Jewish folks: what do you think of spontaneous conversions? - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-20-2003, 04:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My DH and I were raised Catholic, but no longer hold to any of those beliefs and were nonreligious when we met and married. Recently, he's become strongly attracted to Judaism and wishes to convert and raise DD in the Jewish faith. This has been a very tough road for us, which I posted about in this forum some time ago.

I guess one of my problems is I feel really stupid just "becoming Jewish" when it's not like we married into it. NOBODY in our families is Jewish. We have absolutely zero tradition, and DH is basically just winging it, deciding what we'll celebrate, how kosher to be, what shabbat will be like, etc. It just all feels so...random, to me. Seems to me that most people who are Jewish were either raised that way, or married into it, in which case there's a history and a cultural aspect there. How many of you know people in your synagogues who just "became Jewish" out of nowhere? I feel like we'd be freaks...

My mother teaches catechism to people who want to become Catholic. It's not at all unusual for people to do this "just because", and since there is no real cultural aspec to it, nobody thinks much of it. DH says "it's just like that", but I can't help but feel that there is so much more to Judaism than just the religion. It's a whole history of a people, and we have no connection to that.

any thoughts?

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Old 05-20-2003, 09:57 AM
 
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There is a family in our community that converted a few years ago - no background, no marriage, no Jewish history. They are one of the most connected and religious families in our community, and I totally respect them for their committment. So don't worry, you won't be freaks! At least, not because of that... :LOL

Another thought - there is nothing "spontaneous" about a Jewish conversion - it takes (at the very least) months of study and preparation.

Lots of luck on your spiritual journeys.
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Old 05-20-2003, 11:54 AM
 
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I have met a lot of people who did what you are thinking of doing. In fact, I even sat on a beit din for one. It's happening a lot more in the US than it ever did before. It's not just like converting to Catholicism or another universalistic, proselytizing religion, but it looks like it can definitely be done!

Don't worry, as me&3 says, you can't be all that spontaneous about converting to Judaism! It takes awhile. During your conversion process you'll have to become members of a Jewish community, and get to know them while they get to know you. Yes, there will be people who think it's weird, but they'll have a chance to get over it.

It's kind of like when you get married. It takes a little while, but eventually you start to have a second set of grandparents. You start to feel like your partner's cousins are your cousins. That's kind of what it seems like to me.

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Old 05-20-2003, 12:33 PM
 
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Hmmmm.

Lots of people convert to Judaism. Whole families, too. It's not a common thing, really, but it happens.

It is not, as the previous posters said, quick or easy ... although it's easier for certain groups than others. Meaning that the different "denominations" have different standards for converting.

Second, the random aspect ... very little about Jewish observance is random. Coming at it out of the blue may feel that way, though, because you're basically walking blind, if the visually-differently-abled will please forgive my choice of terms.

You should really connect with a community or someone, anyone, to help guide you. At the very least to answer questions ...

You're outside of Boston? Or in Boston? I know of some very special people in the Boston area ... who might be able to answer questions, at the very least ... intensely spiritual and intensely open (and their kids are adults now, but they're primordially AP, too )... PM me if you want a name or e-mail addresses or phone #s ...

Anyway, good luck. If you & DH aren't in the same place on this, it may be a difficult road (guess I should reread that other thread, I vaguely remember it). Another reason to find someone to talk to ...

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Old 05-20-2003, 12:51 PM
 
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How many of you know people in your synagogues who just "became Jewish" out of nowhere? I feel like we'd be freaks...
You would SOOO not be freaks. So not.
Judaism does not believe in prostelitizing, hence less "news" of conversions, but it happens all the time- just because. I live in a community with a very disproportionate amount of converts (myself included- I was converted as a young child with my Mom)

ITA Amy, some great ppl in Boston!

I agree with everyone else as well.

Good luck!!

-BelovedBird

Mom of 5 boys- 13, 10, 8, 2 : and newbie Aug. 24th, '09 . babywearing advocate . Cook, baker, homemaker, wife to a man with another woman's kidney (live altruistic, unknown donor).
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Old 05-20-2003, 01:30 PM
 
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I thought your sig said Vancouver.

I live in the Boston area, I'll third what they said!

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Old 05-20-2003, 02:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by captain optimism
I thought your sig said Vancouver.

I live in the Boston area, I'll third what they said!


I am so out of it. You're right, Vancouver. Irony, that the particular folks in Boston (the husband, anyway) comes from Western Canada (Iknownotspecificallywhere).

Oh well.

Okay, so now I can't help you with names.

But didn't you used to be in Boston? :

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Old 05-20-2003, 02:40 PM
 
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I know someone in the Vancouver area, though. he's even a Shlomo-hasid, like Amyrpk. He's a good friend of our good friend, and he's a rabbi. Why don't I PM you with his info?

