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Caught in the Middle

No one told me that becoming a Jew, an Orthodox Jew, meant that I had to snub my nose at Jews who didn’t live the same lifestyle. In fact, I’ve heard more non-Orthodox Jews snub their noses at Orthodox Jews than I’ve heard it the other way around.

As someone who became an Orthodox Jew and knew exactly how hard it was to get from point A to point B, I find that I am quite vividly aware of how hard it is to live this kind of lifestyle. I really don’t think it’s for everyone, I just know that it’s right for me. And I’m ready and willing to help anyone who thinks it is right for them, too.

I converted to Judaism because I loved Judaism and I loved Jews. It isn’t always so easy to love Jews but I keep trying my best to do it. I love short Jews and tall Jews. I love Orthodox Jews and Reform Jews and Conservative Jews, all kinds of Jews, even the ones who think the way I live my life is crazy as long as they don’t disrespect me. I love even the Jews who other people don’t think are Jews because I respect all converts.

A friend of mine who converted Conservative was telling me how deeply troubled he was by a recent decision in Madrid that a 13-year-old Columbian boy, a Conservative convert, could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Spain. (He was buried eventually in a section of the sanctuary for people whose Jewish status is in question.) Even though we were talking online, I could feel my friend shaking his fists at “the Orthodox” as he called them.

I wondered if my friend thought I was part of “the Orthodox,” if he was mad at me, too. But mostly, I thought that he was right to be angry because no matter how you tried to explain it away this situation was ugly, a blight on Judaism. A rabbi in Los Angeles appropriately called this “a shandah in Spain.” Unfortunately, it was mostly “the Orthodox” (with few exceptions) who commented quite coldly and callously on every article and worse repeatedly attacked the little boy and his family. Attacking the way this little boy and his family chose to convert is one thing, but the character assassinations of a dead little boy and his grieving family is another. But I suppose it’s hard to sympathize when you can’t imagine ever having YOUR Jewishness questioned. I don’t have that luxury.

Nobody tells you that as a convert, you and your children might be massacred emotionally (or otherwise) every time the lines are drawn and redrawn in the Jewish community so that you end up on the outside of it. No one tells you, no one really sits you down and explains what it means when you convert one way and not the other. No one explains that the people who really bear the brunt of the ongoing “Who is a Jew?” wars and an ever fracturing Jewish community are converts and their families in perpetuity no matter which movement they convert through.

But if you’re reading the latest news on conversion in the Jewish community then you start reading between the lines. Let’s be clear. I fear we’ve gotten to a point where it won’t be a long before an Orthodox convert is turned away from a Jewish cemetery (they’re already being turned away by marriage registries in Israel) because their conversion rabbi is unpopular or “worse,” apparently a convert himself. And I fear what happens when we get to a point when we realize the Jewish community accepts no convert, Orthodox or otherwise.
Please note: Though I will be rejecting all comments in response to this post whether or not I agree with the comments being made, I will be reading all of them.

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