Thursday, August 26, 2010

Introduction to Judaism

Before I get much further in this blog, I want to talk a bit about my journey thus far. It’s been kind of crazy.

When I was in High School, I met this girl (we’ll call her Anne), she told me she was Jewish and therefore I thought she was the coolest person ever! When I was younger, the idea of conversion didn’t even occur to me, I didn’t even know it was an option. “Jewish” was just something I wished I could be, but wasn’t. Anne introduced me to prayers and really what Judaism was (or what we thought it was). I had gone to Shabbat services with her a few times at our one and only reform synagogue in Bellingham and also to her friend’s house. I’m not sure how she knew this family, but they were Messianic Jews, and I went to a few Friday night dinners at their house. We would watch a movie about the New Testament and have a Shabbat dinner where we said a blessing to Yeshua (Jesus). Needless to say, it felt very weird to me. But I went a few times because it had some tie to Judaism, which I craved.

My freshman year of college, Anne introduced me to the Rabbi with WWU, through the Chabad organization. Anne told this Rabbi that I was Jewish, just as she had been telling me for years (one of the reasons I loved hanging out with her. She assured me that I was, in fact, Jewish, even though I wasn’t. I wanted to believe her.). Everything went fine that year; I went to services every Friday night and loved it. Here it was – a real Shabbat service, Here was Hebrew and Gefilte fish and Challah! I loved every minute.
 I remember in October Rabbi asked me who in my family was Jewish. He asked if my parents were and I said no. he asked about grandparents, and again I said no. Later that spring (2007), the idea of conversion finally came into my head. This was something that I could do! No, this was something that I was GOING to do. I was going to convert.
I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this, Anne had recently joined the Army and had left home, and I didn’t have any other Jewish friends so I went to the Rabbi’s wife, the Rebbetzin. I asked her what to do about conversion. She said that they don’t really encourage it, and after all I was only 19, why don’t I wait a few years and then re-evaluate things. She said they believed that I was born not-Jewish for a reason.
I took in everything, it all sounded fine to me. After all, I was only 19 and I had just started college. I was fine waiting because I knew I would convert one day. If it wasn’t right then, well that was fine.
Then I asked her if I could still keep coming to Shabbat, even though I’m not Jewish. She said “Yes, of course. You will always be welcome in our home.”

Less than a week later I got an e-mail from the Rabbi. He said that we needed to have a conversation and I can’t go back to Shabbat until we have this conversation. I was shocked, but agreed to have this conversation. I tried to set up a time to talk. He said that his wife was in New York and we couldn’t have this conversation till she got back. In the mean time, I could not come to Chabad. So I waited until I knew the Rebbetzin was home, and tried again. Well, he said, the High Holy Days were coming up and he was extremely busy and we’d have to wait till after they were over. I sent him e-mails. I called about once a week (I didn’t want to bother him too much). Nothing. He never got back to me; he kept pushing me off until finally I gave up. I was in my sophomore year of college and up to my eyeballs in work, so I stopped calling.

I didn’t go to Shabbat for two years.

My senior year of college I moved in with three Jewish women who all went to Chabad. I told them my story and they offered insight. As they had all been going to Shabbat for the past few years, they found out what happened. They told me that since my friend Anne told the Rabbi I was Jewish, when he found out that I wasn’t, he thought that I had lied to him and that’s why he wouldn’t let me come back. However, I was friends with one of the other girls who told the Rabbi and Rebbetzin that, if there had been a miscommunication, it was a mistake; I surely wouldn’t lie to them. Basically, she vouched for me. The Rebbetzin believed her but the Rabbi still wouldn’t let me come back.      
My senior year we had another Rabbi come to WWU. I started going back to Shabbat and I made sure that new Rabbi and his wife knew that I wasn’t Jewish, right from the get go, so there was no confusion, so there wouldn’t be a repeat of my freshman year.

Though I gave up on the idea of going to Shabbat for those two years, I didn’t give up on the idea of Judaism. I checked out other religions. I went to a few catholic and protestant services. I sat in on a Pagan service. I looked, I did my research. Nothing felt the way Judaism feels to me.

So there it is; the whole sad, sorry tale. And I’m still here. I’m still converting.

High Holy Days

I joined the choir at Town and Village synagogue. We’re going to do the High Holy Days services. I’ve gone to two choir practices so far, not nearly enough for the perfectionist in me to feel ready to perform them, however Cantor Postman gave us CDs with recordings of our parts so that we can practice, which will help.
            Tonight at T&V Cantor Postman is going to basically explain the music that will be sung at the services; what the English translation of the music is, the significance of the songs to the services etc which I’m really excited for. One of my biggest struggles with services is the fact that, since I can’t read Hebrew and I haven’t been going to shul for very long, I don’t know any of the prayers or songs. Most of the time during Shabbat services I just hum along, or read the English but it frustrates me immensely. I want to be able to not only recite the Hebrew prayers/blessing but understand what I’m saying. Tonight will be good because that is exactly what I’m going to learn. I need to know what it is I am singing about exactly. I want to be able to connect with the liturgy and the meaning behind the music, and this will help me with that.
            It’s all about connection. I realized that a few years ago. My search for Judaism is a search for a connection; a connection with God, with other people, with music. Life is all about connections. 

Friday, August 20, 2010


Hello Blogosphere! 
            Some things you should know about me:
-         I am not Jewish by blood
-         I am Jewish at heart
-         I am converting
-         I am allergic to Gluten.
        However, this blog is going to deal mainly with the first three bulletins. I got this idea from a woman I met at Shabbat last week. I am converting to Judaism; I decided that a long time ago. The only reason I haven’t started the process yet is that I was in school for most of my life. I decided to wait to start the conversion process until after I finished college, which I did, last June. The reason for this is that, my sources tell me, the conversion process takes a year of intensive study. Well, I was already doing that. So I waited until I finished that study to start this next, more important (to me) study.
      I graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington and then moved to New York City because I could, because I have big dreams, because I love New York City, and because as much as I love Bellingham, if I had to stay there any longer I would have screamed. The time simply came for me to move on. So I did.  
      I went to Shabbat last week at this synagogue off of 1st street- the Town and Village Synagogue. I had wanted to go to a synagogue since I arrived here. I wanted to pray and basically just to be with God for a while. The service started and the Cantor, Shayna Postman, had the most beautiful voice. I don’t know Hebrew, I don’t know any of the prayers she was singing and therefore couldn’t really sing with her, but I listened and I took it in and it was just wonderful. I had found it. I found a sense of home that I only get at a synagogue.
      More than that, I had found other converts like myself. When I was in Bellingham and told people I was going to convert, they always asked “Why.” I understand that they were curious and they all meant well by it but I was so sick of trying to answer that question. Because I couldn’t. My reasons for converting are so hard to articulate. A phrase I heard in a Tarot book (oh yeah, I read Tarot cards too) was “a great truth you can’t put into words” and that’s exactly what this is. It’s impossible for me to explain my decision to convert to anyone, but I just know it to be the truth. It’s what’s right for me.
      With these other people, other converts like me; I didn’t have to explain, because they got it. They understood because they’re on the same page, or very similar pages.

      So long story short- this is going to be a blog about my experience through the conversion process. It might not actually start for a little while, as the High Holidays are coming up and I’ll likely wait until after that to start everything. Plus the classes cost money, and I don’t really have that at the moment. But when something happens, I’ll let you know.