Monday, October 25, 2010

The Question on Everyone Else's Mind When Talking to Converts

The Question on Everyone Else's Mind When Talking to Converts (especially female converts)...

"So...who're you converting for?"

I suppose I'm not totally one to talk since I'm technically a stereotype. Yes, an ex-boyfriend brought me to the Jewish people, at least initially (and much to his dismay). However, he didn't remain in the picture long after that point, and almost six years later after he was gone, here I still am.

Yet every conversation that reveals that I'm a convert always results in the other person asking, some people more subtly than others, whether I'm dating a Jew. And when it's inevitably revealed that I'm an eligible bachelorette (though not currently interested in dating), they begin the process of trying to figure out whether a Jewish man is responsible for bringing me into the Tribe.

This is equally true of Jews and non-Jews, but the Jews seem to be much bolder than the non-Jews. Me being Southern, perhaps a lot of the non-Jews feel restricted by silly things like politeness. However, a very kind Englishwoman suggested that the English would find these topics to be too personal. So perhaps it's an American thing too? I wonder if that geographic division holds true in the Jewish community as well, since I find that most of the Jewish community have absolutely no qualms about asking incredibly personal questions. Perhaps it has to do with me because I have such a friendly face and am very open about my life.

The weirdest part? Men and women are equally guilty. I always expected this to be the realm of gossip-hungry women, but the men ask exactly the same awkward questions. And usually, their questions are even more awkward. Occasionally, this results in really inappropriate comments. The inappropriate comments have a gender division: women tend to make the heartless comments, but men tend to make the vulgar comments (yes, really, though generally not in the observant community because of tznius). Pick your poison as to which is worse, I suppose.

Interestingly, none of the Jews I speak to (regardless of observance level) seem to think it's a bad thing for a potential convert to discover Judaism through an interfaith relationship. Of course, the observant Jews would probably react differently if they weren't meeting me as an orthodox convert. People are very supportive that a Jew introduced me to the Jewish people, and they always want to tell me about all the wonderful family members they've gained from the Gentile world (but they usually only tell me about the converted ones).

Perhaps these Jews think we converts are insane to be choosing Judaism, so there must be a more "practical" reason behind it. And if that's true, there's no reason for them to look closer at their own faith and practice. Ah, human nature and its desire for the path of least resistance. (I think this is true of all "kinds" of Jews, except the BTs who have already made this "crazy" choice.)

But let's look deeper. Why is this a stereotype?

I'll be the first to admit I'm more against interfaith dating than your average Jew. However, I realize that many converts begin in an "interfaith relationship." (I wish there were a better term since many of these relationships include people, even the Jew, who are not practicing any religion.)

However, someone (I have no idea who) once told me that he or she had a theory about this. Non-Jews who come to Judaism through dating a Jew weren't dating that Jew by accident. It's an expression of the "Jewish spark" in their soul; a way for that spark to draw us back to our rightful place within the Jewish people. Of course, most non-Jews dating Jews never consider conversion at all, so are those few incredible additions to the Jewish people worth the harms caused as a byproduct? That's not for me to say, and quite frankly, I don't know.

As they say, HaShem works everything out in the end, right?


  1. All the women I've met in my synagogue who are currently converting, pointed our their fiances from across the room. Then there's little lonely me, wanting to convert because it is who I am and where I belong. I've never dated a Jewish man. I only desire conversion so that I can be who I know I am meant to be. It's nice to read there is at least one other woman out there like me. I thought I was the only one. :)