For the occasional person who stumles on this blog, I am writing about the experience of learning Hebrew over at:
Come for the Hebrew, stay for the weight lifting.
As you can see, I don’t really update this blog anymore. I’m still a ger, still learning about Judaism, and still blogging, but I am focusing my energies on my bookish blog The Fox Hill Review. Over there I and some friends write about books and all things bookish. I often discuss books related to Judaism and Jewish history so if you want to follow my thoughts on this subject, hop on over there.
Yesterday I wrote a short post about how I hadn’t heard from my Rabbi about my conversion essay and then, hours after posting, I got a reply. Rabbi, are you reading my blog?
Anyway, he seemed to like the essay and had no real edits of it, so we’re on for a meeting with the Beit Din at the end of June. I’m considering posting my conversion essay here so others can get a sense of what one would look like. Look for that early next week.
For me, the conversion process has been a lot of hurry up and wait. I submitted my conversion essay to my rabbi over a month ago and have yet to get any feedback on it. I spoke with him on the phone earlier this week, and he admitted not having looked at it. Passover and paying gigs got in the way. I understand. As of now, I am not in a terrible hurry, I mean, I would like to get this process underway, but with my wedding still a year away, I think I have time.
This weeks interesting ger is Jamaica Kincaid, African American novelist, big time gardener, and convert to Judaism.
Kincaid who is probably most famous for her novels Lucy and Annie John hasn’t spoken much in public about her conversion. I read a number of pieces by Kincaid in college, but never once heard she was Jewish until I started doing research for this Interesting Gers project. It seems to be a very personal topic for her and she’s been quoted as saying “I don’t know why, but I do feel that God is a private issue.”
Though Shawn and Kincaid have divorced, Kincaid is still active in her Reconstructionist Shul in Vermont, reading her work at various services. Somehow it seems fitting that a woman who has had a life as interesting as Kincaid’s finds herself at home in a congregation which has an interesting history of its own.
Since I stopped updating regularly here, I’ve taken substantial steps toward converting in the conservative movement. I’ll give you a recap of how all this went down.
First, around the time of my last post, I had started attending conversion class with a conservative rabbi h ere in the D.C. It was a great experience. The class was roughly half couples in the same situation as E and I, where one half of the couple was Jewish by birth and the other was considering conversion. (interesting note – I was the only man seeking conversion; in all the other couples it was the woman who was converting). The other half of the class was single woman going through the conversion process by themselves. The class was an overview of Jewish theology and tradition as well as a place to discuss the challenges faced in conversion. Issues of melding the families, handling Christmas, raising kids, etc. were discussed at length along with the rules of kasrut and how to pray the sh’ma. I gained an enormous amount from the class and now, two months after the class ended, I am still processing and attempting to remember all the information I learned there.
Converting to Judaism can be an overwhelming process. If you’re like me, you know the broad outlines of the faith, but there is so, so much to learn. It can seem daunting. Taking in the outlines of Judaism is a classroom environment was very helpful for me, and I’d recommend it to anyone else considering conversion. Working one on one with a rabbi (which is the stage I am in now) is essential, but I think if you’re starting from square one, a classroom setting is a good way to go.
As the class ended in February, I met with the Rabbi one on one. That conversation was both an examination of where I am in my journey and a discussion of next steps.
E and I are at this point living some of the traditions. We’re celebrating Shabbat when we can (E and I are often separated on Friday night due to her being in NYC and me being in DC), but we’re not regular members of a synagogue, and I cannot read Hebrew. Me learning Hebrew and us finding a shul in which we feel comfortable are the next concrete steps we need to take and I hope, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be going before the beit din by the end of the summer.
Five months is a long time. A lot has happened, an awful lot.
At first I thought I would use this space to talk about the trials and tribulations of conversion. What worried me about the prospect and what excited me. But I got cold feet. By the third post, this blog was getting alot of hits and I got worried that in the relatively small world of people converting to Judaism in the D.C. area, someone in my conversion class, or even the rabbi with whom I am working, was going to run across it. So I clammed up. I took a conversion class and decided officially to convert. Throughout I kept my thoughts about the process to myself. Now, I think it is time to jump back in. I feel more confident about my conversion and less worried about who will know my concerns about the process. Today, I’d be happy to have the Rabbi I am working with read this blog.
My excitement about my conversion and about Judaism in general has never waned, and I thought this could be a good space to talk once again about Judaism, Jewish history, what it means to convert, and the mechanics of doing so.
So, hello again. I hope someone decides to read this thing.