Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Celebrate Your Conversion

Mazel tov! You must be getting close to your conversion if you're thinking about how to celebrate it!

My experience so far is that orthodox converts don't celebrate nearly as much as liberal converts. Make your interpretations as you will.

Nearly everyone has (or tries to have) a special meal with some friends and family. You will hopefully receive cards and congratulations from your friends and members of your community. Some may even make a contribution to the synagogue or to a charity on your behalf. Remember to write "thank you" cards or otherwise thank these kind people!

For men, things seem to be pretty standard: you'll almost certainly get an aliyah on your first Shabbat as an "official Jew." Some people choose to treat it almost like a bar mitzvah, and they'll spend the time training to lein (leyn, however you want to spell it) the Torah and lead at least one service on Shabbat. Anything beyond that is up to you!

For women, things are anything but standard. Be creative and do what makes you happy! Personally, I'd like to host something for myself akin to a Shabbat Kallah, where people gather on Shabbat afternoon and celebrate with food, games, and brachas (brachot, blessings)!

What I don't suggest? Don't immediately start calling the shadchans (matchmakers) to start looking for your beshert (soulmate)! There's a great Jewish idea: don't mix simchas. Enjoy this simcha for a little bit, at least a few weeks but preferably a couple of months, before starting the pain that can be the shidduch process!

Enjoy the glow of being newly-converted! Share brachot and kind words freely. Help others feel the joy you (hopefully) feel! And if your conversion was anticlimactic, let yourself "catch" the enthusiasm from those closest to you! Science shows that if you smile when you're not happy, you'll trick your brain into thinking you really are happy! You're like a kallah (bride) regardless of whether you're male or female, and you should share your particularly fresh closeness with Hashem by making a bracha for (or otherwise davening for) the people around you!


  1. IY"H it should happen for you soon, sweetie!

    I'm gonna demonstrate a little Jewish Hutzpa and add my two cents to your comment on shidduchim - and I hope you know that I say this with the utmost respect for all Orthodox converts and as someone who has dated a few - I think that even the most open-minded person would be wary of dating a BRAND new convert. Just like they say about couples who get married after living together for awhile, even if the ceremony "doesn't change" how they live, somehow, something DOES change. And even if you've been "doing Jewish" for years, it's possible that BE-ing Jewish will feel different. In my humble opinion, anyone who undergoes such a significant event needs time to let their new identity "gel" a bit, both emotionally/psychologically and in terms of their religious outlook/observance, before they can know themselves well enough to actively seek a shidduch - and before a prospective shidduch can feel comfortable dating them for marriage. This is certainly true for a "first conversion", though possibly less so if you previously underwent a liberal conversion and are now converting Orthodox...

  2. One thing I've noticed a lot of converts do for themselves as a way to celebrate is to invest in a nice piece of Judaica, jewelry especially! Most converts I know got like a nice magen david necklace right after they converted. I guess it's because they are now officially Jewish and want the whole world to know! I think setting side a little bit of cash to buy yourself something meaningful post conversion is a great thing. It's like a wedding ring, continuing with your kallah analogy -- it will be a physical reminder of the day that will live on a long time after the mikvah!

  3. Rgoldstand, I agree with your concern. And whether converts agree with it or not, they have to know and accept that this IS a common perspective in the Jewish community. That said, individual pressures can be very different and appear to be extreme on either end: either they want the convert to start dating within days or they want the convert to wait several months, a year, maybe more.

    And of course, I think most converts will agree this is a good general rule. However, we all think we're the exception to any rule because we know ourselves better than any stereotype could! :)

  4. I understand rgoldstand's concern, but I think it applies more to BTs than to converts. When a formerly non-frum Jew becomes frum, a potential shidduch will very legitimately need to ask, will he/she stick with it? But that very question - will they stick with it? - is the question that's asked by the conversion process itself. Converts have been made to jump through so many hoops already to demonstrate their sincerity and commitment that I think this needn't be a concern for others after the mikvah.

    I do agree, though, that practically speaking, it wouldn't be a good idea to start dating right away, since there may be some mitzvos that the convert is taking on for the first time (or doing fully for the first time), depending on the requirements of his/her bais din. For example, I've heard that some batei din will require that prospective converts not keep Shabbos fully until after the mikvah, and it seems to me that a convert would want to get at least a few months worth of full shmiras mitzvos as a halachic Jew under his/her belt before diving into shidduchim. You can't answer questions about your practice as a Jew if you didn't have a practice until last week!

  5. I really need to blog about dating and conversion ... but until then ...

    When I went to the mikvah for my Ortho conversion, I had my (now) husband and our two besties Susanne and Evan with us. After my dip, we celebrated by going to Bagels & Co. in NYC, ran into Alec Baldwin (sort of) and then I went on my merry way. Nothing special, but something special. If that makes sense!

  6. I had a liberal conversion and my big celebration was going to Target and buying two new towels for the mikvah visit. The synagogue had a small celebration with cookies after the stand in front of the Ark bit that they did. It was one of the most important days of my life, but it was low key and perfect the way it was.

  7. How about the traditional way Jews celebrate? Food! Do a "public" kiddush (as a welcome for/to the community) and a "private" kiddush for friends and family. I do like your suggestion for something akin to a Shabbos Kallah.
    B'ezrat HaShem: this your in the Mikveh and next year in Yerushalyim.