But “Rabbis Searching For Common Ground” minces no words when it talks about one of the biggest questions in Judaism, “Who is a Jew?” and how the search for the right answer is fought on the backs of current and prospective converts. (The question alone brings up 39 million results on Google.) The Jewish Week article talks about a recent panel at the JCC Manhattan that featured Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis searching for, as the title states, common ground in conversion standards.
In the rush to write a great book about my crazy life and my ultimate conversion to Orthodox Judaism, I have read many, many books by other converts. I’ve read stories of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform converts. I’ve even met and befriended these converts from all different streams of Judaism. This has given me a great deal of respect for all converts. For despite whatever brand of Judaism we have chosen, we are bound together by a great love of Judaism.
I missed the panel but I got an earful from a convert who attended. The whole event left a bad taste in her mouth. Certainly, the Orthodox had (finally, some will say) joined in on a conversation that has been ongoing between Conservative and Reform rabbis but in the end, this conversation, as it did that night, leads nowhere. My friend put it best when she said the Orthodox were moving to the right, the Conservative to the left, and the Reform…can’t remember what else she said but it wasn’t pretty. Basically, the Jewish world is shifting and in this climate, all converts are worried about their status. When Orthodox rabbis don’t trust other Orthodox rabbis, why would they trust Reform colleagues?
Conversation, though, is better than baseless hatred. Hatred is what I see when I hear Orthodox folks making fun of Conservative folks, Conservative folks making fun of Reform and so on and so on. No one is safe. It’s a Jew on Jew free for all. At least, this panel moved us away from throwing blows and maybe towards acting like civilized members of the same family. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for?