There is actually a guidebook for converts. Of course, I didn’t know this. I didn’t even think to look. I had to get through all 50 odd books that the rabbi listed on the curriculum, forget going out there and looking for myself. The thing is, as I page through many books about conversion in preparation for my LimmudLA (limmudla.org) lecture on New Jews: How Converts are Changing the Face of Judaism, I wish there had been a book on converts and more specifically, conversion. It was fine reading stories about other converts but I definitely could have used some sort of GPS system on the whole process.
So, a big thing in the guidebook is finding a community, not just after but before, during and after conversion. That’s a place I haven’t done too well in. I love the Upper East Side. The age group is skewed in many directions but my own and yet, because I’m surrounded by so many people that are new to Judaism, I feel at home. Yea, it’s also where I found my first shul and met my first rabbi.
When I moved to Washington Heights, it was like falling off the derech (the path). I found a community of friends, people my age, but they were all former day school students, rabbinical students and with few exceptions, we just weren’t on the same page spiritually. Plus since the crowd was already very learned, there was no need to serve the minority (me) population with programs for beginners.
And now Riverdale…. It’s homey. I love my apartment when the ceiling in the bathroom isn’t caving in, leaking or moldy, especially. But the community is similar to that in Washington Heights but everyone’s getting their Master’s (been there, done that) or making a baby (you couldn’t pay me to go there any time soon). I can’t really discuss my lofty career goals of being a writer, dreaming that I’d have cash and time and energy to devote myself to an MFA in Creative Writing because honestly, these goals are really lofty. Fantastical really. And there are tons of parents here with little rugrats. And I don’t have much to say about nursery schools, though I tell pretty good stories about potty training my sister.
Dream area to live? Morningside Heights, right by Columbia so the hubbie could walk home and we’d be close to THE CITY. We could walk to the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. I could run around going to classes and tutor bratty, posh kids for lots of moula. And there are tons of people like me. Jew babies…just starting to grow in their Judaism.
Ah, perchance to dream.