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Samantha

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PostSubject: Ouch.   Wed Oct 12, 2011 5:15 pm

First topic message reminder :

Just been told by my (very very apologetic) rabbi that my conversion will be put back by a month and a half, as there's no room left in the October slot for the beit din. The next is on December 6th.

Note that I have spent 7 years of my life studying Judaism and another 2 years converting, so news like this is both intensely painful and horribly frustrating for me. It's like someone dangling a delicious piece of cake in front of a starving person, and then suddenly snatching it away. It's so hard to be in limbo with your own identity; thinking, feeling and acting like a Jew, and yet not actually being one officially.

Think I could cry from the disappointment but trying to keep my chin up, a month and a half more isn't going to make any difference, right?

Has anyone else had such a disappointment before? I want to be Jewish so much. It's all I've ever wanted in the past 7 years and I thought I was going to be Jewish by the end of this month.

Sigh. All part of the test of a convert, I suppose.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:33 pm

And you'll be an official MOT before Chanukah! Very Happy
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:35 pm

I know! How conveniently placed! My first Christmas as a Jew, too. This should be interesting... Laughing
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:41 pm

I don't know if you've seen this, it's something I wrote about my first Christmas identifying as a Jew. It's on the RJ blog, but it's not an exclusively Reform perspective by any means.
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:43 pm

Yes I have, I'm an avid reader of your blog! I thoroughly enjoy reading it. One of my favourite posts of yours was about reform Jews laying tefillin. It's such an uncommon thing and your perspective is really enlightening.
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:33 am

Samantha, I believe you are just a few days away now, how are you feeling?
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:12 pm

Dena wrote:
Samantha, I believe you are just a few days away now, how are you feeling?

I am. I am so unbelievably excited, I just can't begin to tell you. Beit Din will be at 2.30pm followed by the Mikveh at 4pm - which my Rabbi will witness. How am I supposed to feel? I keep flitting from sheer nervousness one minute to crazy excitement the next. I can't believe how quickly it's arrived!

Could anyone please share their own experiences of the beit din and mikveh? Of course I've read various blog entries and books about the experiences, but any other input would be brilliant.
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sat Dec 03, 2011 2:01 am

It will be like nothing you've ever experienced and it won't be exactly as you expect. Some of it may feel amazingly holy. Some of it may feel downright mundane. And you may feel like crying at unexpected moments. Your beit din may make you wait before coming out and leading you to mikvah, or may pop right out like mine did. Here's something to remember, though. Once they do come out and congratulate you, that's it. No more wondering. You're through all your hoops, you're about to be Jewish. I couldn't stop smiling between that point and mikvah. It's the surest home stretch ever :-)
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:24 pm

Great post, thank you - I've also read your blog entry on your beit din and mikveh experience and it was of a great help. I know what to expect in my mind's eye, but how I will be on the day is just impossible to judge. I know most converts spend weeks imagining this moment in their heads, but I don't think that will ever prepare me for what lies ahead of me in three days' time.

I know it's going to be one of the best days of my life, I know that for certain.
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:08 pm

The beit din was quite easy for me. I had written a 10 page essay which all three of them had read beforehand so they had a good indication of where I stood. The mikveh was unpleasant and awkward. The moment I arrived the mikveh lady asked me to hurry so she could leave. She would not let me talk to my Rabbi, she literally cut us off when we tried to speak. This was the first time my Rabbi had led someone all through the entire process of conversion so it was exciting for her too. She had prepared some prayers and poems ahead of time but we didn't get to do any of that.

It felt like the mikveh lady was gawking at me. She was not discreet in the least. She made me so nervous there was no way I could remember the blessings and my Rabbi couldn't hear me so she had to stand right next to the water which wasn't exactly what she wanted to do. I choked on water and I didn't complete all the dunks properly so I had to do one over again. It was not the spiritual experience I had wanted but it got the job done.

She did say some lovely things about female converts when talking to my husband which surprised me since it's obvious she's Orthodox. But it was nice for her to speak about me in a positive way. I think my husband appreciated it.

