox. From her, I take it as a compliment because in general she has pretty unwelcoming ideas about conversion.

But I have also been surprised by the joyful and acceptance of being a "member of the tribe" that I have gotten from some Orthodox friends which I didn't expect. While at the same time, I seem to be in an awkward "don't ask, don't tell" situation with other Orthodox friends whom I fear would feel that they had to stop being our friends if they knew the full details of my story.

So Rakhel, please just correct my mis-impressions. Don't think that I've somehow "written you off" when maybe I just misunderstood. I think the way I express myself sometimes causes people to think that I am close-minded where I am actually just trying to be clear about my own views. I also think it is fine to "agree to disagree". I really like the idea put forth by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield that "You don't have to be wrong for me to be right"---I've heard a podcast and read articles by him and one of these days I'll get around to reading his book.

Shabbat Shalom.

--Debbie
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:35 pm

Totally understand this post. As I always say to everyone who asks about my conversion, I didn't choose Judaism; Judaism chose me.

A very heartfelt and honest post.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: How do I explain this...   Wed Oct 12, 2011 2:40 pm

This is why I always say "joined the Jewish people", not "converted." Very Happy
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