Never Jewish Enough: Reflections of the neighborhood Shiksa
One of the stark realities of being a convert to the Jewish faith is you are never really Jewish. In spite of having two conversions (through the RCA and through a Chassidic Rav, who felt my RCA conversion might not be universally accepted), I found out again this week, that I am just the Shiksa in the neighborhood.
Last year, the Jewish community of Richmond participated in a program to Israel for Jewish women whose children were under 18. There were no other requirements. The women who were handpicked by our rabbi ran the gamut of the Jewish spectrum. I was not asked to participate even though I met all of the requirements. When I confronted the rabbi, he apologized, told me he made a “big mistake” and that if he “had it to do all over again, you would have been the first person I would have invited.” I told him I expected to be included in the upcoming trip, and his reply was, “you got it!”
This has been an unbelievably difficult school year. Failure rates are up, despite watering down the curriculum. When I was contacted by the school district about teaching summer school because, “we need a really good math teacher who can deal with these kids,” I declined because I would be in Israel during the summer session.
Stupid me. A few weeks ago a member of our community came to me and said, “I thought you were going on “the” trip this summer.” I replied that I was, and they told me that my name was not mentioned (did I mention that the participants are hand-picked?). When my name was brought up not only as a participant, but also as part of the leadership, the rabbi replied, “I have someone else in mind.” It was clear, once the rabbi apologized, and I had accepted his apology, he forgot about the commitment he made to me.
The women who were offered leadership positions have something I will never have, a Jewish mother (my mum is a French Protestant). It did not matter that I have two degrees, speak several languages, have been involved in kiruv or in my former community gave weekly parsha shiurs that grew so large they had to be moved from homes to a shul. It did not matter that I have been published and have given lectures to hundreds of people. The women chosen have never been outside of their cloistered Jewish homes, but it was clear, they are real Jews. I am not.
I don’t mind stepping up to the plate. I work a midnight bingo game to help fund my daughter’s school, a kiruv organization and local food bank. I bring meals to people in the community who are ill, in mourning or have just had a child. I am thrilled to host a family who realizes at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, they will make it to Brooklyn in time for Shabbos. I enjoy working with every kind of Jew from every kind of background because it gives me an opportunity to share that Jews should be inclusive.
This week however, it was made clear to me that our community is exclusive, and I am not a part of it. I am not welcome or wanted. I will not be a part of a community whose rabbi thinks I am their Shiksa.
I went to the summer school director and groveled for a position. After having my head handed back to me, “We really needed you to teach math! We had to find someone else. We count on you….” I received a contract to teach English (I have multiple endorsements). I also signed up to take a class that will be taught entirely in French.
I want to leave, I want to move. I know I will face the same prejudice in any community. When I told my daughters what happened, they cried with me. Of course, they wonder if their mom is not considered Jewish, are they? The Orthodox Jewish world is the only world they have ever known. I hate the thought that their identity as Jews will be questioned. They are really good girls, but I wonder if they ever be anything more than bastards at the family reunion?
4 thoughts on “Never Jewish Enough: Reflections of the neighborhood Shiksa”
My heart aches for you- I struggle with this a lot, too. I am in the process of converting to Judaism and start my formal classes in September. In my hometown, I feel like I can never be Jewish enough for people who will always see me as an outsider to their faith. When I go to synagogue in New York, people assume I am Jewish and they accept me. When they find out I am not Jewish (yet), they don’t think of me any differently. I can understand your frustration and wish you the best of luck in finding a synagogue where you will not be “their shiksa.” I think it’s something that all converts face, and I think a better community is out there waiting for you.
This does sound more like an issue with the particular synagogue than an issue with the entire community of Jews. Michael at ChicagoCarless.com went through something similar shortly after he finished his conversion and had to go shul-shopping. If you are feeling ostracized or unaccepted in your shul, it’s time to find another where you are embraced and welcomed, and I think your decision to do so is a good one. I wish you all the best in finding a good synagogue with a community that realizes what a powerhouse they will have in you.
I have seen issues with Converts getting IN THE DOOR. I have seen people tease Converts, I’ve seen Jews tease converts, but i have yet to see someone who finished conversion who had the same struggles. And i’ve seen a lot.
Keep in mind, the moment another Jew, no matter who he or she is, even if it’s Rambam himself come back to life, mentions that a Israelite (that’s what you are) is a Convert or was a convert, they sin so greatly that words can not describe the darkness that just entered their life. If they are Orthodox They would know the rule around loving Ger and Loving converts, and accepting both. There are rules around NEVER mentioning that a person was once a convert, even in normal positive gossip. PERIOD.
To tease a person who is a convert is a great sin. Yes even before they are done and pass through the Mikvah. So i have to wonder what Shul this happened at? Is that Shul having other serious public displays of sins? Because this article doesn’t hide the fact that the so called Rabbi was openly doing this and everyone knew it and saw it. So basically , it’s a claim (Gossip) that someone in a knowledable position who should know darn well the 7 times the commandment “Don’t shame the Convert” exists. I won’t even go into the taunting of the Widow and the curse that befalls any Jew who does, but this article would be more believable had they claimed the Rabbi secretly did it…… I mean come on.
This article puts most of the Shul at the sin. Nobody stood up and told the Rabbi to sit his arse on the seat and go silent? I find that real hard to believe,and i have seen EVERYTHING….. So where ever this happened at, that Shul is cursed. If it did happen, get out! I would not want to stand next to those people on the day of judgement!
I absolutely agree with you, however, people are people. Sometimes it gets really frustrating. I think as more people convert, more people are accepting it. When I was in Israel, very few people cared what my status was. I appreciate that.