Although I’m not Jewish I’ve been keeping track of your blog for a while now and it’s helped me map out the orthodox landscape. You seem to be a guy who’s conversant with the world of ideas so I thought I’d bounce something off you…
I’m seriously thinking about conversion. I’ve learned some Hebrew on my own and have read quite a number of books (there’s a small university in town with a fairly impressive number of books on Judaism). Although my interest at the beginning only to find out about Jewish history from an academic perspective I quickly found myself identifying with the history I was reading, even wishing it was my own history. I began to read about Jewish religion and found myself drawn into what I was discovering. Five years later these feelings have only gotten stronger. At this point I believe if I am to make further progress I ought to get in touch with a rabbi, wherein lies my problem.
I used to be a very serious Christian. I don’t mean to say that I was an evangelical-type, all binged on emotion and fired up for Jesus. I was of the most “frum” variety of Christian there is, very scholastic and serious. I went to seminary to be a minister for three years when I decided I could no longer be a Christian, much less a minister. I could go on and on about why I made this decision but at the end of the day it all boils down to the fact that I began to find the “plot” of the Christian faith to be boring and it no longer felt as though Christianity had what I needed. How do I communicate this to an orthodox rabbi? Most of them really have no idea why a former Christian would want to be a Jew, let alone someone who knows it as well as I do. Moreover I’m nervous that I will have to bash the Christian faith in order to prove my sincerity, which I won’t do. There are gerim who have made a name for themselves by talking about Christianity in such a way that makes me conclude that they really don’t know what they’re talking about or are setting up a straw man. I have no specific beliefs about Jesus, the Church or the Christian faith. IS this enough?
Any insight you would have would be appreciated. Also, if you want to use this in your blog please do so, omitting my name, location and email address.
Response: The closest non-Chabad (Chabad doesn’t like to deal with conversions) is over 450 miles away from you and if you wanted a regular sized orthodox community you would have to drive 560 miles to get there. My response will be flawed mostly because I am not a convert but your email may prove that I am turning people onto Judaism and orthodoxy rather than off. I realize through the mail and people that have approached me over the years that overall I am having a positive impact through this blog. Unfortunately, convincing mainstream frumkeit of that is quite hard so thank you for your letter.
I don’t know what kind of Jewish books your university has, but have any of them explained that it is custom to push away potential converts 3 times – which will make us seem like a pretty unfriendly bunch, but it’s because we don’t want a bunch of flakes converting. Orthodox conversion is a big deal and a lengthy process that can take years and Rabbis who work in this area of Judaism want to be sure that the person they are working with is sure they want to convert. I would say that based on your intimate knowledge of the church and the fact you have read about some pretty strange issues within orthodoxy on this blog – that you are either very serious – or completely insane. I find most converts to be both.
There are a lot of converts and potential converts reading this blog, there are also a lot of Rabbis “gasp” who read this blog, many of them are closet readers, but I am sure they can add insight into this issue as well. Now I turn it over to the commenters.