What’s It Like When A Family Member Converts To Judaism?

Is it any different for those left behind if the black sheep had become Catholic or Buddhist or Muslim? Does it feel like a diss of the family? I meet a lot of people who convert to Judaism, but I don’t often get to ask their family what it is like for them.

I imagine it was a nasty shock for my mother and father’s families when they become Seventh-Day Adventists circa age 16.

I always felt distant from my relatives when I was growing up because of our Adventism (the rest of the family was nominally Anglican).

I notice some people carry their religion lightly and other people wave it as a bloody flag.

For many perhaps most of the people I grew up with, when they heard the news, they experienced my conversion as a rebuff to what they held dear. By converting, they felt I was saying they were wrong.

If I lived in Australia during my 20s, I doubt I would have converted to Judaism. Australia by and large has one culture and orthodox Judaism is outside of that.

In the United States, by contrast, there’s an ethos that you can become anything.

It wasn’t a great trauma for my family when I converted to Judaism in 1993. It was just a continuation of my general weirdness.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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