I filled out my secondary application last week. On Friday, right before Yom Kippur, I got a call from a very…rushed New Yorker. He wanted to meet me for my interview on Monday at noon. Thankfully, I had the day off as a government employee.
I arrived early. I recognized him immediately by the black velvet kippah–not too common in these parts. He moved our location and pushed back our time due to running late on a video conference. Cool. I can totally wait.
When I arrived at our new spot, it was obvious he had not read my application. He started into one of the standard questions. “Ah, so which of your parents…. wait. This says neither.”
“I brought my conversion papers with me if you need to see them.”
The conversation and tone changed immediately. He grilled me for 10 minutes. How could I believe in Conservative Judaism when it is dying out? When it cut off its nose to spite its face with allowing people to drive? When Emet v’Emunah says Oral Torah did not come from Sinai?
I wasn’t prepared to justify my affiliation, so these questions caught me off-guard. No research I had done about the interview for Birthright had turned up this kind of questioning. And I’m not one to publicly debate religion, especially in a mall food court of all places.
But worse than the line of questioning is that I didn’t feel like I could even answer any of his questions, because as soon as I opened my mouth, he would find something wrong with what I said and try to attack that too. It finally ended with, “What kind of Jew would you say you are?”
“I’d say I’m an active, seeking, striving Jew–”
“Hmm. Good answer. They were looking for Reform, Conservative or Observant. I sense some tension between us.”
Gee, ya think?
“But, Mikvah Bound, I like you. I’m going to recommend you go and call the office myself.”
I was in shock. I was so sure he had thought I wasn’t Jewish. That even if I were a Conservative Jew in his eyes that I was a horrible Conservative Jew at that. That I had a speech impediment or something due to my inability to speak coherently as a 20-something. And of course he hates the agency I work for because we are enviro-nuts who try to impose “our religion” on others.
He changed my application to say that I had a Jewish mother. This way, apparently, Birthright will be more likely to accept me. I wish they’d just come out and state that publicly–that either this trip provider or Birthright gives preference to those born of at least one Jewish parent. I’m not into lying. I want to go, but not at the expense of my integrity. Worse, what if this comes back to haunt me in some way?!
But, by the time I got back home, they had offered me a trip. I had the email in my inbox. I am going to Israel. I leave December 25th and I’ll be back January 5th. Pretty cool that I’ll get to spend secular New Year’s in Israel. I’m not thrilled about it being an 18-26 trip (I really wanted 22-26 so I wouldn’t feel like the cool mom interrupting the party.) but beggars can’t be choosers and did I mention I’m going to Israel?
In case I didn’t, here it is one more time: I’m going to Israel! Woot!