Converting To Judaism To Raise Your Social Status

“Orthodox Jew” is a prestigious status and the convert gets to claim it upon passing through the process (which is usually less work than getting an AA degree).

I notice among many converts (including myself) and would-be converts to Judaism there is often a strong desire to raise our social status but it is shameful to confess this so we keep quiet. We’re not happy with our lives as they are, we feel broken, and we hope that by becoming Orthodox Jews, we will be healed.

From what I see, this rarely if ever works out for us climbers. Somebody who’s struggling before his conversion continues to have the same struggles after his conversion, only his socio-economic status gap between where he is and where he wants to be gets magnified after his conversion.

Successful converts, on the other hand, are already rock solid in who they are and they don’t seek in their conversion for something for they lack inside.

I notice this drive to climb among would-be converts of all races — black, latino, white and oriental. From what I have seen, the whites and orientals tend to be more subtle about it and to have more success in Jewish life than the black and latino converts.

The would-be convert never says these things aloud. These strivings are too painful to be shared.

Orthodox rabbis and Orthodox Batei Din (Jewish law courts) are good at sniffing out those who don’t have the right stuff to be Orthodox Jews and to kick them out. Those they pass through the process are still keeping Shabbos five years on. Good things can come from mixed motives.

My primary motive, to the best I can decipher, to convert to Judaism was to do God’s will, but there were all sorts of messy shameful things going on in my head at the same time. Despite that, I believed I could be more of an asset to Jews than a liability.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see 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 (
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