Kochava & the Blog

Basic disclaimer: I am not a rabbi. I am entirely self-taught in Jewish practice, tradition, and halacha. The statements on this blog are my understandings, opinions, personal knowledge, and predictions based on anecdotal evidence. I have been known to be wrong. More thorough disclaimers are at the bottom of this page.

Why I Started the Blog: I am passionate about Judaism; angered at how the orthodox conversion process is currently being handled; concerned about how conversion candidates are left without guidance, a sympathetic ear, or formal Jewish education; and because I believe I have enough knowledge and insight to make a meaningful contribution to the dialogue about these issues.

Why I Really Started a Blog: In short, I ordered a venti latte at Starbucks when I really should have ordered a tall. The rest is history. I restarted the blog after a six month hiatus because of the SodaStream energy drink. I'm noticing a pattern here.

What This Blog Is About: Judaism, conversion, problems with conversion today, and orthodox society. As a modern orthodox convert from a Bible Belt atheist family, I aim to be an honest, slightly snarky, and (hopefully) funny voice to give you one perspective on the Jewish world. There should be something for everyone here, Jewish or not, orthodox or not. I don't claim to have the only perspective, and I don't even claim to be right. Honestly, I'm not sure why anyone would want to listen to my opinions and stories, but Google Analytics tells me that a lot of you do.

I generally stay away from "personal" blogging and try to stick to more "informational" posts. Some of you in the interwebz are pretty creepy. And I'm not really a touchy-feely, validate-my-feelings kind of person. If you prefer feel-good stories, there is no shortage of conversion blogs that offer that (though I hope I'll be able to share some happy stories every so often).

Why I Think This Blog Is Important: Today's conversion process lacks transparency and practical advice. Most conversion candidates are left to walk blindly for a significant amount of time, and that means having to relearn a lot of things later or good candidates being turned off from Judaism because of misinformation. Similarly, most of a convert's happiness is determined by how socially-integrated he or she is in the community. You should feel that you have a place, friends, and mentors. However, the social rules and meanings are complex and often not intuitive. This blog aims to help you understand orthodox society so that you will be happier and not feel like an "outsider" any more than you have to. Or maybe it helps you learn that you may love Judaism but hate Jews. In that case, you shouldn't seek a conversion, and maybe you'll have saved yourself some time, effort, and frustration. You might as well learn from the mistakes of others. And those stories are usually pretty funny even if you don’t learn anything.

Yes, more often than not, I'm a Negative Nancy (probably made worse by the fact that I'm a lawyer). But I'll tell you the truth, as best as I know. Too many people are afraid to be honest in the frum world, fearing they will be proclaimed "not frum enough." Most conversion candidates don't have access to anyone willing to tell the truth except in hushed whispers or in private homes. I didn't have anyone like that for many years, and my friends still play "Spot Kochava's crazy chumrahs!"

When to Expect Posts: Ehhhh...I can't promise anything. I'm not even supposed to be here today!

All posts are automated to post at a future date or time. None should post on Shabbat or yom tov, but I have been known to mess the scheduler up. Don't start yelling to burn the apikores.

My Jewish Background: I've been "Jewishly affiliated" since sometime in 2004. (I was dating a nice Jewish boy.) I spent several years in the orthodox community but got a lot of misinformation that convinced me I would never be able to be orthodox. I took some time "off" from Judaism, and concluded that I couldn't imagine living my life as anything but a Jew, though not an orthodox one. (Haters gonna hate on that idea!) I decided to try the conservative shul in 2009. I couldn't leave, and I had a conservative conversion in early 2010. Bad things happened, I became fully frum within 3 months, and then I began pursuing an orthodox conversion. Once I finished law school, I moved to New York City to finish the conversion...my job prospects be damned. I converted orthodox under the RCA in January 2012. In total, I've spent about 7 years (non-consecutively) in the orthodox community in the last 8 and a half years, though not all of that time was living like an orthodox Jew. My journey took a long time and had many unexpected (and often unpleasant) turns, but I am now 2 legit 2 quit. And then Hashem took pity on me and exempted me from the shidduch crisis by introducing me to my beshert on my very first date from Saw You at Sinai two months after Conversion 2.0.

Because you probably like putting people into neat little boxes as much as I do: I'm modern orthodox, and I don't believe that's a title to be ashamed of.

My "Religious Background": I was raised by atheists in the Bible Belt (including all the unpleasant childhood experiences you can imagine in that situation). I've found that my childhood was very similar to an American secular Jewish upbringing. And that Jews often breathe a sigh of relief that they don't have to fear me being a secret missionary...or should they? Bwahahaha

Why I Finally Got Around to Converting: Basically, it was time to get off the fence. While I was in college, I was uncertain whether I would want such a permanent change. So I waited until I was sure. And then I fought like hell to get here.

