The meeting with the Rabbi last night went very well. He was as warm and welcoming in person as he seemed on the phone and I feel very lucky that my first experiences with conversion have been with someone like this.
Sitting in his well-appointed study, we spent some time just chit chatting, E told him about her back ground in a semi observant home, I talked about my interest in converting and we shared some of the up and downs we have had with E’s family around my not being Jewish (more on this in a later post). After which he gave us a rundown of what his class will be like.
The program is set to be 18 weeks of study with other people considering conversion. It will meet once a week. I asked about the concerns with converting with a conservative rabbi and he had a thoughtful answer which boiled down to – it’s up to you, but he outlined some of the pros and cons of an orthodox conversion.
An Orthodox conversion isn’t going to be challenged by anyone in the future, i.e., no one will doubt you’re Jewish*;
No one is going to doubt your children are Jewish (thought this isn’t as big a deal for E and I since she is definitely way Jewish); and
Though E thinks this is not going to be an issue, I worry her family will not accept this as a real conversion unless it is an orthodox conversion. It is one of the ironies of conversion that the convert is generally held to a more rigorous standard than what those who are born into a religion. There are things in E’s family from which I am excluded because I am not Jewish, it would be extremely frustrating if I were to continue to be excluded from those things after conversion.
Converting in an orthodox manner means kabbalat ol ha’mitzvo., Meaning, I would need to accept the yoke of the rules of Judaism. All the rules. That would mean either never eating in my parents’ home again, not going to my sister’s wedding or my nieces and nephews baptism or lying to the beit din. I am not excited about either idea.
As the rabbi** said, no one follows all the rules, the important thing is to understand the importance of the rules and to do as best one can. I’m down for that, but that is not enough for Orthodoxy.
Additionally, I think that when it comes to picking a shul, E and I will be much more comfortable in a more egalitarian synagogue. I would prefer mixed seating; it would be nice if E could be on the Bimah. Conclusion Right now, I am leaning heavily towards a conservative conversion. I have some more thinking about it to do, but conservative seems like the right approach***.
Either way, we have signed up for the course the Rabbi teaches beginning the first week of October. I am already extremely excited.
*As long as you convert with a Rabbi approved by the Orthodox Rabbinate currently calling the shots in Israel.
** This guy is going to figure heavily in my life I think, I should come up with a witty nickname for him.
*** Can I tell you how little I know about Judaism that I was shocked to find out that conservative is really liberal while reform is like far left. I really thought conservative was like Orthodox light when really it seems to be more like serious Reform, if that makes any sense.