books and reading · chronic pain/fibromyalgia · fans · happiness · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · prayer · rabbi · writing

The Conversion Process

According to CNN, Americans aren’t losing their religions, they’re changing them often. Wow, for some reason, I’ve never felt more like a statistic. I am one of those Americans who has changed religions but I don’t plan on changing it again…ever. First of all, it’s too hard and second of all, I’m too happy (even on bad days) with the one I’ve now got.

Right now, I’m working on writing about my first Rosh Hashana (using my old blogs as a cheatsheet) and that kind of time travel has reinvigorated me. It has taken me back to the first moments I took on my new skin, just after deciding to change my life and my religion forever. It feels like simultaneously I’ve just made that decision for the first time and at the same time, I can now look back and laugh at my old naivete. Remember when I thought Jews didn’t think they were better than other co-religionists? Remember when I stopped eating bread because bentching (the praying after eating bread) took me forever?

But there is something refreshing about that old naivete. Something awesome about recollecting a time when everything I knew about Judaism fit on an index card (maybe now it fits on a 8′ by 11′ ?). Someone once joked that the first year I decided to convert to Judaism, I learned about the religion. The next year, I learned about the people. Perhaps, in years after that, I have learned a little a both (I hope) and even some about Jewish culture. It is an endless learning process, an endless journey, a never ending conversion process but I haven’t always been able to hang onto that shiny, new penny feeling I felt after finishing “Path of the Just” and sending my first email to a rabbi.

So you should know that I’m holding out on you a bit. I realize that since beginning to write the book, I’ve been holding back. I keep thinking, should I write about this? Should I put it in the book? If I write about this on my blog, will people even buy the book? But I realize that a lot of the blogs that came after I decided to write my book are very different than the early blogs. I’m in such a different place, I have such a different perspective that sometimes, it’s hard to see how all these different people inside of me connect and become one person. I guess that’s a life’s journey itself.

What you’re reading now is Aliza, the writer and she’s a bit different than Aliza who just decided to convert. It’s funny because I recognized a little of Aliza who just decided to convert in fellow blogger Chaviva who recently decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism after an initial conversion through Reform Judaism. Now, that’s funny because Chaviva has been doing this much longer than me, blogging, I think, and deciding to live Jewish, too. But there is something that ties all converts together (an obsessive connection with another people that calls you to become one of them for one) but our stories can be so wildly different and inspiring and if you’re grasping for examples, see Yoseph Robinson go from Jamaican hip-hopper to Jamaican Orthodox Jew or check out the new book I’m reading by Reform convert Sally Srok Friedes, “The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion.”

Inspiring? Even though I ran away from home, kidnapped my sister, converted to Judaism and ended up marrying a would-be rabbi, I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and thought “Well, I’m inspiring.” I mean, I was just living and sometimes, often, barely surviving. But since deciding to blog my innermost thoughts, I’ve gotten letters from fans who have said, “Yeah, you’re inspiring, now can you give me some advice?” And all that this has done is, well, inspire ME. To keep on going. To keep taking hit after hit. And small miracle after small miracle. Even the annoying Anonymous commentators who have pissed me off on a constant basis haven’t kept me from wanting to share my story and hoping that every now and again you’ll share a bit of yours.

I guess, I could write a whole other book about the journey AFTER conversion. (Incidentally, Nan Fink managed to sneak this into the same book about her journey to and through her conversion. Which just proves she has bigger cojones than me.) It would be a very different book than the first. It would be about all the things that came after the mikvah and all the things yet to come. I guess what you’re reading IS that book so maybe, I’m not holding out on you after all. Maybe, you’re just my first critics, a big, great giant writing workshop of readers who will hopefully buy this book if I ever decide to make it legit and publish it. But don’t forget to buy the first book (the one about the running away, yada, yada) first, of course.

So as always, thank you for reading. I hope you’ve learned a little about Dominican Jewish women with big afros and fibromyalgia. They say a little knowledge goes a long way. Who knows where other people’s stories will take us?

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