I wrote on my Facebook page that I couldn’t understand why someone would convert to Orthodox Judaism and then convert to Christianity. They mistook my meaning and wrote back, “Well isn’t it the same as someone converting from Christianity to Judaism?” No, it isn’t. This is someone who had two conversions and the first one I can speak from experience is a fairly difficult one. She must have been tested again and again to ensure that her commitment to Judaism was true. But in the end, in spite of those tests, it wasn’t.
I didn’t think I could make it through the book. And there are fairly painful parts for me to read. You would think that it would be no big deal. I mean, I did grow up Christian, didn’t I? But I was always uncomfortable for Christianity and reading about how easily Winner accepts it is difficult for me. The good writing makes it easier to read.
Still after much plodding ahead, I finally made it to the juicy part. She finally talks about why she gave up Orthodox Judaism. I had all these expectations for what she would say but in the end, it’s really comes down to two points she makes, she calls herself “lazy” but more importantly, likens what she did to “cheating” on the first faith with a second. She tells the story with really amazing poetics: “I had married Judaism and then I had an affair with a foreign G-d.”
But what I found powerful are the points she makes about things she felt pushed her away from Orthodox Judaism:
1. No, it was not the anti-feminism she claims but definitely a girl named Sarah who announces at a party that the author only converted because she wanted to marry a Jew. (I have had people think/say the same about me.)
2. A guy she dated told her that he couldn’t marry a convert because he wanted in-laws to celebrate Jewish traditions with. He wanted the two families, his and his wife, to be able to share in Judaism together. He didn’t want a woman who didn’t have a Jewish family. (I found this point painful but fascinating because my husband loved that I was basically an orphan and came with no in-laws.)
3. The community failed her by not checking up on her when she wasn’t going to shul, wasn’t learning, wasn’t around as much. It sounds like she wishes she had had more of a support system. (I can see her point on this one. How many rabbis are checking in with converts after the fact?)
I’ve written before that I’ve found myself feeling adrift from the Jewish community lately. And this comes at the same time that I am having some issues with my relationship with G-d. But no, don’t look for me to turn to “a foreign G-d.” My issues are with fitting into the Jewish community, breaking bad habits and being totally unable to tell the synagogue I am usually absent from that I need a shtender to survive davening and could they please “keep it down” because stomping away and pounding the chairs doesn’t help me much either.
So I wonder, did the Jewish community lose Winner because of its flaws or because of her affair? Was it a little of both? And how can the community support converts better? I don’t have all the answers but I’m thinking of some.
7 thoughts on “Girl Meets God…Once…Twice…”
Hi there, I’m new to your blog. I must admit, hearing of someone who converted to Judaism then to Christianity does blow my brain cells a little. Especially when you think of the commitment involved in converting to Judaism in the first place.>>Thank you for bringing this book to my attention – it’ll be on the list.>>Rachel
This is my first time commenting on your blog, but I keep it saved to my favorites as it is really one of the few I visit on a daily basis.>Also, this is the first time I have felt compelled to comment because it seems as if we are in the same place with Judaism right now. Last November, I converted to Judaism after two years of contemplation and a year of study with a local Rabbi and an Intro to Judaism course. It was the best decision that I made in my life. I am also a Southern black woman (from Texas and Louisiana, but now reside in the DC area) who, from the beginning felt a bit lost as to where I would fit in amongst the Jewish people. I can understand this struggle with the author and you, since I’m starting to believe that no matter how sincere you are within Judaism, going to Shabbat on a weekly basis, celebrating holidays, and overall being involved within the community, there are some who will just not accept you. Even now, the synagogue I attend, there are a few people who have embraced me and as I result I feel truly blessed that has been the case.>Upon breaking the news to my parents that I wanted to convert, one of the first questions my dad asked me was, “Why?” With which he followed up in asking who would want to marry me, since I would be a part of two groups of previously (or one could argue, also currently) oppressed people. G-d brought the most incredible man into my life who just so happened to attend shul with me. We are engaged to be married next year. But once again, as I see myself getting more and more involved with HIS traditions and upbringing, I cling to my “other” identity as a black woman since my greatest fear is of losing it. Through our pre-marital counseling the rabbi addresses how our Jewish lives will be and sometimes refers to our children being biracial, but fails to address the fact that I am Jewish, I am black (a black woman at that). Perhaps we will discuss it in future sessions. But to sum up this long winded message, I get it. Judaism can be unwelcoming because even if you convert some may still view you as an outsider and the clergy may not be able or willing to provide the support you need to cope with that issue.>Thanks so much for this blog. I’ll of course keep reading. >>Sarah
After reading about Ms. Winner’s experience with the Orthodox community, one certainly can’t blame her for chosing the spiritual path she took. >As a potential convert, my Asian background has so far encountered some curuious glances but no comments.. yet. >>I think what’s kept me on this path is finding a community that truly does accept me for who I am. I can be more forgiving of any negative comments because my anchor is secure.
Perhaps, we as converts of color come in more prepared. We expect not to be accepted because of our skin colors and then when we are, we are grateful.
By the way, I slogged my way through the whole book. Won’t be reviewing it on the blog but it did have some other really beautiful things about Judaism. But mostly, the book is about her love of Christianity.
hello>>I am your basic white girl…Irish and Italian…but many of the issues brought up in the book you read and the comments here I also have experienced.>>I am involved in the synagogue I attend but I have come to the conclusion many there don’t know what to do with me!…add race to this mix and I bet it can be a very difficult experience.>>lately I have had this strong feeling of being treated as “other”….this when >I have been starting to feel orgainicly Jewish!>>my situation is complicated by divorce…my husband and I attend the same synagogue as the ex….>>I have been flirting with the idea of checking out the local Chabad…but then I would need to embark on a re-conversion and I am not sure if i have the energy!>>karen
It is difficult picking and going to a different synagogue but I can’t imagine that it’s more difficult than going to the same synagogue with your ex. That would totally freak me out!>>Chabad doesn’t do conversions so I didn’t understand what you meant by “reconversions.” Good luck to you!