Jewish Soul, Jewish Choice, Jewish DNA?

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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.

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6 responses »

  1. No pidas disculpas por ser como eres ni por pensar como piensas ni por sentir como sientes. Es muy afortunado para todos los implicados en esta historia, que tu “entrada al judaísmo” te mueva a tanta reflexión. Eso significa que no lo haces a ciegas, que no lo haces para complacer o calzar en las expectativas de nadie, que estás ejerciendo tu voluntad libre y soberana. Dócil no seas, cuestiona, duda, piensa. Sigue tus impulsos y sentimientos, pero detente, toma aliento y reflexiona. Por eso siempre te forcé y estimulé a leer, a estudiar, para que alimentaras la mente, para que cuando no tuvieras la piel tersa y los ojos tan brillantes, todavía quedara la permanente belleza de la luz interior, de la inteligencia, la reflexión, la curiosidad… esa es la verdadera fuente de la eterna juventud y no el botox 🙂
    Esa riqueza interior tuya, esa inteligencia, tu falta de prejuicios, tu mente librepensadora es la que está haciendo de este proceso que has elegido, algo tan complejo, incluso contradictorio y absolutamente más rico. Yo estaría realmente preocupada por la sinceridad de tu conversión si aceptaras todo como una ovejita mansa sin sustos ni dudas.
    El primer compromiso de sinceridad es con uno mismo, con quien uno tiene que quedar bien antes que con nadie o nada es con uno mismo. Si eres sincera contigo misma, no serás falso con nadie (creo que Shakespeare en Hamlet). Eso tiene su precio porque si eres sincera de verdad contigo mismas y actúas en consecuencia con eso, no vas a quedar bien con muchos y tienes que vivir con eso. ¡Y cómo duele, mi niña!
    También fue muy doloroso dejar nuestra patria y tanta gente querida detrás para poder decir en voz alta y sin miedo lo que pensamos y para poder ejercer libremente nuestra voluntad y escoger individualmente nuestra ruta en la vida. Hay que practicar esa libertad para que ese sacrificio enorme haya valido la pena.
    Y si quieres el consejo de una madre sin religión (sin lo que social y convencionalmente se conoce como religión porque atesoro una fe libre, humana e individual) que contempla entre asustada, incrédula y admirada la conversión al judaísmo de una hija que crió como una librepensadora, haz de tu casa un hogar de familia, llena tu casa de amor de madre, de buenas costumbres, de decencia y sentimientos nobles. Deja que tus hijos crezcan libres y soñadores, que conozcan gentes diferentes, que piensen diferente y hablen otras lenguas, que sepan que el mundo es enorme y lleno de variantes y de formas de practicar la fe y la bondad. No los metas en una caja con una etiqueta que diga “somos …”, dales el mundo. Y cuando tengan la edad suficientes serán hombres y mujeres tan buenos, reflexivos y sensibles como tú, capaces, entonces, solo entonces, de escoger y abrazar (o no) una fe religiosa específica ejerciendo su voluntad con inteligencia y libertad.
    Pregúntate a ti misma, busca en ti algunas de esas respuestas, unas buenas verdades deben andar por ahí dando vueltas y no dejes que nada nuble tu testaruda intención de ser sincera.
    Te quiero siempre

    • Ma, que bonito lo que has escrito, creo que te voy a dejar a ti escribir este blog. Espero algun dia poderle dar a mis hijos todo lo que tu describes. Para mi persona fue tan importante que tu me diste tanta libertad para descubrirme que nunca se la quisiera negar a tus nietos. Creo tambien que es muy importante que piense y pregunte durante este proceso (y despues). Es una de las cosas que mas me gusta de esta religion, que todas esas preguntas y preocupaciones son bienvenidas.

      Thank you for always being so encouraging. I love you.

  2. y por eso me encanta esta familia tan divina que dios me ha dado…. thought provoking amazing woman that i love and adore.
    las quiero mucho
    siempre
    pola

  3. I so loved reading this at a time in which my heart is broken. My son, a Reform Jew, has decided to convert to Catholicism for his wife. I am praying that he’s just having a spiritual crisis, and that he has a Jewish soul.

    • Wendy, I am sure that this is extremely hard for you. I’ve experienced it from parents who raised their children in a certain religion and they are converting to Judaism. It’s definitely a complex issue and as an outsider the most I can hope for your son is that he is doing it for himself and not for his wife. I am obviously biased because I feel my soul has always been Jewish and I have found a home in Judaism, and particularly in Reform Judaism, but perhaps he found something in Catholicism he connected to. I think the best you can do is be there for him and help him make the right choice for him. And the most important thing is that you don’t feel like he is rejecting you or the upbringing and guidance you provided. Inevitably, he will always be Jewish and you will always be there.

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