Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · news · rabbi

Who is a Jew?

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.

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.

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?
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3 thoughts on “Who is a Jew?

  1. I posted the article on your blog a couple of days ago. Did you have a chance to read it? Anyway, I am currently in the C process and thinking of quitting unfortunately. Ordothox rabbis are making it impossible for us to come back home. The other issue is that I am afraid that my status will be questioned after my gerus. As most of you know, the status of the ger is frequently questioned after they get out of mikvah. If your rabbi is not on the RCA list, you will either have to do a L’chumrah (if they like you) or reconvert. They will always going to find a fault in you no matter how good, tznius, or frum you are. Crazy, crazy, crazy. Judaism is the most organized religion in the world and these rabbis cannot come up with an organized method or approach to welcoming converts to this beautiful way of life. To me, Judaism is the truth and I love it more than anything in the world. However, the people including rabbis are rather mean, unwelcoming and racist especially if the potential ger or the ger to be is dark or black. I’ve been in the process for many years and have been humiliated more than I have in my lifetime. Even the rabbi I am currently working with is not the kind of person I expected him to be. You just get tired of living in a limbo-loneliness especially if you are a male. But at the same time, you dont want to stop doing mizvoth and worshiping Hashem because of most Jews. However, they fail to see that I am just a human being who wants to get closer to his creator and bring holiness to the world by doing miztvoh.I don’t think it’s fair to be treated as a piece of chess most of the time. I really don’t know what I’ll do, but most likely I will forefeit since I am already burned out from this rather sadistic process. Everything looks bleak to me right now. Anyway, I wish all converts the best in the world and hope that this whole issue of who’s a jew is resolved in the near future. Moschiah will not come with all this trasvesty and hatred among our fellow Jews. We all should do Tshuva and improve our actions, love each other and especially the ger who leaves everything, their friends, family, and customs to identify themselves and live as Jews.

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  2. I find it all too much!…despite what they all say I know I am a Jew despite where I go to pray!
    I don’t think I will ever move to Israel but it still pains me to think I would not be considered Jewish there….
    anonymous I feel your pain…I converted in the conservative stream, but this issuee hurts all of us!
    hang in there…..

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