culture/multiculturalism · friends · Israel · women/feminism

Does someone who converts to Judaism really become “a Jew like any other”?

Kate Bailey is a self-described “young skeptical modern orthodox feminist convert” who writes deftly about conversion, hers as well as those of others.

In her awesome piece in The Washington Jewish Week, “On Conversion”, she tackles many of the issues converts face in the Jewish community.
Of the stories of converts, she writes:
“The story of a convert seems to be an endless source of fascination and wonder for the Jew-by-birth (Jews-without-a-choice?). Sometimes it’s met with wonder and awe, sometimes with admiration, sometimes with incredulity. Many people seem to want something for themselves out of a convert’s enthusiasm and love for Judaism–to inspire them Jewishly, to kindle or rekindle their own love for their heritage and tradition.”

And does someone who converts to Judaism really become “a Jew like any other”? Bailey calls the most common answer to this question “a white lie often told in the Jewish world” and then goes on to illuminate the way converts recognize both internally and externally that they “differ from the mainstream.” (And she’s not even going into how in Israel, our Jewishness can be “revoked.”)

About the unique position of a convert, Bailey adds:

“Today’s convert is in a unique position to understand the historic plight of the Jewish People. They live as a minority within a larger community that treats them as “the other”–someone who is different, who provokes wonder, awe, and even scorn. Someone whose family is so radically different from those their friends are used to. Who doesn’t share the same collective memory of Jewish youth.”

Her piece is a must-read for Jews of all stripes.

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