Like Mike said, it won't be exactly what you pictured but it will be memorable and it is very exciting!!
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:48 pm

I'm really sorry to hear your mikveh experience was rushed - that must have been really awful, especially the whole gawking thing! I would have been terrified. At least you're Jewish now!

The mikveh I am going to is progressive, run by the Reform community, and mostly only used for conversions, so I'm hoping they are professional. I have heard great things about them.

I've also got a female rabbi who will be my witness, even though there's a mikveh lady on hand, I wanted my rabbi to be there, and she wanted to be there to support me, which I'm really appreciative of as I can't find anyone else to accompany me due to it being a weekday.

The Liberal Jewish community here in London is insisting more and more upon mikveh for conversion - though they have a very traditional bent so it's not really surprising. It's pretty much the UK version of your Conservative. Although I'll be converting Liberal, both the Liberal and Reform movements share the same mikveh. My conversion will be valid right up to Masorti (UK Conservative) as it is involving a beit din and mikveh.

My conversion essays involved one about what brought me to Judaism, and another on a topic of my own choosing (I chose Shabbat). To be honest, the essays were the easy part. I just know I will freeze in front of a Beit Din!
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:24 am

The only cases where a Beit Din grills the prospective convert or does not certify a conversion that I've heard of are Orthodox, particularly ultra-Orthodox. I have read articles by Modern Orthodox rabbis who are unhappy about the increasing stringencies and negative attitudes towards conversion that they see in Orthodoxy.

Your sponsoring rabbi would not suggest that you come before a Beit Din if that rabbi didn't think you were ready. Usually, the Beit Din is actually encouraging and welcoming. They may ask you questions to show your knowledge, but they are expecting that you will be able to answer correctly; they are not trying to trip you up (except for some Orthodox Batei Din as mentioned above). Many rabbis (most of whom are Jews by birth) find it inspiring to deal with converts, who after all choose of their own free will to join the Jewish people, and who work hard to learn all that is needed to be ready to convert. It can be seen as very affirming that Judaism is indeed special enough that outside people would want to join.

At my conversion, I could tell that the youngest rabbi on the Beit Din was very moved by my story. He was more than 15 years younger than me, I think, whereas the other two were more or less 15 years older than me.
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:40 am

Debbie have you shared your story in regards to that essay? I can't remember if you did, or is it personal what you write to the Beit Din? If thats the case I hope I did not offend you by asking. How long does the essay need to be and do you or they chose the subject? What kind of questions do they ask?
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:50 am

I didn't write my story as an essay. I shared it verbally with the Beit Din because my sponsoring rabbi opened the conversion proceedings by asking me to "share my story". I remember trying to think fast to pick out the most important aspects of my long Jewish journey because with almost 25 years since I had first started to attend services regularly, my whole story could take hours to tell Rolling Eyes

The only writing I was asked to do by my sponsoring rabbi was to write "reflections" on the High Holidays when there was a break of a several weeks in our meetings from before Rosh Hashanah to Simchat Torah. I had no idea what he wanted, but I ended up writing about 7 pages on both how I felt when I celebrated the holidays that year and also my memories and feelings about celebrating those holidays in the over 20 years that I had done so. He asked me if the exercise was "helpful", so clearly he intended the assignment to prompt me to think more about how I felt about Jewish ritual and perhaps also what it would mean to do those same things as a Jew.

How a person studies for conversion and what they are asked varies considerably. My conversion experience was very personal and was all private study with my rabbi. I am still awed by the time he took out of his very busy schedule to work with me and am exceedingly grateful. Most non-Orthodox conversions involve group classes.

The one question that I think every prospective convert will be asked at some time is: Why do you want to become Jewish? My rabbi asked me that at my very first meeting with him to discuss conversion.
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:20 pm

Debbie B. wrote:
Your sponsoring rabbi would not suggest that you come before a Beit Din if that rabbi didn't think you were ready.

