Feb 8, 2009

An Orthodox Jew: Part I or, Meeting the Rabbi

From Twitter several days ago:

Yes, it's official. It's true. On Thursday, February 12, 2009, I will be meeting with an Orthodox rabbi to discuss my pursuit of an Orthodox conversion. I know what you're thinking, "Chavi, you're Jewish! You converted almost three years ago!" And the answer to both is "yes." I'm not out to please anyone or to prove to anyone that I'm this Jewish or that Jewish, and it most certainly isn't about securing the comfortable Jewish lives of my future children. Call me nuts or selfish, but it's about me. A lot of people along my path have suggested that Orthodoxy isn't so much what I am, but rather that I'm drawn -- as a zealous convert -- to the traditions, the heritage, the lifestyle, the people. In a way? Yes, that's all very true, but it's so much more than that.

Hashkafically, this is where I'm heading and where I have been heading for the past year and a half or more. I'm not BECOMING a Jew. I already am a Jew. What this is is acknowledging who I am as a Jew. 

So Thursday, I will be talking a rabbi. Will I have to go through two years of study -- again? Will I have to start wearing skirts every day? Will I be able to carry on as I am on Shabbos? How can I manage an Orthodox conversion living dozens of miles away from the shul? Will someone start putting me up for Shabbos? Will my current non-shomer negiah relationship be questioned? And most importantly, will I ask all the right questions?

The rabbi I'm meeting with is outstanding and I was sent his way by some friends back in Chicago at the Orthodox shul I went to there. The rabbi sounds eager, and I hope my nerves and apprehensions and my concerns about my logistics don't get the best of me.

Anyone have any tips on things to ask? Any encouragement? Advice?


LE7 said...

I've watched three good friends become Jewish within the last year and a half.

It's definitely not an easy journey.

chaviva said...

It definitely WAS difficult. But I've been doing Jewish for the past six years ... so ... it isn't "becoming" Jewish for me. It's just acknowledging where I am now.

LE7 said...

Yeah. I guess I mean the Orthodox conversion process.

One of the friends was converted as a baby, brought up religious until age 9 and his family stopped practicing at that point.

He never reconfirmed his conversion at bar mitzvah... always believed his whole life he was Jewish.

So anyway even for him it wasn't an easy process.

ilanadavita said...

Be yourself is the best piece of advice I can think of. Make sure you know why you are doing this and how much you are ready to put into it would be the second one.
Hope everything goes well.
Do keep us informed!

Daniel Saunders said...

I hope it all goes well for you!

TMC said...

I'm excited for you!

Tuvia said...

I hope your meeting goes well. You are already living the Jewish life style, and the Rabbi is awesome, so I am sure it will go just fine!

chaviva said...

@LE7 I know what you mean.

@I-D Thank you for the advice. I will be sure to update regularly!

@Daniel Thank you :)

@TMC I'm excited for me, too!!!

@Tuvia Thanks for the support, hon.

Joshua said...


Hi Chaviva

OK... what I want to say is probably a little controversial but I don't mean it in a negative way at all. In addition to that, I wish you the best of luck and great success in your conversion endeavours.

I presume that you undertook a non-orthodox conversion and now progressing on your path.

Firstly, boruch HaShem for your attraction to Judaism in the first place and boruch HaShem that your journey continues into orthodoxy.

Now my only problem with this post is that of course what makes the Jewish people? The Torah. Therefore, a conversion outside of Torah law is not a real conversion. Please don’t take this as an insult, I am sure you feel your "Jewishness"in your Neshomo and I am sure that you have a very strong spiritual connection to Judaism, but as it stands, halachically, you are currently not Jewish.

Therefore, the questions you pose seem bizarre to me

Will I have to go through two years of study -- again?
You will need to understand how to live life as a Torah observant Jew, not in a reformed/conservative/or any other way. So one would instantly assume yes.

Will I have to start wearing skirts every day?
Why would you not want to? This is a teaching from our holy Torah.

Will I be able to carry on as I am on Shabbos?
Shabbos is a fundamental of Judaism, how can you “do” Shabbos in anyway, other than the Torah way?

How can I manage an Orthodox conversion living dozens of miles away from the shul? Will someone start putting me up for Shabbos?
In the London geyrus procedure, one must live in an orthodox community and for some of the process in the home of a frum family. If not, how could one ever hope to gain a true understanding of Jewish life?

