Circus Freak

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.

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One thought on “Circus Freak

  1. I totally get that! I think that it’s natural to be a bit put off by people asking so many questions. Especially if those questions are followed by smirks or looks of confusion…on the other hand, we Jews by Choice have the great ability at times to inspire. I’ve meet several well-meaning Jews by Birth who walk away inspired to go to shul or light candles on Shabbat. We’re so jazzed about being Jewish and they’re sometimes just “used” to it. As long as the person is genuinely interested, sincere, and the line of question is curiosity rather than accusation I can usual deal.
    I can’t wait to read what happened.

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