I converted to Judaism in 1993. I have no regrets about that decision. I do, however, have more awareness now of the strengths and weaknesses of my new family and my Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing.
For instance, I never remember anyone in my Adventist heritage talking to me about their schemes for ripping off the government or ripping off outsiders to our group. I don’t recall even hearing about such things. I am sure people around me cheated on their taxes but no Adventist talked to me about it. To admit to such behavior would have placed you beyond the pale of polite Adventist society. There was no conception in my Adventist world that cheating outsiders was OK. I am sure it happened, but there was no ideology justifying it.
When I entered Jewish life, many of the virtues that I took for granted in my WASP heritage were not always present. I was shocked when I was asked (circa 1994) for my Social Security number so my Jewish friend could get a telephone number (his credit was so bad that with his own Social Security number, he couldn’t get a phone number). I was shocked when I learned about various attempts made to circumvent the credit report companies by using fake names and Social Security numbers. If “everybody does it,” then it was ok for some of the Jews I got to know. At first glance, they seemed more pragmatic than the moralistic Christians I grew up around.
As I got to know Jews, I found them often excelling and often falling away from the moral standards I grew up around. When Jews were good, they were more righteous and successful and influential than anyone I had known before, but when they were bad, they were far more hideous than those I had known before. Jews were a smart accomplished tenacious energetic people, for good and for bad.
I learned that good Jews hung out with good Jews and minimized relations with bad Jews. I learned that bad Jews hung out with bad Jews. I learned that righteous Jews tended to go to the same synagogues together, such as YICC, Beth Jacob, Bnai David-Judea. I learned that the Modern Orthodox tended to be the most morally reliable group because they tended to be members of professions (such as doctors and lawyers and accountants) with ethics codes and they participated in the wider culture around them and be accepted and respected there so they watched their behavior to make sure it would be perceived positively by the outsider world.
When you encounter a Jewish professional, such as a doctor, lawyer or accountant, you don’t automatically fear they will be less ethical and less competent than their non-Jewish peers.
The bad Jews tended to be losers with broken families and dislocated relationships and adventurous businesses. They were usually easy to spot. They were more tolerant of me than the good Jews and more amused than disturbed by the bad behavior that would appall the Modern Orthodox crowd. They were social media experts.
The higher the standards of the group (such as YICC), the more righteous they were.