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Converting Sucks!!!

Guest post by Eclectic Trixie

I hate converting. There. I said it. Sure, I’ve already mentioned this to my rabbis (in some very colorful language) but I feel the need to say it again in this format as well. I hate converting. There is nothing fun about it. It sucks ass balls.

It’s awful that my life is on hold for 2 years. That I can’t date. That I can’t move. That I can’t be a part of my old community but I am not allowed to really be a part of the one I am in (though I’m told I need to be in order to finish the conversion). I can’t even travel as much as I’d like because I need to be “around” for shabbos.

It sucks to have to explain to everyone new that I meet that I am converting and why. It sucks to hear everyone tells me that I’m crazy. Yes, they actually say that. Over and over I hear that. It gets old after a while.

It irks me to be asked to donate money to the shul. Sure, I’ve been attending for a few years now. But its not my problem they won’t let me be a member. I’d be happy to pay dues, volunteer, sponsor a kuddush… But don’t ask me to give money to a group that doesn’t want me yet.

Yet. That’s the real kicker. They are going to finish this conversion eventually. I’ve even been given a timeline (we are down to just a few months now). So what are they waiting for? For me to put on a pair of jeans and eat a cheeseburger? Already happened! For me to tell them how much I hate everything about them and this process? Already happened. And after all that, they said “We want you. You are special and would make an amazing addition to this community”. So, what are you waiting for.

Do I need to learn more? Because as it is I was pulled from all my classes because I wasn’t learning anything new. It took months to find me new teachers and they are all intimidated by me and can’t answer at least 75% of my questions. Do I need to lose more? Because I’ve already lost some family, friends, lots of clothes, not to mention how expensive all this is. Do I need to make more friends in the ‘chood? Well, that’s a little hard considering I can’t even invite anyone over for a cup of coffee since until my conversion is complete my kitchen isn’t kosher enough for anyone.

What else? What else do you want from me? You’ve said I’m sincere. You’ve said you want me. Now you are just waiting. Waiting for the sake of waiting.

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Woodrow/Conservadox March 21, 2011, 12:17 PM

    Reminds me of something I once told a friend who was thinking about converting: that you should always convert to Conservative or Reform before you think about converting to Orthodoxy- doing the latter alone is like going for a PhD when you haven’t been to college, just too darn hard for most people.

    • dorot March 21, 2011, 5:06 PM

      reform/conservative is no picnic. you still have to contribute money and navigate a path that has no limits and no transparency, esp. if you have no immediately plans to marry. apropos PhD, my conversion process was VERY similar to getting my PhD. The learning part is NOT harder (in both conversion and PhD) but the bs is greater for sure. That’s why they call PhD “piled higher and deeper” – the same is true of orthodox conversion vis-a-vis conservative/reform.

    • Schaje March 22, 2011, 2:07 PM

      Sorry, but why oh why would somebody deliberately envisage going through the tortuous process of conversion TWICE? If the post has taught us geborene yidden anything, once is quite enough. Why not just do it once and get it right… whether you choose to be orthodox, reform or a reconstructionist. Problem is that orthodoxy will not accept anything ‘less’ than it……….
      …….and orthodox gerim don’t enjoy the same rights as geborene yidden in one very fundamental area. A geborene yid is free to leave frumkeit and remain a yid! The bosei din would never accept a ger who says that he wants to just be a stammer yid.

    • Chris_B March 23, 2011, 8:29 AM

      Convert twice and have a man with a knife go at your private parts again? Once was quite enough thank you very much.

  • sam March 21, 2011, 12:49 PM

    You have my sincere sympathies. My family used to rent out a room to people who were in the process of conversion, so I have an idea how much the process sucks. It was incredibly distressing and hurtful. Thank God most believed in what they were doing so strongly that they survived the torturous journey. There is one particular rabbi who is part of a prominent beis din which deals with conversions, and he is a nasty piece of work. I won’t mention his name, but I hope you don’t have to deal with him.

    I used to ask them why they wanted to convert too. None of them gave me a straight answer so I stopped asking. I figure that they either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. I hope they didn’t take it personally, I was just a teenager at the time.

    • EclecticTrixie March 21, 2011, 1:05 PM

      Lucky for me my rabbi is amazing. There’s no way it could be the guy you’re thinking of 🙂

      Its hard for most of us to put into words why we convert. I’m sure that’s why those folks had trouble explaining.

