I sat in my boss’ office yesterday, recording some tasks she wanted me to get done today while she is out. She noticed my necklace and asked what it meant.
When I converted, my bff purchased a silver, 1” Möbius band pendant with the first line of the Shema in English and Hebrew. She thought it was just geeky enough, just Jewish enough for me. She was right. I’ve worn it just about every day since, and often fiddle with it when lost in thought.
I explained how it was supposed to represent the Jewish conception of G-d, particularly Echad.
“Oh. That’s so cool! You know, [Gal that I’m really close to and that used to supervise you] converted to Judaism a while back and I had the hardest time finding an appropriate gift. That would have been perfect! Instead some Jewish neighbor of mine told me to get her a … a Ten… a Tan… a book.”
“The Tanakh. It’s our holy text.”
And off I went with the rest of my day, thinking nothing of it until I got to lunch and shared my news with said bff. “Hey, did you know Former Boss Lady converted?! Isn’t that cool?!”
“Where’d you hear that?” Her tone told me something …that there was something there she couldn’t decide to expand upon or to ignore.
“Oh ,um Boss Lady.”
“Look, you can’t tell any one this, but she was engaged to a Jewish man. She converted for him. Conservative. They broke up. A few years later, her sister asked her to be G-dmother to her nephew. In the Catholic Church. So she de-converted.”
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Judaism has prohibitions against lashon hara, commonly translated as gossip, but really much larger in scope than I could ever explain here in a single post.
Because as soon as I heard this, I lost some respect for Former Boss Lady. Because I was angry at her for making us gerim look back by fulfilling one of the most pervasive stereotypes about us.
Who converts for marriage alone?! Like seriously, if you’re only doing this to appease your future spouse, or the in-laws, stop. It’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to Judaism or the process. And what kind of sponsoring rabbi could not sense this during the conversion process?! Would allow two other colleagues to sit on a bet din and risk their reputations for such a candidate?
And it made me angry. I cannot count how many times I’ve had to explain, NO, I did NOT convert for a man. Nope, until 7 months ago, there was no Jewish male in my life. I was doing this on my own accord. I was doing this for ever, for me. That I’m binding myself to this people, and my children’s children to this people, that even if some hypothetical Jewish husband left me, Judaism would never. It could never.
All of this went through my head in a matter of seconds. I should seriously get me a black robe and a job at the local courthouse because wow, Judgey McJudgerson-ette made quite an appearance in those few seconds.
I have no idea what went on in her life, what she experienced, what her priorities or values are. They are not mine, and that’s okay. I should be humble, compassionate, and assume that she was doing the best she could, with what she had. That’s one consequence of talking about stuff that’s not my business.
The second is that now I’m dying to know. It’s like a drill in my head. I will never ask her the questions rumbling in the background because I have been socialized by this society successfully, but now I will always want to KNOW. It’s like a pest, like the mosquito from some African folk tales, buzzing in your ear. It invites FURTHER sources of bad things into my life: more gossip, more potential to judge, more potential for impatience. It’s a cycle. I need to get off this merry-go-round.