Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · learning · Los Angeles · money · New York · rabbi · sleep

The Conversion Recession?

When the recession hit, I got laid off pretty quickly from my college tutoring gig, a job it had taken me forever to land with my fibromyalgia. Okay, I admit that I was kind of glad I wasn’t returning to the gig. Despite being part-time, the job aggravated my fibromyalgia and provided nearly none of the pleasure I had enjoyed as a high school English teacher in the classroom.

We are lucky that the piddling income I made as a tutor was not something we depended on, especially since I followed it up with a gig as a “freelance writer/blogger/speaker,” often unpaid, generally unsteady work. (I was recently billed as a “Conversion Counselor” who does “Internet Kiruv/Outreach.” Ask me how much I get paid, I dare ya!)

Even I, the burgeoning freelance writer, noticed things in the economy were awry when editors started getting laid off, publications started getting choosier about the articles they paid for or stopped paying for them altogether.

But enough about me. Let me tell you how the TOP FIVE WAYS the recession (which some economists believe has ended) is affecting people converting to Judaism.

When you’re converting Orthodox, you’ve got to move to an Orthodox community. But many converts have expressed being unable to do so because of financial reasons, many driven by the current economic climate. Many are stuck in houses they can’t sell, in neighborhoods or cities nowhere near Orthodox synagogues and communities. And as long as they can’t move, their conversions are on hold.

Converts with children are also baring the unexpected expense of shifting their children from public school to day school education at a time of economic crisis. The new conversion guidelines demand your child attend day schools. Even when your budget says otherwise. And the schools are not so interested in taking students (and offering scholarships to them) when they’re not yet Jewish, don’t speak a word of Hebrew and can’t follow the Jewish studies curriculum. Quite a conundrum there.

Many people in the conversion process have mentioned being unable to afford to pay for classes, books and such related to learning about Judaism. More than one person has expressed being unable to afford to pay a rabbi or teacher for Jewish classes they wanted to continue being a part of. For the most part, conversion to Judaism is cheap…if you keep your Judaica shopping sprees to a minimum, attend free classes, save up for that hefty mikvah fee (hefty compared to what they charge ladies going to the mikvah at night) and all that jazz. But the rabbis, teachers and “Conversion Counselors” (teehee) deserve to get paid for their services…if only we could pay them.

I am writing this post during a bout of insomnia so I can’t think of a #4 and #5 right now. It is 11:41am Thursday and I woke up at 1pm Wednesday. I hate when your body is in one time zone (New York) but it feels like another (Los Angeles) so it just flips out (insomnia). I am going to go have breakfast/lunch and possibly pass out until my husband comes home and finds me groggy and unkempt and without having restocked the fridge as promised. I should have Fresh Direct two days ago. Milk. OJ. And a slice of cheese. Sad little fridge.

3 thoughts on “The Conversion Recession?

  1. Spot on – these are exactly the thoughts I harbor when thinking about an orthodox conversion: financially not exactly easy to make happen! Too bad it becomes a financial issue – seems somehow wrong.

    But Rabbi Fisher of YI Orange County doesn't mince words:

    ” If we cannot afford to live within walking distance of a Shul in Irvine, then we find another community, more affordable, and live within walking distance of that Shul. For some, it means leaving L.A. and moving to Seattle or Portland or Cincinnati.”


  2. Just throwing my 2 cents in — I once had mono and insomnia. It was no fun. Not only was I exhausted, I was also completely unable to sleep. It was an interesting conundrum, feeling my body battle itself. Eventually the mono exhaustion won. Hope you got some sleep!!


  3. Yeah, well, they are not really holding that strongly to these new standards. They use them for people they don't like for whatever reason and drop them for people they decide they like for whatever reason.


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