Sister’s coworker is coming to town next week. She’s known Sister since undergrad, and being a Jew-by-birth, Sister has shared my conversion process and updates with her. Sister asked if I would be willing to have lunch with her while she’s here–she’s “really interested” in talking to me, the real live convert, in the flesh.
I agreed, partly because I know what it’s like to be in a strange place for two weeks when you don’t know anyone. Even the most introverted of us can get lonely after a while.
I also agreed because, selfishly, I’m using this as a personal-growth opportunity. I have come to realize that I desperately need to stop assigning mal-intent to people’s actions.
When a Jew-by-birth asks or indicates that they want to talk to me, a Jew-by-choice, at least in part because of that portion of my identity, I need to accept willingly and look forward to playing storyteller/city tour guide/brief autobiographer, or decline graciously. I can’t accept and then construct elaborate possible outcomes or assign potential motives.
I can’t assume that any one individual will joke around, act “fascinated/perplexed,” or ask if I’m married or about to be married. Or stare at me with that condescending smirk of pity and bemusement/ Or at least that the person won’t end there—that they’ll move forward with questioning, reflection, and respect and empathy for those other gerim they may encounter.
I have to recognize this as Jewish geography, of reaching out to the Extended Family known as the Tribe, of someone you’ve heard about for a long time and would like to get to know personally instead of second-hand impressions, even if over the course of one lunch hour. I have to realize she doesn’t know anyone else here and could probably use some company during her two week sojourn in the city.
I have to realize these things for my own mental and social health. I have to stop acting so jaded when someone wants to speak to me about this choice, this part of myself. I have to stop acting defensive, to be proud, to own the decision. I have to realize that I’m either a Jewish ambassador to a person who has not met a Jew before, or a Convert ambassador to a Jew who has not met a convert before.