      • Frumsatire Fan March 23, 2011, 7:25 AM

        People don’t realize what a personal question that is. Complete strangers ask very innocently and full of curiosity, unaware that it’s as if they asked you if you’re happy with your body shape, or what you like in bed.

  • Yehudah March 21, 2011, 1:47 PM

    It’s probably poor consolation, but here it is anyway-

    “Dearer to God than all of the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai is the convert. Had the Israelites not witnessed the lightning, thunder, and quaking mountain, and had they not heard the sounds of the shofar, they would not have accepted the Torah. But the convert, who did not see or hear any of these things, surrendered to God and accepted the yoke of heaven. Can anyone be dearer to God than such a person?”

  • Eli March 21, 2011, 1:59 PM

    My Rabbi’s also can’t answer at least 75% of my questions…but I can’t de-convert from this wacko religion

  • Ben March 21, 2011, 2:37 PM

    I don’t really have a lot of sympathy.
    If you don’t like it, don’t join.

    Besides, we have been burned by converts many times, so it makes sense that we’d want to be very careful.
    It makes me furious when I meet converts living in cities with absolutely no Jewish infrastructure, who are clearly not observing halacha, and will have Jewish children who will intermarry and just cause problems with yichus.

    Am I a real jerk?

    • IC March 21, 2011, 2:48 PM

      Refreshingly honest? yes.

      Offensive and in my opinion wrong? Absolutely.

      Who are you to tell people what to do, especially in this regard.

      • Ben March 21, 2011, 4:44 PM

        Who am I telling what to do?

    • anonimo March 21, 2011, 4:52 PM

      That’s funny, in my experience, in the small communities I’ve visited, the converts were always the most frum BY FAR. If they were not totally shomer mitzvos, they were at least setting a good example for the born-Jews there with their yiras shamayim. Where have you been meeting these converts? Maybe you’ve been hanging out at too many Reform synagogues and campus Hillels.

      Anyone who pays attention to yichus is a jerk. A racist jerk, in fact, judging people on genetics that they can’t control.

      • Ben March 21, 2011, 5:50 PM

        When I referenced “yichus”, I meant being Jewish and not a mamzer.
        People who intermarry and don’t keep halacha cause mamzerus issues and also people thinking they are Jewish who are not.

        • Eli March 22, 2011, 8:13 AM

          But the question begs itself, how is it that things like Mamzer, Cohen, Bechor and Amalek not “judging people on genetics that they can’t control”?

          • Ben March 22, 2011, 10:06 AM

            RE: Mamzer- I don’t judge a mamzer, he simply has a certain halachik status.

            RE Cohen, bechor- same answer.

            RE: Amalek- Apparently, we are racist and think that Amaleki people are inherently evil, and it is passed from generation to generation. I don’t know of any other anwer.

            • Eli March 22, 2011, 11:18 AM

              “Mamzer- I don’t judge a mamzer, he simply has a certain halachik status.” – If you treat someone differently because of their genes, it’s racist. It doesn’t matter whether you are judging them or not. If someone said that Jews can’t own land – not because they are bad people, they are just inherently different – wouldn’t you call that anti-semitic? I think what you are saying is that racism that’s ordained by the Torah is OK, and other forms aren’t….

              • Ben March 22, 2011, 12:55 PM

                Firstly, I admitted straightforwardly in the amalek issue that it is clearly racist. (and I am ok with it)

                Secondly, treating someone differently because of who they were born to is not racist.
                Is is racist to say the children of french citizens are french, but the children of germans are not french?

                I don’t think a mamzer is a bad person, I am just not allowed to marry her.

                Now, you make think that is not acceptable to you, that privileges should be apportioned based on circumstances of birth, but is definitely not judgment.

                • Eli March 23, 2011, 10:12 AM

                  “Is is racist to say the children of french citizens are french, but the children of germans are not french?” – there’s nothing racist about that, becuase you’re not denying any opportunities to the German fellow because of his nationanality. But if I were to say that because you were born German you can’t drink french wine, that would be racist.

      • Yoreh K'Chetz March 21, 2011, 6:51 PM


        Before equating yichus with racism, consider the following:

        Yichus was first demonstrated by Avraham Avinu, when he ordered Eliezer to go to his to go find his brother’s daughter despite knowing they were idol worshippers instead of Eliezer’s own daughter, who was a loyal & sincere convert.

