A Convert Laments

I’m tired of all this Jewish lamenting over the latest conversion bill.

I’m a convert to Orthodox Judaism and a well respected one at that!

Like Jewish philosopher Jacob Stein, you’d be hard-pressed to find any Orthodox Jew who has a negative word to say about me.

I don’t have a position on what sort of conversion bill Israel should pass. I’m just anti-hysteria.

I know almost nothing about the latest bill, but I know this stuff has been rattling around the Knesset for more than 20 years and American Jews in particular have been getting their panties in a knot over it.

Does not our Holy Torah command us men to not wear women’s frilly undergarments?

I say chill out and watch my videos instead.

If you want to join a religion that immediately embraces you and assures you of your eternal salvation, then fall on your knees before a statue of Jesus Christ and invite him into your heart.

If you want to be a man, don’t get emotional when making logical arguments and don’t depend on others for your identity (Jewish or otherwise).

If you’re committed to Judaism, nobody in the world can take that away from you. Nobody can stop you from keeping the Sabbath. Nobody can stop you from finding a shul that’s a good fit for you and finding a rav to guide your walk through life.

If all else fails, you’re always embraced by me. I do quickie conversions accepted by the sternest of rabbis. All you have to do is paypal me $50 and I’ll pronounce you Jewish and send you an email to that effect. No refunds!

(See? My conversion has made me smarter already.)

Here’s the latest lament in the Jewish Journal: “But my Jewish identity, the Jewish identity of hundreds of thousands of faithful Jews around the world who happen to be converts or their offspring, the Jewish identity of our own beautiful daughter-in-law, who lived in Israel during the terror of the Second Intifada, who worked for AIPAC and Jewish Big Brothers, and who is the wife of our son, an IDF veteran, and the Jewish identity of our sweet grandson, have become innocent pawns in a game of coalition power politics 7,500 miles away. And I fiercely resent it.”

What kind of talk is this? What kind of man makes a foundational argument out of his feelings? So what if he resents it. So what if he’s offended. That’s not a Torah way of talking. Can you imagine a yid in the desert saying, “Gee, Moses, these Sabbath restrictions, they offend me.”

By choosing to convert to Judaism, you have chosen to make your life more difficult. I know from personal experience. I finished my Reform conversion in 1993 and then could not get through an Orthodox conversion program until 2009. For 16 years I lived with the anxiety of not getting through, not being fully accepted as Jewish.

So what if my anxiety never goes away due to Israeli politics?

We all have to learn to hold ourselves up and to handle our own anxiety. If one Beit Din (Jewish law court) rules you are not Jewish and won’t convert or marry you, then you have to find another one that will. There are dozens of Jewish law courts in the world. You might have to Beit Din shop.

Throughout the course of Jewish history, thousands of people joined themselves to the Jewish people without ever passing a Beit Din. According to the orthodox rabbinic commentator the Meiri, to become Jewish one has to be dipped in a mikveh and committed to Jewish law. That’s it.

If you are serious about becoming Jewish, connect to a Jewish community and follow Jewish law, learn Hebrew, and become knowledgeable about Torah. If one rabbi or one Beit Din knocks you back, pick yourself up and go on to another community.

There is nobody in the world who can determine that you can never become Jewish. If you do what I say above, you’ll find a way to join the Jewish people.

Through the course of Jewish history, the rigorists have won out. In Orthodox life, the chareidim are kicking the ass of the Modern Orthodox. Because the chareidim study more Torah and do more mitzvot, they dominate. That is their rightful due for all of their hard work.

God doesn’t like complainers. He let them die off in the desert 3200 years ago rather than enter the Promised Land.

Don’t whine. Don’t base arguments on your feelings. Don’t assume that what makes life easier for you is what will be good for the Jewish people. Finally and most importantly, follow the moral leader.

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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