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Old 05-20-2003, 06:13 PM
 
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Piglet,Does your husband &you go to the synagogue in West Van? We know the rabbi there.He's very nice.
And one of my good neighbor holds the weekend mass every Saturday at his house...if you need to know more informations about Judaism, I think he would be a great person to fills you in...let me know if you want his number.
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Old 05-20-2003, 07:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, all of you!!

I used the term "spontaneous conversion" for lack of a better term. I wanted to distinguish between that and converting due to marriage.

It's really uplifting to hear that you guys know of families who do this. I don't know why I get this "we're freaks" feeling...I went to a shabbat service once and just felt like we had big signs on our heads saying "token non-jews". I guess part of it is that it all felt so new and unknown to me.

DH has been attending shabbat services at our local reform temple for a few months now. I can't go b/c it's late on a friday night and I have to stay home with DD. the rabbi said that I wouldn't be expected to come anyways until DD is older, but it makes me feel even more removed from it all. DH hasn't started the official conversion process yet, but he is now studying hebrew.

When I said "random" what I meant was, we aren't celebrating things the way our family has "for generations" or making latkes the way "aunt so-and-so" always did, etc. And since it seems everybody does it a bit differently, I'm not sure what criteria he/we use to decide. For example, DH has asked me not to use my laptop on shabbat, or to make plans with my friends that don't include all of us as a family. this latter issue sorta bites for me b/c my friends work during the week and dh works PT at home, so I get to see him all the time, but my friends i can only see on weekends. still, I like the idea of a "family day".

He also has decided to eat kosher. This instantly rules out lots of my favorite foods (shellfish, pork) and this whole not-mixing-meat-and-dairy thing is confusing and, from the perspective of a nonreligious person, a real PITA for reasons that really have no meaning for me. He has asked me to be kosher and I just can't. I don't want to give those foods up and I think it's too much to ask. I offered to try it one day a week, but he said that would be pointless.

my friends and family all think DH has gone loopy. it is all just so "out of the blue" and so foreign to everything we know...i get embarrassed talking about it. that's probably more my own issue, I suppose.

ugh. sorry, this has turned into a long vent. this issue has been SO hard for us and I appreciate you listening and any advice you have. It's very tough for dH that we can't do this as a whole family unit. I'm trying to be as supportive as I can, but I just can't see myself joining up with a religion that has no personal meaning for me. I wish I felt the way DH did - I want us to be united as a family, but my heart just isn't in it and I don't think that would be right.


edited to add: we used to live in Boston, now we are in Vancouver.

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Old 05-20-2003, 07:51 PM
 
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My best friend decided to convert to Judaism one day for no apparent reason; he's still working on it

There are lots of different kinds of Judaism, and different kinds of Jews. I grew up with a kid (a Rabbi's son!) who kept Kosher at home, but ate out. His favorite food was shrimp.

I don't have an ancient family history of memories to associate with my Judaism. (Strange family..not converts, just odd). I've been making it up as I go along. It's all right. You're not the only ones-- especially if you're going to a Reform synagouge. Like the OP's said, you don't hear about Jewish conversions so much because Jews don't actively seek converts, but there are still plenty around.

**Opinion coming up **

It sounds like you need to talk to your dh about this. Converting, especially to Judaism, isn't something you should feel pressured to do. If you're not comfortable with it, make sure he knows.

That's my $.002. Good luck!

Rynna, Mama to Bean (8), Boobah (6), Bella (4) and Bear (2)
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Old 05-20-2003, 09:47 PM
 
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Born Jewish, family on all sides of the family Jewish, all the way back. That said, I regularly harbor jealousy of people who converted since they made clear decisions as adults and often do so much studyign and preparation to convert that they know way more than me. There are a number of converted people in the group of families I hang out with, go to temple with and celebrate holidays with. We definitely look up to them for their in depth knowledge about so many things Jewish. At least in my area people who convert are truly seen as no different than people born of a Jewish mother.

If it's something you want in your heart and you go through what's necessary to convert then you are Jewish, period.
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Old 05-21-2003, 06:52 AM
 
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I was raised a Roman Catholic, and then for a whole lot of reasons, I studied other religions.

I decided to study Judaism in depth and began my conversion in college.

I did not complete it until I was 30, married and with three children.

Everything in its own time.

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
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Old 05-21-2003, 12:17 PM
 
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If you were already Jewish and your dh decided to keep a kosher home and keep Shabbat and you didn't want to, you would be in the same boat. These are big issues in Jewish families these days.

I was sharing an office with a (Jewish) fellow who wanted to marry his (Jewish) girlfriend but instead broke up with her because they couldn't compromise on religious observance! After a year and a half, he finally couldn't take it anymore. They went to a couple's therapist and after ONE session, they had made their compromises. Now they are married and he is so in love with his wife, and is one of those ecstatic dads, you know the kind. "My daughter is brilliant!" etc. But it took a lot for him to decide that he would go to synagogue every weekend. Now he calls me and complains that the rabbi isn't learned enough. Okay I think I'm veering Off Topic here!