        Yitzchak sent Yaakov to marry his cousins despite knowing the Lavan was an idolater and thief.

        The shevatim all married their 1/2 sisters according to Rashi.

        Throughout history, we see rebbes marrying other rebbes’ daughters, often their own cousins.

        • Yochanan March 21, 2011, 8:59 PM

          Cue “Deliverance” music.

    • Leibel March 21, 2011, 5:36 PM

      In my experience it’s gairim who are the frum ones and the FFB’s who are a bit lax in their observance of halacha. I’ve even been told that I’m “too frum” by FFB people (so much for the idea that born Jews are magically better than gairim*). It’s FFB people who are more likely as a group not to keep shabbat, break fasts early, have premarital sex (and cover it up by having the families leave town, then engage in soviet union style revisionism and deny that the “holy” FFB kids were fooling around in the first place), etc. This is just one reason why I don’t value Yichus at all.

      I’d also ask if

      *I’m a gair in case you can’t figure it out

    • Chris_B March 23, 2011, 8:33 AM

      I’ll go ahead and say it, you come off like a jerk. I doubt you are a jerk though.

  • Isiah March 21, 2011, 3:03 PM

    i like this girl’s spunk; maybe she’ll be the real mashiach we need.

    • anonimo March 21, 2011, 4:41 PM

      Actually women with spunk are not tznius, and since this girl speaks her mind instead of staying in the kitchen and keeping her mouth shut, she would be a terrible goyishe influence on bnos yisroel if she is converted. The beis din should reject her immediately.

      /sarcasm (for the thick-skulled who can’t detect it)

      • daniel March 23, 2011, 3:11 AM

        female moshiach? i wonder…

  • Gedalyah Reback March 21, 2011, 3:23 PM

    I went through my own conversion 2006-07. My Dad is Jewish, my Mom is not. Now that you know my background, here are my two cents:

    Firstly, you are right about people WITHIN the Jewish community. They are often abusive and critical of converts. This is probably why the sages of the Talmud say that “converts are hard on Israel” – not because converts have precarious motives, rather there are enough members in the community that suspect these converts just cannot be trusted or are religious crazies. This usually comes from, sorry to say, the numerous amount of poorly-educated and simple-minded Jews in the Orthodox community. Piety and commitment to learning do not translate to intelligence. This is a crisis the Orthodox world does not understand exists.

    Secondly, I was allowed to date when I was converting. My Rabbi is a machmir Religious Zionist from Israel. In fact, he also let me – in fact, said that I SHOULD – KEEP SHABBAT. The latter is the historically more popular opinion. The former was less of an issue in the past because such processes did not drag out through bureaucratic procedure like modern American, European and Israeli conversions. They were more intimate and the same Rabbis who taught you also sat on your Beit Din. That is not the case today, and because the Beit Din is so disconnected from the candidates they ultimately take responsibility for, they want to cover their asses. Consequently, they pressure the Rabbis who are not members of those Batei Din and then THEY have to cover their asses. When I was going through it, I was keeping up with the beginnings of today’s headlines: the conflict between the Israeli and American Rabbinical establishments, the long conversion procedures, the limiting of conversion candidates (this is happening, the RCA only has the capacity to convert about 150 people a year throughout the ENTIRE USA).

    Thirdly, start challenging them like it is an Israeli bureaucracy. As frustrating as this is (and I understand not every solution is one-size fits all), be assertive. Don’t let your frustrations DRAG YOU DOWN. You are the heavy metal one here, the tough one and the star. You are a priority, even within the halachic framework people who stand as candidates for conversion already incurs. But do not be rash. Bother them every day. Ask them what they would like you to do. Tell them how enthusiastic you are. The key is continuing to push and constantly ask them what more you NEED to do.

    In the meantime, always be introspective and see what more you can do WITHOUT asking.

    I am simplifying my very complex outlook based on my experience. But I hope this serves as useful.

    • Ben March 21, 2011, 4:48 PM

      I believe the Rishonim discuss that gemara you reference which says “???? ???? ?????? ?????”.

      If I recall, the possibilities are:
      A. They bring the ??? against us when they are better Jews than we are.
      B. They cause problems when they don’t keep the mitzvos.

      These are probably both true.

      • Ben March 21, 2011, 6:09 PM

        Oh. Looks like hebrew doesn’t work.

