Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meeting with the Rabbi

I met with my rabbi yesterday, and I think I can officially say I am converting to Judaism. I never thought of converting to a religion as an ongoing process until I learned the ins and outs of converting to Judaism. To say one is converting to Christianity, it's more like saying one is going to convert at such and such point. But to say one is converting to Judaism, it's like saying one is in the process of converting. So, I think the process has officially begun.

My rabbi is really cool, kinda spacey, but still really cool. The reason I really wanted to work with him is because I have heard he is a wonderfully amazing teacher, and isn't that what every convert needs? I think I really lucked out here.

Let me say now, before any questions from readers come up: I am converting with a Conservative rabbi. I have expressed a couple of concerns with Orthodoxy and Orthodox conversion in the past so you probably knew I would go liberal. I love the Reform movement and so much of what it stands for. But I do not like Reform services. At the Hillel I go to I like them. They only use a guitar. But throw in a piano, organ, or flute, and I completely shut down. It reminds me too much of church and I can't concentrate or pray. I start staring at the ceiling or looking at the building structure. I just can't do it. I love the Conservative services I attend so I feel very comfortable converting in the Conservative movement.

That being said, let's talk about acceptance from other Jews. Apparently, where I live, it's not much of an issue. My rabbi told me the Orthodox rabbis generally accept his converts. Now, I know the Chabad rabbi and rebbitzen at my university don't but I literally couldn't care any less about what they think. If the Modern Orthodox and regular Orthodox are cool with it, then that's a huge bonus for me. I had already dealt with the issue and expected not to be accepted by any Orthodox. In Israel, you'd think there would be a problem, right? Apparently not. Three of his converts have made aliyah and have had no issues. Yes, one of them was recently married in Israel without having to reconvert.

Another Conservative rabbi in different part of the country told my rabbi that he has pretty strict standards for conversion and that maybe their shul should reevaluate their process and model after him. Perhaps the Orthodox in our town and in Israel recognize the conversions are truly halachically kosher? I am not sure but it's pretty awesome that Jews to the right of him accept his conversions. I guess real life is very different than the hypothetical cases I read online...

We talked about my background (obviously) and he took the paper I wrote to read later. I also made up a list of all the learning I have done in the last 19+ months, a Jewish resume, if you will. He seemed impressed with all the reading I've done and recognized that I would have no problem with the final essay exam we have to do.

We've got a good mix of people in the class. It's not just a conversion class, but it can lead to conversion. That's why they call it Introduction to Judaism. There is a couple taking it who moved to the Jewish part of the city and realized they wanted to know more about the religion of their neighbors. There are some born Jews who just want to learn more about their religion. And of course, there are people converting. So far there are about 10 people signed up and more will come in the next couple of weeks, he said, even though the class starts Sunday.

All in all, I am pretty excited that this process is getting started after so long studying alone. By next fall I could be a Jew.

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