Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Converts to Judaism, Long Process

Davka, today as I quickly skimmed my me-ander blogroll, I noticed two posts about conversions, גיור  giyur.  I don't mean this as a Levy's Rye Bread ad, or "some of my best friends are..." but I do have quite a few friends and neighbors who are converts, Torah Jew converts.

Here in Shiloh, converts, like BT's (ba'alei tshuva, those Jews-like myself-who live Torah Jewish lives though we weren't raised that way) olim, immigrants from all over the world and those descended from generations in the HolyLand live together without labels and discrimination.  Of course there are various neighborhoods, groups of close friends and even cliques, but that exists all over and is very natural.  There are people you meet who are "instant friends" and those with whom it's hard to find anything to connect with.

In our Torah we're told to accept the convert and not remind him/her of the fact that they weren't born Jewish.  Chaviva has been writing about her life, her conversions for a few years.  She is very open about her feelings and experiences.  Social media is now an element in the saga of converts and according to Chaviva, there's a downside in all the openness.

Frum Satire is generally a light, ironic and purposely shocking blog, but Heshy has posted a guest post by someone in the process of converting which expresses the difficulties of being in that long winding tunnel going from being a goy, non-Jew to being a fully recognized Torah Jew*.

Both posts are worth reading and commenting on.  As I became religious I had an easier time, since it was just between me and G-d.  But coming from a Jewish home I had to deal with criticisms and comparisans.  Also there was/is the element that you "can be Jewish without" doing all that stuff.  Or "my religious friend/relative doesn't do -- so why do you?"

*Torah Jew, I use that term, rather than the American "Orthodox Jew" for a few reasons.  First of all, the term "Orthodox Jew" is an American label to distinguish it from Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist etc Jews.  In actuality, it doesn't exist in most other places.  It's not used in Israel except by those who know it from the states.  And I am Israeli, have been for close to 41 years.  Second is that there's nothing Jewish in that adjective "orthodox."  I prefer to describe myself as a Torah Jew, because I try to live following the G-d given Torah, not some governing board of an "Orthodox Jewish" organization. 


JDL London Canada said...

Batya, I sgree with you. The labels here really suck. We have a small Jewish community and when we get together we are all Jewish. Although we are shomer mitzvot(or Torah observant,as you say)my kid went with her friends from the conservative shul on a retreat and had a great time with other Jewish kids. She know where she's at and they respect her. Frankly this labelling horse-crap needs to stop. We have enough division as it is. Although I have zero tolerance for islam, if there's anything we can learn from muslims it's this: acceptance of the convert with open arms.They do it well and that's why they are growing in leaps and bounds.

Anonymous said...

Um, no.

There are labels for certain red lines.

Conservative, reform, reconstructionist, etc., are all valid labels for corrupt deviants of Judaism, which are no different than the Netinim, Tzedukim and Kara'aim of old.

I labeled the sects, not the Jews who associate themselves with them. But it's often hard to separate the 2, especially when there are so many non-Jews masquerading as Jews among them, because of these groups' invalid false conversions.

Nowhere here am I talking about a Ger Tzedek. The past years have been very rough for them in Israel but part of the reason is in politicians (and sometimes Rabbanim) thinking that mass conversions are the cat's meow.

JDL, the world's Muslim population is not growing because of converts. It's expanding by their high birth rates.

From everything I've been reading, it seems there are way more people running away from Islam when they can than running toward it.

Batya said...

jdl, would you want to be treated by a dr who doesn't believe in the basics of medicine?

Susan B said...

The problem with you using the term "Torah Jew" in the way you do is that all religious Jews, whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or whatever, study and take guidance from the Torah. Calling one group "Torah Jews" implies that only that group does this, which is patently false.

I don't love the term "Orthodox" either, but at least it feels a lot les misleading to me than reserving "Torah Jew" to refer to a minority of us.

Batya said...

Susan, "Orthodox" has no meaning outside of the United States. Different countries use different labels for the various "versions" of Judaism.
Considering that many Jews (and synagogue/temples) who consider themselves religious "Reform Judaism" don't follow Torah Laws of kashrut, Shabbat etc, I don't know how you can say "...all religious Jews, whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or whatever, study and take guidance from the Torah. Calling one group "Torah Jews" implies that only that group does this, which is patently false."