    • Chris_B March 23, 2011, 8:43 AM

      Well put. Thank you.

  • Yoreh K'Chetz March 21, 2011, 3:41 PM

    I’m no expert, but I think they make it tough so they have “proof” that you’re sincere. Maybe in their minds, the tougher they make it, the more sincere they feel a convert that sticks it out actually is.

    • Gedalyah Reback March 22, 2011, 4:07 AM

      This only makes sense in the interim. It is the teachers’ responsibility to guide the student. If there is something they expect out of the student, they have to inform him or her ,otherwise it is like waiting for a bus that doesn’t come to that stop. As a 21-year-old it was important, but certainly not as important as someone older who wants to have a family (ESPECIALLY a 30-something woman on the cusp of not being able to have a non-high-risk pregnancy). Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch in Even HaEzer is emphatic (based on precedents from the Gemara, Gaonim and Rishonim) that there is concern for both pru u’rvu (the mitzvah and privilege to procreate) plus the need to ensure no man (or woman) is alone, because that just ain’t good.

      When I was going through the process I gave them that benefit of the doubt, so was willing to do whatever they told me (nothing they told me was unreasonable, and I was always ready to ask questions). Based on this logic, yours and mine, it made sense to let my teacher tell me when I was ready before I started applying pressure or getting impatient. Once he did, I deliberately became more annoying and applied extra pressure. I think my Rabbanim would have come around on their own, but I think I managed to speed up the process anywhere from two weeks to two months.

  • Seriously? March 21, 2011, 4:11 PM

    I am sorry. I have studied the halachas of conversion in some depth, and it is clear that the process is too laborious. Conversion is meant to be the first step toward ahavas Hashem, not the completion of the journey.

    I think there are answers to ALL QUESTIONS. And the answers are not out of our reach, or impossible to grasp.

    If you really want answers, you can contact me by commenting on a post at my blog: http://midrashicmusings.blogspot.com . Within my time ability, I will endeavor to answer all.

  • ari March 21, 2011, 7:44 PM

    dont let them see this they may make you start over

    • Gedalyah Reback March 22, 2011, 4:10 AM

      There is no such thing as starting over. There is no formal process of conversion other than the brit milah, mikvah and B”H the korban. Everything else is arbitrary. It’s when you reach a certain apex something happens, not a certain low point.

      • Chris_B March 23, 2011, 8:40 AM

        Something tells me that EclecticTrixie is not going to be getting a brit milah any time soon…

    • EclecticTrixie March 22, 2011, 7:23 AM

      Oh, they’ve already seen it 🙂 Not that it matters, I’ve told them all of it anyways.

  • Chris_B March 23, 2011, 8:44 AM

    Stay strong, it is worth it!

  • Anonymous March 23, 2011, 11:53 PM

    With all respect, you are crazy. I can understand a desire to be Jewish if you possess this amorphous and abhorrent dogma of “faith” that forces you to follow tradition, flying in the face of reason and history. But to decide without historical or logical evidence to believe in a particular version of a particular god is absurd. Let me be clear about this: religion thrives on perceived elitism, not facts. If you have a hard time converting, it is because Judaism is constructed so as to make you feel inferior. By some stretch of the imagination, some arbitrary baptismal process will imbue with greater moral fiber and a higher sense of purpose. Please.

  • Sarah T. March 24, 2011, 1:34 AM

    I’ve seen a few friends go through this….and I still don’t understand it. I will never call you or anyone else crazy for going after what they believe in….but if they make it so hard for you, and want so much money from you (not knowing if you are accepted or not)…I guess I can’t understand why someone would want to be apart of that religion…..or at least the church/synagogue.

    Do you feel loved and accepted at this place? I guess that’s my real question. If you hate the conversion process so much….is it worth it?

    Again, not putting anyone down….just honestly trying to understand.

  • Drew March 24, 2011, 10:48 AM

    I have to admit, there is good reason why the conversion process is insanely difficult. The lifestyle transition for a baal teshuvah is already quite hard. It requires straining relationships with one’s old life, including family relationships. There is a reason that the BT is almost invariably asked at the Shabbos table “What do your parents think of all this?” Irreverently put in What’s Up With the Hard Core Jewish People? http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Jewish-People-Coping-Observant/dp/1591139066/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1

    I imagine it must be even harder for a convert.

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