Two Topics For the Price of One

Lunch meeting:  I met with Sister’s Friend last week.  And I have decided that this encounter should be firmly lodged in the good ole memory bank as an example of the mind being a dangerous thing when left to wander and ponder!  Judaism hardly came up while we were enjoying delicious burritos (in the Tenderloin… which I seriously need to reconsider if suggesting places to tourists in the future, note to self, especially petite young women who are fairly attractive…).  But, when it did come up, she didn’t question my motives or authenticity.  If anything, the small portion of Jewish conversation centered around us both being a 20-something Jew-ette in a big city.  Oh, and Birthright.  Which I will discuss below.  Like, immediately below.

Birthright:  I was really conflicted for a long time on whether I could go on this.  Not only was I concerned about my conversion “working” for Taglit’s eligibility requirements (because we all know people can say one thing publicly but have very different criteria in private), but I guess I was also conflicted politically.

Israel’s no saint.  It is my sinner, however, and it’s got a lot of work to do.  I just want an organization that could acknowledge the complexity of the situation, honestly, as much as they have their own bias.  Bias is human, afterall.  I wasn’t sure if I could deal with Taglit’s propaganda tactics, which from many blog posts I have read written by participants, verged on military bootcamp.  I also know I’m like practically alone in my introverted-natured-inspired hatred of Nightlife that centers on drinking, nightclubs, house music and dancing.  I was born a 90-year-old woman, what can I say?

But, I’ve decided that all decisions require compromise and I can compromise on this trip.  I can deal with 10 intense days on a bus route to carefully selected and presented tourist traps that may push me out of my comfort zone—because I am, after all, getting something in return.  I don’t know if I would get to go to Israel in the next ten years were it not for this trip, and I have suffered from a pretty strong case of wanderlust in the last five years.  I know plenty of people have found their spouse on this trip, which speaks to the bonds that can be forged.  (No, I do not want to find Mr. Mikvah Bound on this.  Yes, I would like to meet other Jews my age from around the country with different Jewish identities and perspectives.)

So.  I am looking for a mostly religious-historical-cultural trip with minimal outdoor excursions if anyone has a trip organizer they can recommend.  I’m seriously leaning toward Israel Free Spirit, the OU-sponsored organizer, because I’ve heard they attract a mellower crowd.  We’ll see.

Hebrew: My Hebrew class is going well! I listen to the CDs in my car on repeat.  Needless to say, I have the dialogs pretty much memorized and I’m sure the Boy would like to listen to something other than the alphabet and dialogs asking where the water is from.

I’ve set up the following schedule, and, being the nerd I am, actually like the feeling of being back in school.

  • Monday: Read section on way home
  • Tuesday: Review section, take notes, and make flash cards
  • Wednesday: Do half of exercises
  • Thursday: Complete remaining exercises
  • Friday: Review flash cards for 30 minutes
  • Saturday: Review flash cards for 30 minutes
  • Sunday: Review session with study buddy and take quiz

Conversion Requirements:

I stumbled across a synagogue in a nearby metro-area in my Google Alerts the other day.  I, of course, checked out the conversion section of the website and was kind of… blown away.  And not necessarily in a good way.  The rabbi had uploaded a 30+ page “Intro packet” listing the required books, meetings, classes, essays, questions, beit din topics, and syllabus.  This is appealing to me.  I like knowing what I’m getting into, what to expect.  It helps lower the anxiety of it all.

What I did not like was that this rabbi, who belongs to a liberal movement, required prospective converts to meet with the Orthodox rabbi in the area.  You are required to ask three specific questions, one of which is “would you accept me as a Jew after my conversion?”

I think the rationale is for the convert to know, going in, that he or she will not be accepted everywhere, and that you have to make your peace with that.  Totally understand that, because I’ve heard of Jews who converted only to discover this after the fact (I don’t know how, but that’s another post).

But, why can’t the liberal rabbi say this him or herself?  Why do they have to go to some other rabbi, from another movement, who does not have the monopoly on Jewish religious authority, to hear this, as though they were the real gatekeepers?

I was majorly turned off.  It got me to thinking: what would have been your “uh, no go”s from rabbis who were sponsoring your conversions?

Okay, so I lied.  More like four for the price of one.

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2 thoughts on “Two Topics For the Price of One

  1. Any chance you could share the name of the shul, or a link? I’d really like to download that rabbi’s syllabus – I would find that really helpful.

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