Disclosures & Disclaimers: 
C'mon. I'm a lawyer. An unemployed one at that (at the time this was written). I have to use my mad legal skillz somewhere.

(1) All content published on this blog (unless otherwise noted) is the intellectual property of me and should not be reproduced or copied without my permission (which I am generally glad to give) and/or without giving me credit. I have a lot of free time, and I will find you.
(2) This blog is not sponsored or promoted. It is owned and controlled solely by me, and hosted by Blogger. Blogging is not my profession or my primary interest, so new posts may be delayed if life intervenes. I hope you will understand.
(3) I do accept guests posts, but I may decline to use them for any reason, including poor grammar.
(4) I am not a rabbi. I am certainly no halachic resource. I'm not even in a formal learning program. My resources are my harem of excellent and smart orthodox rabbeim and rabbinical students, great friends, a very knowledgeable frum-from-birth husband, and my own research, usually online.
(5) I write what I know and what I think. I try not to offend, but I am well-known to have a severe case of foot-in-mouth syndrome.
(6) I've been known to be wrong, biased, and/or foul-tempered on occasion.
(7) All content is personal and does not represent the views of any organization, employer, or any other group I may be affiliated with. Nor does it necessarily represent the views of my family, my friends, or my community.
(8) Things change. Posts may become outdated. I may learn more than I knew in older posts. My opinion stated in a post may change. I have the right to update old posts whether or not such changes are explicitly labeled. I also have the right to NOT update old posts.
(9) I rarely, if ever, cite sources. I'm doing this from memory, for the most part. And I usually learned from secondary sources in translation. It's my blog; I get to do what I want. If you want to challenge what I wrote, you're free to cite all the sources you want, and maybe you'll even convince me. I'm okay with admitting I was wrong, and I will update the main text to reflect any corrections so others won't be confused by my ignorance.
(9) I moderate all comments in an effort to keep the conversation productive and pleasant.
(10) I talk a lot about psychology. For the record, I've never taken a single psychology-related course. My knowledge comes from a fine liberal arts education and a penchant for people watching. So any crackpot theory (or revolutionary one!) is entirely my own creation.
(11) I notice that many of you use translating websites to read my blog. I apologize if words translate incorrectly or inappropriately, but that can't be helped in online translators.
(12) Reasonable effort is made to attribute third party content to the source when possible/feasible. If you have a copyright-related concern, please email crazyjewishconvert at gmail with any evidence you may have.
(13) I may be a lawyer, but I am NOT giving you any legal advice. Don't even ask. Nothing here should be relied upon as legal advice because every state and country is different, laws will change long after these posts were written, and every situation has different facts. If you do try to cite my blog as some kind of legal position, I will have as much pity on you as Judge Judy would.
(13) You're responsible for the comments you post to this blog. While I do moderate for offensiveness, spam, and inappropriateness, I do NOT moderate for legal issues. The accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality, and politeness of comments are not guaranteed.
(14) I created this blog because I am passionate about Judaism, angered at how the conversion process is currently being handled, and because I believe I have enough knowledge and insight to make a meaningful contribution to the dialogue. I am not here to milk you for money, which is shown by the astonishingly small amount of money I have made for the hundreds (thousands?) of hours I have put into this site.
(15) However, I'm not opposed to making money from the content I already intend to produce. There are ads on the website (I try to make them non-obtrusive), and I earn some revenue from clicks of those ads. (In case you really like me: please don't click ads solely for the purpose of earning me money. "Fake" clicks are caught by Google.)
(16) I have no control over the ads you are shown, other than being able to block adult-oriented advertisements. Google uses its own information about you to "target" you with ads they believe you would most like. Please do not email me to tell me that there are Christian advertisements on my blog. Those ads are what Google thinks you want to see.
(17) I also use affiliate links to Amazon.com that pay me a small percentage of any purchase you may make on Amazon after clicking through the affiliate link. I am not told who bought what, your address, your credit card number, and it does not affect the price you pay.
(18) I sometimes receive free stuff from Klout, and maybe one day I'll get free stuff or money from people looking to promote something related to the blog's content. So far, I have turned down all of the business/promotion opportunities proposed to me, either because the item is unrelated to the content of the blog or I feel it's a shoddy product. There are currently no sponsored posts, and I don't anticipate that changing. The books for reviews currently on the website were often obtained free, but not for the purpose of reviewing them. I'm just really good at finding free books.
(19) If in the future I were offered free products or other payment for writing about something, I will make that clear at the beginning of the relevant post.
(20) Content is not influenced by advertisements or sponsorships. I am an opinionated woman, and I hope you will learn that I take pride in giving my opinion honestly.
(21) If you want to give me money directly, you may do so through the PayPal button at the top of the right sidebar. I'm one of the many long-term unemployed, and I was rewarded unemployment of precisely "zero" dollars (poor legislative drafting...grrr). Feel free to contribute to the "Feed Kochava" Fund, and I will be thankful.