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.

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