The past couple of weeks have been amazing. I had no idea my blog would have the impact it did. The phone calls, texts, emails and visits I have received in the past few days have left me a very humble person. I was emailed or called by people from Europe, Israel, Mexico and the U.S. I was also asked to be a speaker for a women’s event. I was contacted by two Jewish newspapers and asked to give interviews about the “Conversion Crisis.” I declined to do this because there is no crisis. The personal prejudice of individuals does not equal crisis. A conversion is either valid or it is not. I knew the real goal of the interview was to get me to trash traditional Judaism. I also received an apology and was told that they never intended to question my conversion.
When I went to shul on Shabbos, I received hugs and was told how nice it was to see me. Nothing says, “I care about you” like a hug. My little Kiddush partner told me she missed me. Another young man asked my son if I could make challah for Shalosh Seuda (the third meal, often eaten in shul, on Shabbos afternoon) as I have done in the past (when I make challah, I think of Sarah; it is more than flour, water and yeast). Several people came up to me and told me they had no idea I was a convert.
On the other hand, I was completely ignored by one person who is normally very friendly to me. I learned she had left a very nasty comment on the page of another convert (making the individual cry). The comment was something to the effect of “you don’t agree with me, therefore I deem you not to be Jewish.” Sometimes people have problems that are theirs and theirs alone, and you can’t fix stupid.
It is this attitude that one can independently determine who is and who not a Jew that was the subject of a phone call I had with my Rav. He told me that people who are born into the Jewish religion have to rely on their mother’s word that they are Jews. I on the other hand, he said, am without a doubt a Jew. I have the Rav, witnesses and schtar (document) that prove it. He also told me that prejudice and stupidity are independent of religion. He is spot on there. We talked about our personal struggles as Jews that exist no matter how you come into the religion. He also told me that I am a leader, not just a participant.
The comments I received fell into two distinct camps. Some people felt that I had been treated badly because I am a strong woman and had nothing to do with my status as a Jew. I do not consider myself a particularly strong woman. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who (to my complete embarrassment) was recently denied an honorary degree from Brandeis University, is a strong woman. I am a shrinking violet.
The other comments were from people who were either converts or married to converts. They confided to me what they or their loved ones have been through. I can understand.
I received pleas from several people encouraging me to make Aliyah. They felt things are different if Israel. I doubt this. Israeli’s are like the French. They do not hide their opinions, and if you get two of them together, you get at least three opinions and when the third person shows up, you need an intervention.
I remember being told that, “there are only three things I require from a convert: they must keep Shabbat, keep kosher and provide their children with a Jewish education.” These are the cornerstones of Judaism. In other words, with these three requirements, everything falls into place. They are magnets for Jewish existence. I get really hot under the collar when a person, who has properly converted, through a proper Beit Din, under the supervision of a competent rabbi should continue to be questioned. Several people who contacted me told me they had been asked to undergo subsequent visits to the mikvah, because Rabbi Ploni2 didn’t trust Rabbi Ploni1. A rabbi who felt that I made rabbis into “the enemy” contacted me. He told me he requires a three-year commitment as part of the conversion process. He had been burned. I can understand that. Several people told me their own conversions had taken several years to complete. We should not be performing drive-through conversions. G-d placed many tests on those who became the first Jews. He made the Hebrews wander for 40 years before they could immerse and accept the Torah at Mt. Sinai (please, do not make the process take 40 years!) My first conversion through the RCA took over a year, and my second took two additional years. This included weekly meetings in which I had to learn Shulchan Aruch, and be able to field whatever questions I was asked.
I do not wish to blog a book here, but an individual from Belgium contacted me. A few weeks ago, four innocent people were gunned down at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. This event has left the Jewish community reeling and he asked me is being Jewish was “worth” all of this. It is, but I will write about this in the future.
Jews are facing several crises, but conversion isn’t one of them. The constant threat of annihilation from those who wish to physically destroy us remains. The destruction from within through intermarriage has destroyed more Jews than Hitler and his minions ever imagined. We are being loved to death by those who have traditional sought to destroy us. “Messianic Judaism” is seeking to become the fifth movement of the Jewish community. They are watching us, studying us and they are coming into our shuls and schools. They are incredibly well funded. They are taught to lie and “fit in.” They want to convert us, not through the sword, but through “love,” (when that doesn’t work, they will return to the sword), because they believe that the Jewish remnant must exist to welcome their “messiah.” I was walking down a street in old town Alexandria, when a young chap who was wearing a kippa and tizizit handed me a flyer. I looked at it and immediately confronted him. The flyer was all about how the Jewish messiah had already come, and was waiting for us. I flayed every “proof” he gave me. He in the end, he admitted he was not Jewish (despite the kippa and tzizit), but he was attending a local shul, and was appalled that I didn’t embrace him, because he “loves” us and had been welcomed by the community. I was stunned. He admitted he didn’t tell anyone his motives, because “Jews are still looking for the messiah.” He looked “right,” he was a nice guy, but no one in the shul had ever really talked or questioned him. He learned to “fit in.” Unlike a convert who wishes to become a part of the Jewish people, and is willing to go to unbelievable means to accomplish this, he just slid under the wire. This is a crisis we cannot ignore. We continually question the motives of people who properly convert, but we say nothing to a boy whose church has sent him to become a part of our community? We are ignoring a crisis that is not at our doorstep; it is sitting next to us.
Please daven for the safe return of:
Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah
Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
Eyal ben Iris Teshura
Please recite Tehillim 120 and 130.