books and reading · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · writing

Welcoming the New Jew


In “Welcoming the New Jew”, I review a memoir by Reform convert Sally Srok Friedes. Her book, “The New Jew” is fresh, funny and engaging even as it takes us to the painful twists and turns of acclimating oneself to the Jewish community. This book has a great deal to teach every movement in the Jewish community about how it treats outsiders and especially, potential converts. 

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10 thoughts on “Welcoming the New Jew

  1. I read the exchange between Doniel and yourself and I dont think either of you have a good understanding of the inner workings/reasonings behind the way the orthodox community treat gerim. I will defend my community if your interested but if not then no need to waste my time or yours… If interested just respond… I have another question too. I dont understand this… If a Jew is defined by Torah as a person who believes in ALL the Torah 613 then why do you call any reform convert (or anyone who doesnt believe in 613) a Jew?

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  2. I think Doniel has a lot of study to do to understand what it means to be a Jew. I studied psychology for years and to be honest with you a good psychologist listens to their patients and does not ask unnecessary questions such as the one he asked. He tried to intimidate Aliza by flaunting his knowledge and intelligence to the world. I bet that he will not make a buck as a psychologist HS if he continues using that useless approach to gettting to understand human behaviour. People become Jewish mostly because they want to do the RIGHT thing in life. They're truth seekers and this lifestyle makes them happy. We have to listen to their struggles and be supportive and caring to them. Avraham and Sarah are the parents of all gerim. G-d has a special love for them. They are the most important Jews and considered as the holy of holies. Why are they mistreated? Simply because they are special beings. Why all this drama about valid/invalid conversions? Because people love drama. One rabbi once said that most converting rabbis choose to get involved in conversions because they are losers and have nothing to do with their lives. Although I dont agree with this rabbi 100%, there is some truth to what he said. Why in the world would these rabbis waste so much time and money revoking conversions just because they think that Rabbi Avi Weiss or Rabbi Angel are too lenient? Why dont they help these would be converts join the fold by creating realistic standards that apply to today's world so that nobody would question these people's conversions? It is all about power. They need this power to survive and not Torah. They dont want Moshiach to come because they will lose their power. Power is what makes them important and they dont want to lose that. And indeed some of them are losers because they have nothing to do with their lives but make people's lives miserable by dragging them along for years to obtain a certificate that says they're Jewish but in reality they will never be accepted. I feel sorry for the poor woman and those who have to constantly prove their Jewishness. Would be converts and converts are human beings, they have feelings and are not a machine an orthodox rabbi or community can control and do whatever they want with them. People should be respected always. If born Jews continue with this kind of behavior, would be converts and converts would HShalom, abandon Judaism and have hostile feelings toward Jews and Judaism. We all should learn from our mistakes and past experiences and make the world a better place. And remember Hashem is the one who gave you your brown skin, beutiful hair, heart and feet. He is the one in control and not you. Serve him and love the world and the people he created.

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  3. I'll add this to my list of books to read – it's always interesting to get a different perspective!

    Just as an aside, regarding the comment from Query from Frum Community – I find it odd that he/she feels that you don't have a good understanding of the inner workings/reasonings behind the way the orthodox community treat gerim…. I would have thought you would have a very good idea!

    rachel

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  4. Shavuatov,
    I offered to explain WHY my community treats gerim the way they do because I dont like seeing my community trashed. I didnt and dont mean any disrespect to Aliza but I dont think she does know why. It seems from her posting she doesnt understand and it bothers her that gerim are treated this way. I dont agree with everyway gerim are treated but I understand WHY its done by the community and how its warranted according to Torah.

    I am one of those people who like to know the other persons perspective, even if I may disagree with them. And so I assume (maybe incorrectly) that someone might be interested in WHY my community does what it does. At any rate thats all I have to say about this subject unless Aliza takes me up on my offer.

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  5. Query why dont you just say what you have to say. Give your explanation and stop with this whole my community has the right to treat Gerim the way they do-drama.

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  6. Query,
    You better check your halacha and learn some semantics (That means wording, generally wording with precision). While rabbis are to dissuade individuals from converting, it is assur to harass someone who has gone to the mikvah for their conversion.

    I have been treated so horribly since I converted. The nasty comments never end. I get comments because I don't have a good job. People keep bringing up the fact that my mother is deceased and scream at me why don't I have any family.

    So explain to me why people have the right to tell me I'm worthless because I don't make as much money as them or because I'm a gyoress.

    You can't halachically do so.

    The problem is that Jews hear that someone in the process is supposed to be dissuaded and so they make it their duty to “dissuade” you. Even after you've converted, they want to make sure to dissuade you.

    You need to understand that there is a difference between someone IN the process and a Jewish person. Once someone becomes a gyoress, they are SUPPOSED to be treated like everyone else. It is the true and sad fact that we are not.

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  7. According to halacha, the beit din must disuade you from converting and not Jews. Who is going to convert you, the community or the Beit Din? One more thing, once a person is accepted by the beit din, canditates should not be disuade anymore. What are people going to think of Jews if they treat others in a bad manner? That will increase anti-semitism in the world and we dont want or need that. BTW, as someone who is in the process, I think it's inhumane to treat people badly while in the process or after mikvah. Religion is supposed to make you a better person. G-d represents holiness. People do not want to imitate G-d period. They think they have the right to do what they want without thinking that G-d is the master of universe and controls everything and everyone. To be racist, or to treat others in a inhumane manner is sort of saying that I am in control and I have no respect for G-d's creations. Jews are not angels or superhuman beings. They are a group of people with a special mission. Those who want to join them are welcome according to Halacha. They have the right to convert. They have the right to come closer to his creator. BTH, the Talmud says the ger becomes a ger and not a non-jew becomes a ger, meaning that you are already a Jew once decide to convert, but once you get out of mikvah you are halachally Jewish.

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  8. I don't think I intimidated anyone. I am also not a 'HS psychologist;' I am a professor, fyi.

    If Aliza felt intimidated, I think she would have said something. Instead, she lauded my comments as thought-provoking, which was the intent of my scholarship.

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