My Rabbi actually said that she was so impressed with my knowledge I had gained before I began the conversion process, she has let me go before the beit din earlier than any other convert she has dealt with, and she's dealt with many. I don't know whether to be embarrassed or pleased Laughing

I suppose I have resigned myself to this life and I'm fully ready to take it on with no reservations. But then, I knew I wanted to be Jewish since I was fourteen years old. I have had quite a lot of time to consider my options!

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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:22 am

Samantha, I'm hoping it would be the same for me when my day comes ;-)
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:34 pm

Bee wrote:
Samantha, I'm hoping it would be the same for me when my day comes ;-)

I hope for you too!

I become a Jew at precisely 2.30pm tomorrow. I'm bouncing off the walls with excitement! Voiced to my Rabbi my concerns and she replied, "It'll all be fine darling, you're a model case!" LOL Laughing

How am I supposed to feel the night before I make my identity official and end a lifetime of spiritual homelessness? It's such an amazing feeling.
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:49 am

Well, I'm off to become Jewish! Talk to you all later!
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:40 pm

Wooooohhhhooooo!!!
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:53 pm

Sooooooooo, how is it?!
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:19 pm

My name is Rut Bat Avraham V'Sarah. I am a Jew!

I'm currently blogging my experience with gusto, so will post it in a bit. It was, in a word, incredible.
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Dec 06, 2011 6:02 pm

Yasher Koach!
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Tue Dec 06, 2011 6:58 pm

Thank you! For all who want an epic post covering my conversion day - you can find it here: http://learningtokvetch.wordpress.com/
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:53 am

Read it and got emotional...thank you for sharing Wave
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:54 am

Samantha wrote:
My name is Rut Bat Avraham V'Sarah. I am a Jew!

I'm currently blogging my experience with gusto, so will post it in a bit. It was, in a word, incredible.
Do you pick your name or does your Rabbi?
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PostSubject: Re: Ouch.   Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:19 am

Nowadays, most converts usually choose their own Hebrew names, although perhaps with help or suggestions from a rabbi.

The "lineage" assigned to a convert is "ben/bat Avraham Avinu (v'Sarah Imenu)" (son/daughter of Abraham our Father and Sarah our Mother). Note that even Orthodox converts (who use only the patronymic) are called by "ben/bat Sarah" in the case of the Misheberach blessing for healing, since all Jews are called by the matronymic for that purpose. The "Avinu" and "Imenu" parts are often left out since most converts prefer not to have their status essentially broadcast by their Hebrew name. But it is part of a convert's official name, so for example, that is how my name is written on my ketubah even though my rabbi would call me up for an aliyah with the less distinctive "bat Avraham v'Sarah")

It used to be the tradition to name all male converts as Avraham, although it seems to me that "Avraham ben Avraham Avinu" sounds weird. All female converts were traditionally named Sarah or Ruth, after Rut (no h in modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation) the woman traditionally seen as the archetype convert from the Biblical book of Ruth traditionally read on the second day of Shavuot.

When I converted, I wanted to keep Devorah, the Hebrew version of my given name and only one Roman letter different from the way it is actually spelled on my birth certificate. It is the name that I used when speaking in Hebrew in Israel, so in some sense that name was part of the development my early "Jewish identity". But I wanted something new as well to indicate my change in status. I always loved the story of Ruth, since I guess I identified with her since I too had come to Judaism through my husband (although I wasn't widowed first!). My sponsoring rabbi asked me if I knew that it was a traditional name for converts. I said that I had only heard of Sarah being used for converts, and didn't know that was also true for the name Rut. So then he approved of the name, whereas he would have discouraged me from using it if I had done so only to bow to tradition. So my Hebrew name is:
Devorah Rut bat Avraham v'Sarah

My sponsoring rabbi told me some interesting theories about the book of Ruth that his late wife, a Professor of Bible, had written in a book she was working on when she passed away from cancer. I wish I remember those things now, but I don't.
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