Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Strength of the Convert

I'm normally all doom and gloom (or so I'm perceived), but do you realize how amazing you are? Really. You. Well... Convert You and Conversion Candidate You. I'm sure the rest of you are amazing too, but we'll discuss it some other time.

Converts are such a great strength to our community, and it should appreciate you. There is dispute over how many times the Torah says that you should love the ger, but 36 is a frequently cited number. Why should the Jewish community love you? (Of course, not all reasons will apply to all people.)

  • Well, for one, you're really good looking.
  • You bring much-needed genetic diversity, especially to the Ashkenazi community.
  • You're often young, and many communities need youth.
  • You bring variety to the shidduch process.
  • You inspire born-Jews to embrace their heritage and see that it has meaning in the modern world.
  • You challenge born-Jews to make the same choice and commitment you made.
  • You reassure frum-from-birth Jews of the value of Torah because (presumably reasonable) people do choose this path without being born into it.
  • You have incredible strength to have chosen this path and stuck with it. Do you realize how much strength that required? Very little is beyond your strength to overcome.
  • If you left the faith of your family, that shows such inner strength, conviction, and fortitude. It takes a lot to leave what is comfortable and what people you love say is "right," in order to find the truth. 
  • Sometimes it takes the same amount of effort and strength when you leave an atheist or secular agnostic background. It is perhaps more humbling to be seen as someone who has "regressed to superstition."
  • Speaking of, you know a thing or two about humility and how to eat humble pie gracefully. 
  • You have a stiff neck thanks to plenty of exercise.
  • You might just raise the next generation to reject "Jewish time" and actually arrive when the invitation says.
  • You bring necessary experience and perspective to the table. Torah discussions are very boring if each person has had the same experience and the same exposure (all wholesome, of course). Some groups may find that to be a worthy goal, but I do not. I think the sufferings, the joy, the relationships we've had all shed fresh light on eternal concepts and help deepen the discussion for everyone so that the Torah can be applied to new experiences. All can be for the good.
  • You bring a perspective of the non-Jewish world that the Jewish community needs.
  • You (but not me) bring a spiritualism and energy to our community and help people realize that a personal relationship with Gd is (the? a?) goal. 
  • You know how wine and cheese should taste and that is helping raise the taste/availability standards in the kosher community. 
  • You know that a restaurant is supposed to please the customer, and that is starting to change too. Though slower.
  • You probably brought us sushi, and I thank you for that with all my heart.
  • You are the closest many Jews will ever get to being a "light to the nations." You may be the only orthodox Jew that your friends or relatives ever meet. That is a tremendous privilege (though it may sometimes feel like a burden).
  • You are probably one of the most committed people in your community, disproportionately volunteering for the community and serving on boards.
  • You have a special role in Gd's plan for the world. Yes, you.
  • You were called, and you answered. 
  • You overcame the doubt, the opposition, the fears, and you have grown in ways many people can only imagine.

You're awesome. Now go get yourself a cookie. You deserve it.


  1. This is so nice! And funny - "You might just raise the next generation to reject 'Jewish time' and actually arrive when the invitation says."

    Gosh, I hope so.

  2. Many other ethnic groups think they have a monopoly on being consistently late for everything. Probably everybody except for Germans, Austrians, and perhaps the Swiss, because they have all those watches.

    1. As a native Swiss, I take umbrage at the fact that you consider Austrians to be punctual .... on the other hand, they gave us the pleasure of Sacher Torte, which makes up for a lot :)

    2. As a native Swiss, I take umbrage at the fact that you consider Austrians to be punctual .... on the other hand, they gave us the pleasure of Sacher Torte, which makes up for a lot :)

  3. I respectfully suggest that ex-Christians who converted to Orthodox Judaism
    have a special ability, and therefore a special obligation, to help Jews get OUT
    of “Jews for Jesus’-type organizations, and back IN Judaism.

    The ex-Christians converts to Orthodox Judaism should not do this alone,
    but instead in co-operation with anti-missionary organizations like:
    Outreach Judaism (Rabbi Tovia Singer), Jews for Judaism, Penina Taylor,
    and Yad L’Achim.

    Relevant web sites include:

  4. it's unfair to treat those of us who were drawn to Messianic Judaism as second class citizens, Mr. Cohen! Some of us have found our everlasting connection to hashem THROUGH Messianic Judaism. Met our spouses there, etc. I would argue that, while unorthodox, each person has to identify is own spiritual path for connecting to hashem. I was reminded of this by my rabbi, who went from reform to orthodox to Messianic. That's where he was able to commit to a lifelong relationship with hashem. You can never know where someone else belongs in this world, you can only know where you belong!


    1. I don't think it's treating you as "second class citizens." It is treating you as people who do not belong in Judaism, which I believe. Putting it in colloquial language of the day, those organizations are acting as border patrol to keep out those illegal entrants who would try to undermine our religious communities. These organizations are like anti-terrorism units or cult deprogramming therapists. Getting to Gd is a good thing. Putting a man between you and Gd is not, and the belief in Jesus as messiah undermines the core principles of belief of Judaism. I do not judge Christians harshly, but I do judge harshly those who try to hijack our religion in the name of Christianity and conversion or Jews. Furthermore, Messianic Judaism is cultural appropriation (both offensive and annoying), but that is a different discussion. Christianity has its religion and we have ours (and Jesus would not recognize Judaism as it is practiced today either by Jews or Messianic Jews).

  5. "You bring variety to the shidduch process."

    I'm not sure the powers-that-be would consider that a good thing.

  6. You omitted a most important reason in your list, and that is that some of the greatest Jews, including great sages, e.g., Onkelos, derived from Gentiles.