I don't see how to "take guidance" is the same as religiously observe/follow. I grew up in a very non-observant home.

Anonymous said...

Susan, here's some homework for you:

Who coined the term "Orthodox" to be used as it is today and what did it mean?

Susan B said...

Batya -

You know as well as I do that nobody follows all the laws of the Torah.

Many non-Orthodox Jews, including myself, follow many of the laws of the Torah, including many of the laws regarding kashrut and Shabbat, as well as many other laws.

You may follow more specifics as described in halacha, but I recognize that the laws of halacha were written by men, not God, and as such they have changed over time (or used to, until some people decided they should be frozen in time). Although I use them as a guide, I do not feel bound to them as some others do. But I would argue that is man-written halacha, not God-written Torah.

I say again, to say that only the Orthodox are Torah Jews is patently false.

Batya said...

Susan, so the dividing line is whether or not we credit G-d with the Torah. I consider the Torah as from G-d and do make every effort to follow every Law/Mitzvah. My failures are between me and G-d.

Susan B said...

I too consider the Torah as from God and I make every effort to follow every Law/Mitzvah, as I believe God wants me to follow them. My failures are between me and God.

I don't see the dividing line to which you refer. We are both Torah Jews by this definition. Thank you for helping me make my point.

Anonymous said...

Susan, what does that mean that "nobody follows all the laws of the Torah"?

If you're referring to pick-and-choose people, possibly a reform Judaism follower like yourself, that is a severe form of heresy for conscientiously rejecting one of Hashem's commandments. In halachic terms, eating a Twinkie because you can't resist is a far cry from what you do. Being a sinner by temptation does not equate with being a heretic.

That would be my elementary response to your March blog article: 613 Commandments - do we follow them?

You obviously think that the Oral Law is man made. You once again exclude yourself from Judaism's historic Torah observant camp, joining the Beitusim, Tzedukim and Netinim of the past.

Jewish FAQs on the Oral and Written Law. Not for naught, your reform movement's logic is very similar to that of christian missionaries and messyanic christians. Whatever suits you.

Playing semantic games with Batya about the word Torah only fools the most ignorant of Jews. It doesn't cut mustard here but it seems to make you feel better. Well, good for you.

You can call yourself what you want but it isn't Judaism and it certainly isn't Torah observance.

You can repeat your claim a million times over but it won't make the lie any truer.

You are being bamboozled by a 200 year old movement whose entire original purpose was to remove both Torah and Judaism from the Jews and make a mockery of both. The fact that they had to backtrack in order to keep on collecting membership dues should tell you something about the integrity of the movement which you associate with.

The decision is indeed between yourself and G-d but there are community consequences to you choices. Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh.

This is all under the assumption that you are even Jewish to begin with. Sorry I have to question that but the movement you belong to makes being called a Jew about as difficult as obtaining membership in the Mickey Mouse Club. So out of pure historical and statistical concerns, I have a valid reason to present this doubt.

Susan B said...

What I mean when I say that nobody follows the 613 commandments in the Torah is exactly what I say in the post you mentioned. Nobody follows about half of them, including the laws about sacrifices at the temple, and many of the laws about the priests, for example.

Insulting me and various forms of Judaism, or pretending the Torah or the Oral Law are something other than what they are, will not change the facts.

Anonymous said...

Not being able to observe a mitzvah due to present circumstances is your idea of defining someone as non-observant? Now that's funny! Silly but funny.

Most of us here aren't interest in playing your game of twisted semantics.

I called a spade a spade. How did you term it? Oh yeh: "Thank you for helping me make my point."


Susan B said...

I never said that not being able to follow a commandment makes a person non-observant.

JDL London Canada said...

Batya what is your point? What does medicine have to do with this? I'm talking about Jewish unity here.

Shy guy conversions are growing in islam and yes it is true of births.

Anonymous said...

JDL, besides the occasional news stories of Western converts to Islam being caught or killed during their terrorist extravaganzas, please site your source which says that more people are converting to Islam than leaving it and that the number of conversions has been on the rise in recent years versus past historic records.

Keep in mind how much more logistically complicated it is to figure out numbers leaving versus numbers converting.