Today, I'd like to take a minute to discuss something that I believe is important to clarify.
From a comment: "There is a lot of pain involved with conversion for many people, but I've noticed time and again that you don't seem to see this. Human feelings and embarrassment and dignity are a PART of halacha... I've read a lot of your blog posts, and I have to say, I think that you have a narrow view--your own point of view--but I find that you don't sympathize with the point of view of other converts. Not everyone else wants to be "outed" or "out there." Some of us were raised believing we were Jewish. Some of us ARE Jewish, like me, but due to lack of documentation, are not considered Jewish. Some of us have been tormented, teased, and degraded for not having the right paper work."
For the record, I suppose I should be glad that in 10 months, 275 posts, and 97,000 page views, this is the first negative contact I've received. However, I believe it was a valid point to consider. If it had been a nut-job comment with no possible basis in reality, I wouldn't have been bothered by it. So I wanted to tell you guys a little bit about me, in hopes of clarifying how I approach these kinds of problems.
First - I can only have my own view. I'm afraid I can't apologize for that one. I try to be sympathetic, but not everyone will feel sympathized with. To be perfectly honest, I'm a pretty blunt person. I do my best to sympathize, but at the end of the day, I value the truth over placating people with empty half-truths. But I try to strike a balance. And I don't bother giving the truth if someone won't listen to it. (Halacha is pretty smart there.)
However, I can assure you that I have suffered too. I don't share everything on this blog (or anywhere else for that matter), by a long shot. While my challenges have not been as difficult as those of some, they've certainly been worse than others. My own problems have been largely unique compared to the other stories I've heard in the conversion world. This means that I face unique challenges in dealing with these problems, both with the people involved and emotionally. I have to face situations without precedent. In other words, there is no accepted protocol on how to fight the situation. I'm up the creek without a paddle. And it hurts.
As for understanding that not everyone wants to be "outed," when I speak to others about my status in real life, I always preface it with the fact that I am unusual in being willing to speak about it. I tell them that most people aren't comfortable talking about it. I understand that not everyone wants to discuss it. However, I talk about it because I believe that education and demystification is the most effective way of changing things. I am one of the unusual people comfortable speaking about it, so I feel a particular responsibility for answering the questions other people don't want to. These questions seem natural to them, so it might as well be me answering them. My primary reason for starting the blog was for speaking to conversion candidates who feel alone as I did, but I have found many secondary benefits, including acting as a kind of guinea pig for Jews who want to know more about the people who choose conversion.
I am opposed to people who "blame the victim" for becoming rightfully upset by the poor behavior of others. However, not everyone with a poor choice of words intentionally hurt you. And sometimes, when we're in a particularly bad spot, maybe we shouldn't have been upset. There is a lot of education to be had in the Jewish community, I agree. However, I don't agree that stating someone is a convert is reminding them of a bad past, which is what the halacha is forbidding. Your past should (hopefully) not embarrass you. In fact, it would violate halacha to presume that your past is embarrassing. (For instance, that you are a recovering drug addict/sex fiend.) You were not obligated to the mitzvot pre-conversion, so eating shrimp (or even pre-marital sex) before is not an embarrassment. Being a convert should be a badge of honor, and most people who would say you are a convert use it in that way. If they don't, they're violating the halacha. But let's not accuse everyone of violating halacha when a) they did not intend embarrass you and b) they had no reason to believe you would be embarrassed by it. Granted, this is a huge oversimplification. At the end of the day, there are differences of opinion among both the rabbis and the converts. That's Judaism: 2 Jews, 3 opinions. Thankfully for all of you, I am no posek, so my halachic positions are irrelevant to you. And I try to tell you when there are halachic debates that I know of. I am a blogger, nothing more.
I admit that my general optimism is suspicious. Even I don't understand why I generally lack the horror stories shared by so many people. (Though I shared a few of the more standard ones here.) However, the problems I face are as serious as they come. But they come from people whose opinion means nothing to me. I suspect mental or emotional instabilities that mean that their statements/actions actually have nothing to do with me as an individual. I am a convenient target that fulfills some other emotional need, nothing more. And despite the harm they have caused me in the short term, I triumph in the end. Because I'm doing the right things with the right intent as best as I know how. I'm stronger because of them, even though I may not have wanted the lesson. It's not fair, but that's life.
I refuse to take the halachic violations of a few and impute those halachic violations to others. Just because some people act poorly doesn't mean everyone is acting poorly. Every person and situation should be judged individually. I believe that is an underlying theme of halacha: even the slightest change of facts can completely change the halachic analysis and result. I love that. Judaism takes us where we are and requires us to analyze each situation on its own merit, rather than making sweeping generalizations.
I read about a survey once that said people who expect the world to treat them well generally believe that the world actually does treat them well. I believe I am one of those people. Maybe I see the good that others miss and am willing to overlook the bad things that don't really matter. I don't believe that my existence is somehow objectively better than other people's, but I certainly seem to view it more favorably. In fact, if you polled my Facebook friends, you would find that I am somewhat famous for finding little joys and turning the bad situations into funny stories. I consider it a survival technique for reasons none of you will ever know.
In short, this is my philosophy of life: I am responsible for my own happiness.
So at the end of the day, I'm just me. Take it or leave it. I've lost friends for worse reasons.