My dh and I didn't observe Shabbat or kashrut in the same ways when we got together, either, and we are both Jewish. I don't switch on the lights, and he does, etc. I am very happy with him. In the essentials we are on the same page.

You have to talk it over.

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Old 05-21-2003, 04:12 PM
 
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Disclaimer: Not a Jew.

This sounds like far less a Jewish issue and far more a communication/compromise issue. You have some problems with him finding a religion in the first place and that is made worse by him trying to force some of the outward signs of that faith on you. I would be resentful too. I'll bet you anything his Rabbi has helped many couples with this. As for the kosher question, I guess I would try to make a go of it in your shoes, but with some compromises. Ferinstance: He HAS to help set up the new systems and has to make everything really clear for you. He also has to take over cooking a couple nights a week since he has made your regular job of cooking more complicated. And you can still eat what you want (shellfish, etc, ) so long as you properly segregate it from his food. Stuff like that seems reasonable to me. His attitude of "I know you are not a Jew and don't care to be one but I expect you to keep a kosher kitchen" is a bit much.
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Old 05-21-2003, 06:44 PM
 
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Piglet, I also wanted to reassure you that you would in no way be regarded as a freak - quite the opposite actually. As beloved bird said, since Jews do not prostelitize, you would be regarded in a very admirable way, as someone who truly embraces Judaism. I have known many converts and I am always fascinated by their stories of "why".

As for the kosher thing, well, I sympathize there. We are not kosher in our home nor would I want to do it. I don't eat red meat so it's not that difficult for me not to mix dairy but I love shellfish. You could have special pans designated for cooking shellfish and eat off of paper plates maybe?

I agree to that it has to be something that you really want to do for yourself, not just your husband.

Good luck!
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Old 05-21-2003, 09:23 PM
 
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You know, in all this discussion about the conversions and the communities, I thought something was amiss ... and then kama'aina mama (bless you, dear ) hit that huge nail right on the head. In reading the OP I didn't see the forest for the trees ...

This is a hugely megamondomarital issue. The religious issue is really secondary.

Whatever you decide, take your time in deciding it ... and good luck working it out ...

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Old 05-21-2003, 09:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks again, ladies. You have a way of making me feel so much better.

And you are right, this is more than just a religious issue. I never stopped to think that two Jewish people could have marital issues over how they practiced their Judaism.

DH and I have just begun some programmes for enhancing communication skills, etc, and I think this will be an important issue to bring to the table.

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Old 05-21-2003, 11:12 PM
 
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I'm not Jewish, but I took a class on Judaism a few semesters ago. The rabbi practices conservative Judaism. When he was discussing the conversion process, he said that a person is usually turned away by a rabbi three times before they are allowed to begin the process; the reason for this is to make one really think about why they want to convert, especially to a religion associated with so much violence, horror, and the holocaust.

Did your husband ask a rabbi about converting at least three times before? Or did this particular rabbi let him start anyway?
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Old 05-23-2003, 12:26 AM
 
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Would an intact adult man have to be circumsized if he converted? I just can't imagine a bris for an adult.
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Old 05-23-2003, 01:24 AM
 
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Yes, circumcision is an important part of conversion for adult men. Men who are already circumcised have a ritual drop of blood taken from the circumcision site. (Except among Reform Jews, who consider this drop of blood ritual barbaric.)

I know several people who had this operation as adults, mainly Jews from the former Soviet Union where it was illegal.

This is not intended to start any conversations about the appropriateness or in- of circ. I'm just reporting.

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Old 05-23-2003, 01:39 AM
 
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Thank you for your kind words Miss Amy but actually I think Captain O was the one who really saw that it was not a Jew/Not a Jew issue but one of how to communicate and compromise. I just sorta ran with it.

I would also like to add, Piglet, that while I'm still Not A Jew, at my church (Liberal Christian) there are any number of couples where one is member and the other isn't... sometimes the partner is simply not interested in any religion and other times she or he are members of a different faith. They show up occasionally at services if their partner or child is doing something special, sort of like you might go to a recital for a loved one even if you are not into ballet. No one seems to think a thing of it. We cheerfully share our coffee and muffins with these infidels after church just like they were one of us. Relax and try to worry less.
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Old 05-23-2003, 11:43 AM
 
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when I wanted to start keeping the laws of family purity my dh didn't and that was really difficult - here I was trying to do something that I felt would *improve* our marriage and in fact it was doing the opposite. the woman at the mikvah explained it to me that it's like pregnancy and nursing... something that is happening TO ME but I am expecting my dh to just understand and go along with it... I think the same thing is happening here. baby steps baby steps. it's what is working for me. how about trying to keep kosher in the house but not outside? or some other comprimise that was already suggested

I'm Andrea - I have three boys - 12 year old twins & an 11 year old

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