This week something unexpectedly hit me like a ton of bricks… like a falling piano… like an angry rushing bull. I was at work, doing some completely unrelated research, when I wondered what role my conversion would play on my progeny. I honestly don’t know what brought it on, but it totally freaked me out. So I emailed my rabbi, but was quickly reminded she was out of town when I got the not so helpful auto-reply.
I know, or maybe I hope, that my future children will be considered Jewish by those who matter in my life. Still, I want for at least 2/3 of the largest movements within Judaism to recognize my children as Jewish. After all I have chosen to go through I want my choice to be recognized and I want my bloodline to be accepted. I know the Reform movement will generally accept my children without a second thought, especially because their presumptive future father is Jewish, but what about the Conservative movement? Will my boyfriend’s family, friends, and fellow members of his congregation accept our children? Accept my choice? My rebirth? I know I can’t actually change my DNA, I can’t make it Jewish, but I have made a choice and part of that choice was due to my future family. I wanted a Jewish home. I don’t want to make this choice, raise my family Jewish, and then have my children learn they are not really Jewish enough for some Jews.
I have read a lot of complex articles about this topic, and the general advice is go the Orthodox conversion route. I can’t do that, it’s not for me. I can go to the next logical step, a Conservative conversion. My boyfriend generally feels he is more connected to the Conservative movement. His family is generally Conservative (although some are Orthodox) and back home he attends a Conservative synagogue. I have actually gone to his synagogue and it’s very nice; I know what’s going on, I enjoy my time there, I really enjoy sharing the experience with his family. Still, that’s not where I feel most at home, most alive, most complete. I want to be Reform.
Sure, at first it was sort of a merely logical choice. The Reform movement seemed to me to be the most welcoming to converts, most fair to women, and most importantly the rabbi I gravitated to (and feel a strong connection with) is Reform. So I began to attend a Reform temple, spend time with Reform Jews, read URJ articles, take a URJ class, and feel a kinship with Reform Judaism and its members.
I love Reform Judaism, I love the principles that led to its establishment. Reform Judaism values tradition and community, but does not seclude itself. It is an inclusive group with a strong belief in equality. Perhaps it is too easy that Reform Judaism fits me and my ideas, but I could never be part of a group that excludes, that judges, that treats some better than others. I could never feel any affinity towards a group that believes that G-d plays favorites. I strongly believe in women’s rights, I strongly believe in gay rights, I strongly believe in acceptance and empathy and I feel like Judaism aligns with those ideals.
I have met numerous converts on my journey and not all feel as if they fit into the Reform movement. Many have fallen in love with the close observance of the Orthodox, others feel connected to the respect for tradition of the Conservative, while I have fallen deeply and madly in love with the openness of Reform Judaism. At the end of the day the members of all of these movements are all Jewish, they are Jews who make different choices as to how they practice their faith.
So sure, I could convert into a movement that would cover all of my bases, but I don’t think it would be sincere. Or I could try to feel more connected to Conservative Judaism, which is not too different from Reform, and convert under their guidelines, but why should I when I have found such a loving and diverse community I deeply love? Perhaps I can’t have it both ways. Perhaps I will be forced to choose between my children’s identity and my own, but I don’t know how I would ever explain to them that I did something so that they could be accepted by a group whose ideas I disagree with. But what if my children and my children’s children feel more connected to Conservative Judaism? It is my intention to raise my children in an open, accepting, welcoming household. I don’t want them to feel like they are stuck with my choices, I don’t want to limit who they are or who they want to become. I am continuously thankful that my parents gave me almost absolute freedom to become whatever I felt was right. I got to choose my career, my faith, my partner without question or judgment, they trusted they’d given me the tools to make wise choices.
I don’t take my struggle lightly, much like I don’t take my choice to convert lightly. I like to consider these issues, I like to make sure I know as much as possible. Perhaps I can ask my rabbi to perform my conversion more closely following halakhah (something I think I would like anyway, as I should be observant of Jewish law) and hope that this way it is accepted by the Conservative movement, for the sake of not limiting or denying my boyfriend and our future children something they may want. I eagerly look forward to the return of my rabbi, so I can once again bombard her with questions, she must be used to it by now.
I hope this blog is not offensive to anyone, it is not in any way my intention, I am merely expressing my feelings. There’s a saying in Spanish para los gustos se inventaron los colores y para escoger, las flores (very roughly translated: colors were invented to meet tastes and to choose, flowers) and it refers to the idea that variety was created because there are so many varying opinions. My feelings are mine, my soul connects to one thing, my mind has opinions about others, but I don’t think my opinion is superior to that of anyone else. I hate to post a sort of disclaimer, but upon reading what I had written I felt as if it could be misconstrued, hurtful, ignorant. I want this space to be a place where I share my thoughts, my feelings, my opinions, my struggles, my triumphs. I don’t want to edit myself, but I don’t want to hurt anyone.