Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Adventures in Semantics: Galut v. Geula

I don't know about you, but I frequently confused these words for years (and didn't even know I was confusing them). They just sounded so similar to my ear! Especially since people can slur these words when speaking quickly with an American accent. Honestly, I don't know that I'd ever encountered the word "geula," so I probably just assumed it was a conjugation of galut, which is also pronounced galus. 

Of course there's an embarrassing story behind this for me. My then-fiance and I were introduced in passing to a woman named Geula. As we left, I said to him, "Wow. That's a really depressing name." He looked at me in confusion, and I had to explain myself. Of course, I was totally wrong and confused, and Gd help him, he married me anyway even though I continue to be clueless and/or totally wrong on a frequent basis. 

So let's break them down.

Galut/Galus: the exile. As in The Exile. Of the Jewish people from Israel and Jerusalem after the fall of the Second Temple. 

Geula: the redemption. As in the coming Redemption of the Messianic Era. (It's also the name of a chareidi neighborhood in Jerusalem, which is why you most frequently hear the word.)

So now you see how this could be a perfectly awful mix-up in that conversation above. I called the Messianic Era and the redemption of the Jewish people depressing. Because of course it couldn't be a nonsensical mistake; it had to be one that actually meant something. I have several other colorful stories like that, but they're not Jewish-related. Let's just say I have a bad case of Foot in Mouth Syndrome. It's an excellent lesson in learning to laugh at yourself. It's a gift in its own special-awful way. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Who Doesn't Love an Inspirational Story?

When talking about conversion, it's easy to focus on the bad stuff, the challenging stuff, the frustrating stuff, the embarrassing stuff. I mean, that's really kind of the point of this blog: helping you through those points to make them less painful. Inspiration and warm fuzzies isn't my strength. I haven't been criticized as a Negative Nancy for nothing. 

But you know who's got inspiration and warm fuzzies aplenty? This guy! No really. This was such a great story to read, though there is no shortage of pain and frustration involved. But he has such a positive vibe and outlook. Kol hakavod and good luck on your conversion! (May it be smooth and fulfilling! And remember: don't judge Judaism by the Jews. We're imperfect humans, and we will let you down sometimes.)

Excerpt: "As a child in ‘one of the world's most anti-Semitic countries,’ Dr. Shadman Zaman was taught to hate Israel. But after his grandfather encouraged him to read about Judaism and the Jewish people, he became an ardent Zionist and the first citizen to visit Israel with a Bangladeshi passport. Today, as a pro-Israel activist living in Britain, he fights anti-Semitism and hopes to make aliyah one day."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Take a Break and Enjoy this Ladino Hip-Hop Music Video

Since we were just speaking of Sephardim, you should know about this really cool band! I feel like I should put air quotes around "band" because this doesn't strike me as your average make-money-sell-merch-get-groupies band stereotype I have in my head. It feels kinda...educational. But in the enjoyable way. The really enjoyable way! No really, I love this.

Check out this article and video interview on Arutz Sheva about them:

"A Seattle-based hip hop group is looking to change the way Jews view both rap, and traditional Jewish music. Founded by a rabbi and a Mexican-American Jewish rapper, Los Serenos Sefarad is breathing new life into a language and culture many younger Jews today never even heard of. Judeo-Spanish, sometimes called “Ladino”, combines elements of Old Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and other languages common in the Mediterranean.
"Like its Ashkenazi equivalent, Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish was once widely-spoken amongst Sephardic Jews and was even used for portions of the Sabbath prayer services in some communities. Also like Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish went into steep decline in the 20th century, with the number of speakers falling to some 150,000 by the early 21st century."

A fun trivia fact you can put in your hat: Whenever someone talks about Ladino/Judeo-Spanish, the Seattle community will almost always come up. They've done a great job of promoting/preserving it within their community. You may also hear about Rabbi Marc Angel, who has also done a lot of great work on behalf of conversion candidates and converts.

As a former Spanish major and adult convert, I get warm fuzzies experiencing something Jewish that connects to something from my childhood, as Spanish does even though I only learned it in school. But then move to France without knowing French and ruin your ability to speak Spanish...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Do You Have Sephardi Heritage? Spain Has Extended Their Citizenship Law!

Just in case you hadn't heard about this before, Spain recently passed a law that grants (ok, expedites, it's not automatic) citizenship to descendants of Sephardi Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. How on earth could you do that, you ask? A list of common surnames! I mean, duh, right? Sure.

That law only opened citizenship for a short period of time, October 2015-October 2018. But now they've passed an extension of the law that will allow you to claim citizenship until October 2019. There are various requirements, and they're nothing to sneeze at. But if you're interested in an EU passport, it's worth looking into. (Let's be honest, Jews have long appreciated the security benefits of multiple citizenships, and it's come in handy far too many times.)

Can you apply even if you're not halachically Jewish or have converted but weren't born Jewish? What about non-orthodox conversions? It appears everyone can apply; those don't appear to be necessary criteria. It seems that even people who are not practicing Jews can apply. Does being able to apply mean that these people will be just as likely to actually get citizenship as born-halachically-Jewish people? I don't know.

You can claim the citizenship without repudiating your current citizenship, though your current citizenship(s) may have different rules. Check with your friendly neighborhood immigration lawyer if you have concerns.

For more info, check out this handy FAQ compiled by the Jewish Museum of Rhodes (the Greek island), but double check before relying exclusively on one source of info.

If you have any personal insight into this process and/or how it applies for Sephardi patrilineal/non-maternal line Jewish converts and conversion candidates, please let us know below in the comments!

Arutz Sheva | Spain Extends Citizenship Law for Sephardic Jews