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Chaviva Galatz - Conversion: It's Not Just for Marriage Anymore


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  • Some faux-pas, questions never to ask, and what you need to know about Jews-by-Choice, aka converts, aka those people who get really annoyed because they show up to shul more than most born Jews :)
  • Never ask someone outright if they're a convert -- even if they're walking around talking about eating ham on Christmas when they were five years old. If it comes up, it comes up. 
  • Most people attribute the "don't ask a convert" bit to the command not to remind a person of their past sins and misdeeds. Before someone becomes a Jew, their sins are not tied to their later Jewishness. But it's still downright rude to ask or imply or interrogate someone until you get the answer you're looking for. We hate that.
  • So the truth is out. I spilled the beans at your Shabbos table. That means obviously that I trust you, and I've given you the ins and outs of my journey to Judaism. Does that give you the right to tell everyone in the community? No.
  • Yeah, it's cool. You respect me. You'd never be able to convert yourself. But seriously, it's mine to tell, not your's.  Tell about Shabbos in West Orange?
  • This one was crowd sourced. We aren't zoo animals or aliens. We do things just like you, so please don't stop and stare. 
  • If it comes up in conversation that I'm a convert, that's great. You want to hear my story? I'm super happy to tell you -- although some converts aren't because of the pain and drama involved in the process. So keep that in mind.
  • But whatever you do, please make sure that you're asking about my story at a time and in a place where it can be told. That means no at a loud kiddush, definitely not during Shabbos dinner when 30 kids are running around, or at the kotel on Shavuot. 
  • You asked for the story, I told it. Does that mean I'm ready for you to unload all of your own personal tragedy and drama on me? Not right now. Do I want to hear about your best friend's third cousin who converted and how traumatic it was for her? Probably not. 
  • Yes! We're diverse -- just like you! We're Latino, Black, Asian, Greek, Phillapino, you name it. But remember: Just because we make look Sephardic doesn't mean you should assume. Some of those Sephardi-looking folks are really Latino converts!
  • Difficulties on top of being a convert -- being a convert of color (blah blah blah) I pass easily, a lot don't.
  • Shocking! Some of us were athiests or buddhists, and some even found their way to Judaism through messianism. Shocking, I know. 
  • We don't all convert for marriage -- probably one of the BIGGEST pet peeves of married converts. However, sometimes the convert in the relationship becomes more impassioned and more zealous than the born Jew which is a tension in and of itself. But seriously, if your first question is "So, did you convert for marriage?" you're going to lose your audience and their respect pretty fast. 
  • Okay, so I pass. Okay, so I have curly hair. Okay, my schnoz is ginormous. "Obviously you've got Jews SOMEWHERE" in your family! We don't care. We've probably done the research, but for the convert, it doesn't matter how Jewish you don't or do look. So please don't comment on how lucky I am that I "look" Jewish. 
  • Kermit said it isn't easy being green, but he never converted to Judaism.  Conversion isn't easy. It really, really isn't easy. For many, it's so painful that the process never happens. It doesn't matter what route you go -- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, there are pains involved. We love support from born Jews, but if you haven't been there, you might never understand. Just love us, mmk?
  • We wish it was this easy. 
  • When I googled "we are Jew" this came up. Hilarious. But seriously, converts are Jews. We've had Jewish neshamot from Sinai, and once we're converted, we are just as Jewish as you, and so are our kids and families and neshamot. 
  • The conversion process is no cake walk, but integrating into the community can be harder. According to the midrash (Numbers Rabbah), ,"God has provided the convert with special protection, warning Israel to be very careful not to do any harm to converts, and indeed, it says, 'Love the convert' (Deuteronomy 10:19)… Thus God made clear safeguards so that converts might not return to their former ways [which God fears they might do if native Israelites treat them poorly]."Although some tannaitic midrashim voiced suspicions that the convert might fall back or that the convert might not entirely abandon his past beliefs, this later text places responsibility for backsliding converts squarely upon the native Israelites who disregard the protections that God put in place."
  • Chaviva Galatz - Conversion: It's Not Just for Marriage Anymore

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