So what's missing? An in-person conversion community!
In a stroke of genius during such difficult times, the DC convert community pulled together and created a Meetup so they could be there for each other. By all accounts I heard, the Meetup has been a great success and a blessing to those who attended. Several of us in a Facebook group discussed growing this model to other cities, including NYC. I didn't really have time because of work and some personal things, so I waited to see what would happen.
A couple of months went by, and nothing happened. So because I'm a sucker for pain, I created the NYC Orthodox Conversion Meetup Group!
I originally intended to create a Meetup specifically for the Queens and Five Towns area because that's where I live, but it turns out that Meetup groups are very expensive! ($120/year! I have clearly not appreciated my other Meetup groups enough!) Because of the unlikelihood that we'll create 5 separate Meetup groups at that cost level, this group covers the entire NYC area, including Northern New Jersey and the Five Towns (just over the Queens border into Long Island, if you're not familiar with it - and yes, it's actually five separate towns).
That means the Meetups will rotate among these areas:
- the Five Towns
- Northern NJ (most likely staying in Teaneck)
Even though the events are locations-specific, you can attend any event that interests you and is convenient for you. Don't feel that you can only attend the Teaneck event if you live in NJ or the Manhattan event if you live in Manhattan. That is not the case! Come to as many events as you can! (And if you're coming into town on vacation, contact me, and I'll see if there's a Meetup while you're in town!)
There are currently 5 Meetups scheduled between this week and late March. Once you are approved to join the group, you'll be able to see specific information about the dates and times.
An important caveat: the group is limited to orthodox converts, orthodox conversion candidates, and people considering an orthodox conversion. The goal is to connect converts within the orthodox community; that way, we can deal with the special challenges and celebrate the special joys of living as a convert in the orthodox community. If you've left orthodoxy or converted outside the orthodox community, this group probably wouldn't be helpful or relevant to you unless you're considering joining an orthodox community.
Converts and candidates from all communities are welcome: modern orthodox, Yeshivish, Chassidic, Open Orthodox, and everything in between. I will do my best to schedule events at places that are acceptable to everyone's interpretation of halacha, and I may need help doing that. If you have specific requirements other than glatt kosher and chalav yisrael, please contact me to let me know. (Other than yichud and the food, I'm not aware of any halachic problems meeting in someone's home - please correct me if you know of any other concerns.)
Privacy is a key goal of the group, but nothing is perfect, especially in a community as large as NYC. My goal is that this will be a safe place to share your struggles and challenges and to celebrate your joys. An in-person community should have existed long before now, and I'm sorry I didn't think of it earlier. But then again, I'm a hermit, so perhaps this is all a terrible idea ;)
The first group of meetings are simple "meet and greets" where we'll meet for dinner and conversation and to discuss what you want to see from this group. I need ideas for events and locations, people!
However, there is one conversion group Meetup open to the public! We're going to watch the Israeli film Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amselem at Lincoln Plaza Cinema on Sunday, February 22. Because the schedule is only released one week at a time on Thursdays, I can't guarantee the time until later this week. I anticipate we will attend the 2:40pm showing. Meet out front at 2:30pm so we can grab seats. If you arrive later, we'll meet you after the show is over! Dinner afterwards to discuss the movie is optional but encouraged! (Give me restaurant suggestions! It seems that the pretty-universally-accepted restaurants I knew near there have closed, and I'm not sure how far people are willing to walk.)
Get denial should be a topic near and dear to the convert's heart, both because it's flat-out wrong and because get denial reflects the same powerlessness and abuse of power that can (and does) affect converts both here and abroad. Get denial and conversion abuse are cut from the same cloth. If both groups support each other, we can affect change for individuals and also for the whole group.