Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bullying Within the Conversion Community: The Enemy Within

An important read from the other convert blogger named Chavi: The Real Danger? Other Converts.

From the post: "I don't know if it's new, but all of the conversion crises talk has exacerbated this self preservation to the point that converts, in some communities, have become bullies. It is the classic case where the bullied become the bullies. What do I mean? A conversion candidate posts something online in a safe space in confidence or maybe shares a struggle with a friend. It is nothing major, maybe about doing something on Shabbos while struggling to take on observance or gripe about your experiences in the process. But someone in that community sees or hears about it. They tell your rabbi, community members, friends, and eventually you are chastised by your beth din, and, in severe cases, your mikvah is canceled."

I was a victim of convert bullying. It's ridiculous and childish, just like all bullying. The lesson: No one is safe, and be careful what you share, even when you think it is a safe space. On the other hand, the pettiness and childishness of bullies will not stop me from being who I am and saying what I think is important to say. I pick my battles carefully, and a little anonymous muckraking will not change what I say and do.

As for the bullies, remember that your actions will come full circle. Be careful how you treat other people. Hashem put us here to help each other and support each other, not tear each other down. This kind of bullying is not only lashon hara, but it violates any number of other interpersonal mitzvot. (And even if you think the original was lashon hara, that doesn't automatically make your speech an allowed exception to the laws of lashon hara. Pot, meet kettle.) If you have a problem with what a convert/candidate does, speak to them personally, privately, and in a constructive way. This is getting just plain ridiculous. Every week there is a new victim.


  1. I guess I'm fortunate that when I was converting, I could have been the only person ever to do so, for all I knew. Yes, it was lonely in a way, but that's a feeling I'd come to terms with long before then. In fact, my first feelings of identification with the Jews dated to when I was a victim of bullying, and I learned that there was an entire group of people who had been persecuted everywhere they went. I figured, I must be one of those people too! Makes me wonder why someone with a bullying nature would WANT to be Jewish in the first place. You'd think the idea would be intolerably foreign to them. But I guess we all come to Judaism through our own particular path.

  2. I liken it to crabs in a barrel. Some people will do anything to have an edge.

    I've been burned really badly some the point that I refused to associate with other converts and/or people in the process for a long time unless I knew you really well.

    I still keep a low profile because I don't want to be bothered.