Will my current non-shomer negiah relationship be questioned?
Again is the relationship within the remit of Torah law, if not, of course it will be questioned. Is he frum? Will you both live a frum life? Is he educated to a necessary level in how to live a religious life? Etc. I know several women who have been in a relationship when going through the process (although going through it sincerely and not for marriage) and the husbands had to be a certain level of knowledge before the Bais Din would even meet the women.

Again, please do not take any of this as an attack – I truly want to understand where you are coming from!!

A friend of mine was raised Jewish, bar mitzvah, bris (not in that order :)) and then found out his mum was a reform convert. He’s been in geyrus for over 2 years now.

Being Jewish means to live a Torah life. How can anything outside of that be OK, for you or for the Bais Din who will perform the conversion?

Again I wish you much success and I pray that everything will run smoothly for you.


Rabbi Lars Shalom said...




chaviva said...


I do not want to come off as rude or defensive -- but you do not understand my situation. A lot of Jews who have converted through the Reform or Conservative movements find themselves at Orthodoxy's door and most of them have more knowledge than some Orthodox Jews about Judaism. There is also a disagreement (see Marc D. Angel's book on conversion) about whether a convert should KNOW the entire yoke of the mitzvahs or should merely AGREE to take on the entire yoke of the mitzvahs prior to conversion. G-d forbid you expect one to know every commandment before converting -- that would take years, if not lifetimes.

I'm not going to go point-by-point and argue or anything, because I'm not re-converting to make people like you happy that I'm Jewish when there are those already who view me as "more Jewish" than a lot of Jews by birth, to jump through your hoops and do a little dance and show that I'm living the "right" way.

But, just to be sure, it doesn't say in the Torah that women should wear skirts. It also doesn't give the requirements for a conversion. Things things are in Talmud, oral Torah, of course, but this also leaves their meanings and reasonings open for debate, which rabbis do to this day.

There are observant Jews and non-observant Jews, but we're all Jews.

Tuvia said...

Joshue, I have one big issue with all of your points you seem to make. You center everything around living by what it says in the Torah. Judaism like everything else must grow based on time and the current world situation.

Not one person alive lives by what it says in the Torah. No matter what arguement you use, you can not tell me one person does.

It states in the Torah that you must go to THE Temple in Jerusalem and make sacrafices. Clearly not even you do that.

This is just one example, but its a pretty big one. If something like this can change with times, what makes you think other things cannot? I am not saying sit there and eat a bacon cheese burger, but I am saying some things do change!

Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

Good luck, girl!

joshua said...


Good morning!

Dear Chaviva the last thing I want to do is awaken any feelings of defense or upset, as I said, I was trying to understand you position, not attack...

I have no hoops for you to jump through, although if you plan to do this I suggest you do it before you start wearing skirts, and I don’t want you to make me happy.

We cannot live without the Oral law, it’s impossible, how would we know what tefilin is, how to make a sukkah, or many other vital parts of Jewish life? If we do accept the oral law, then surely we can’t pick and choose what we want from it.

No one would expect you to know everything before you convert and in the circles you have mixed, I am sure you know much more than born Jews do. I would imagine, moving to Orthodox circles, you are likely to find a massive change in this situation.

As you say, a convert is expected to take on the entire yoke of the mitzvahs prior to conversion. This does not just mean the written law; it also means the oral law.

We are all Jews you are correct. Nevertheless, the child of a non-orthodox convert mother never has the choice to increase his levels of observance without much emotional turmoil. I have witnessed this first hand with my very dear friend who had to make geyrus, having always thought he was a Jew. Therefore, I think it is important that one take this sort of thing into consideration when making a life decision.

Chaviva I wish you great success and hope that you are able to be a little less defensive when many people, probably including the Rabbi, question you as I did. Again, not an attack, I enjoy reading your blog and wanted to understand on a deeper level a few things that weren’t clear to me.

You are so passionate there is little doubt this is your path, but a little questioning and debate is healthy.

I enjoy reading your blog and will continue to do so. Please G-d you will have every success in all your endeavours.

With warmest regards


Tuvia - lets talk seriously, of course no one goes to the temple, it's not there! But do we mourn for it every night at chatzois? Of course. Torah can develop but not outside the grounds of orthodoxy.

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