Not a big fan of Shalom Auslander but I couldn’t put down his latest piece in Tablet Magazine, “Up in Smoke: Imagining the day they come to take your Judaism away”.
It was like a train wreck I couldn’t look away from. I’m still processing what I read.
Whenever I talk to people about what has been going on the last couple of years in the world of Orthodox conversion and what has been going on in Israel with even born Jews having trouble proving their Jewishness to the satisfaction of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, I am always struck by how little people know about the situation. Don’t these people read the Jerusalem Post? Jewish Week? The Jewish Journal? Any Jewish news? How could they have missed all the conversion scandals of the past few years?
Well, honestly, I think it’s easy to ignore what’s been going on unless it directly affects you. Most of us live in our own bubbles. Even if we read or watch the news every day, we often read only the stuff that applies to us. I realize, disheartened, that unless it’s you or your children or grandchildren potentially or currently being denied the privilege of getting married in Israel, of making aliyah to Israel, of converting to Judaism, then it’s easy to stay in that bubble, never come out and not to worry daily about a future where your Judaism can be taken away from you or become so perverted, you almost wish it had.
But I am impressed and awestruck by what I see in many recent articles about the now infamous Israeli conversion bill. There has been so much, too much, miscommunication over this bill. I won’t even get into all the confusing details, which are easily Google-able. The facts are besides the point of this post.
What I see that impresses me is that it’s not just converts anymore who are writing about their stories and how the current conversion climate will affect them, their children and grandchildren. I see also people who are lucky enough to have been born Jewish coming to the defense of converts and potential converts worldwide.
I see these people who are lucky enough to have been born Jewish repeat over and over again that what affects converts ultimately affects the entire Jewish people, not just converts and their immediate family because the entire Jewish people IS a family. What happens to one Jew affects all Jews. It is a quick step from making the everyday lives of converts and potential converts miserable to making the lives of every Jew (born Jewish or not) miserable and making anyone and everyone’s Judaism suspect.
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
The Chief Rabbi of Israel responds to all the fuss over the conversion bill. (NY Times)