Mar 30, 2009

Why am I converting Orthodox?

After my post of frustration yesterday, and a conversation tonight with a Reform rabbi friend, I decided to write this because I don't know that I've written anything like this before. It's long and wandering, much like my path so far, but give it a go if you will. I might write more on this again, and if I do? Well, I hope it's well-perceived.

For a long time, I thought that the fact that I converted almost three years ago under the auspices of the Reform (not Reformed, folks) movement was to my advantage in my pursuing an Orthodox conversion. I mean, I know the rules of the game. I've studied for almost six years now. I've learned halakot, traditions, customs, prayers, songs, holidays, you name it, I know it. The neshama says feed me, I give it lots of Jewishly oriented foodstuffs, and it wants more. My neshama is an overweight 6-year-old with a penchant for Manischewitz, kugel, and everything challah.

But then, just last night, someone asked me why I felt like I needed to re-convert. This person, a respected friend (I think I can call him that), said that he has a problem with people who nullify or negate their Reform conversions when they convert Conservative or Orthodox. And that really got me thinking. Do I really have it so lucky?

You see, people who come at Orthodox Judaism with a fresh face, from a Christian or Atheist or Pentecostal or Muslim or Buddhist background are going at it straight. They say, "I chose Judaism" and it's left at that. There's no questioning why they chose specifically Orthodoxy as their conversion method. There might be, but it doesn't come with the question: "So what? Reform conversion not good enough for you?"

A long time ago, when I started this whole path down the road of Orthodoxy, I made very clear that I'm not re-converting. I don't need the certificate. I have one, and it's really pretty, and I'm quite a fan of it. It's in an envelope, and every now and again I pluck the envelope out of my file cabinet and look at it. The white out spots because the rabbi accidentally wrote the location of our shul and not the location of the mikvah and beth din. It has personality, a history, it's where I began. That shul? It's my family. It's like that family you can't ever forget. Because, first and foremost when you convert, is you can't forget where you came from.

I have a first family, my nuclear family. They were my "the golden rule is the rule" family who never made us go to church and insisted upon pride, truth, and the pursuit of honesty. Then there's my second family, the shul family, who helped shape me and show me that my Jewish soul wasn't just a figment of my imagination. They helped me grow and thrive and become Chaviva, the Jew, the girl who has traced both sides of her family back to the 1700s without finding a single Jew (lots of Quakers though!). And now? I have a third family, my Orthodox family. A community of people who insist upon dinners and stay-overs and challah and kindness and smiles and hugs and helping me affirm my Jewish soul, the Jew, Chaviva. To them? I'm nothing but Chaviva. A girl who will someday dip in a mikvah and will come out the same as she is right now this very second.

So it's not, I repeat not, re-converting. I'm reaffirming my Jewishness. It's a reaffirmation of my neshama, my path, and acknowledging that I'm still moving on that path, and that I've arrived at another fork in the road, I've come upon another family, that here I am in this beautiful place with these beautiful people and my Jewishness is thriving and springing forth in a more observant, traditional, skirt-filled, and heckschered-food kind of way. You're not looking at a photo here, folks. This is a motion-picture. A movie. No stills here.

I can't really express how much I am not nullifying or discounting or throwing out my Reform conversion. How can I? It's what got me started on this path. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again -- Reform Judaism (for me and many others I know) is the gateway drug. It's the most opening, welcoming, easy-to-feel-at-home-in form of Judaism that's out there. Without my Reform family? I wouldn't be here. Had I just gone to that grumpy ole' Conservative shul way back when, I probably would have stopped dead in my tracks. I would have said "goodbye Judaism! hello ______!" Reform Judaism was my starting point, I was there hashkafically and it made sense then. Now I'm here. My ending point? I don't know.

I'm not exactly sure what will happen some day when I feel more observant, more Jewish, whatever. It's a process -- a process of evolution and reevaluation and reconsideration and most importantly, reaffirmation. That's why we have such important milestones within Judaism. You have a naming ceremony or bris, an upsherin, a bar or bat mitzvah, an engagement, a wedding, a first baby, and the cycle repeats. Some men have second bar mitzvahs. There are all of these cycles that we honor, we affirm that we're Jewish and these events are significant in our growth personally and spiritually. And for me? Well, the conversion under the auspices of the RCA and Orthodox movement just means that I'm hitting another milestone (here's hoping the next is engagement, eh!?).

I'm not affirming my hashkafah amid Orthodoxy because I'm worried about having fully Jewish kids who won't have to suffer through conversions or questions or because I want my wedding to be legit for my future Jewish husband and his family (though these are definitely bonuses to the whole shebang). It isn't for a sheet of paper. It isn't because -- like I said so long ago -- that I will jump through as many hoops as Orthodox Jews want so that they'll see me as REALLY Jewish. No, it's because I want to affirm where I am Jewishly, where my neshama is Jewishly, where my body is Jewishly. Sitting before a beth din and having them ask me if I'm going to raise my kids Jewish, if I'm going to cover my hair and go to mikvah and all of these things, well, to me that makes sense. It is me affirming where I am now.

The question was then posed -- if I had originally converted Orthodox, and decided to go Reform, would I insist upon a Reform conversion? And my answer was no. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. It's nice that we can float so fluidly between belief and observance and everything. I've oft referred to myself as an Underconstructionist Jew and I think that's how ALL Jews should identify. Labels create havoc and confusion and frustration. They create the "us and them" philosophy, and they are what is driving the right further right and the left further left. The middle? It's a lost art. But wouldn't it make sense, if people really thought about where they were? Am I an observant Jew? A non-observant Jew? Am I pro-Israel? Anti-Israel? Am I pro-mechitzah? Anti-mechitzah? And think these things without feeling like there's a suffocating pressure to actually CHOOSE a side, or to do so with the fear of oppression and dissection and being picked apart by the other side. If only we could feel safe to define ourselves and affirm ourselves. To define ourselves by what we ARE and what we BELIEVE and not by what we are NOT and what we don't believe.

I refuse to define myself by what I am NOT.

So this is all I can say. I see myself as a traditional-seeking, mitzvot perfecting, mechitzah loving, GLBT and women's rights believing, hopeful, realist Jew who happens to feel cozy right now in the modern Orthodox community. As such? I feel like it's a good time for me to reaffirm my Judaism. Once upon a time, I refused to even consider that someday I'd be Conservative or Orthodox. Why? Because people told me, and I read everywhere, that it was oppressive, hateful, condescending, secretive, unwelcoming, archaic, and wrong. It was anti-forward thinking. It was stuck in the past. It was not what Judaism is meant to be. But then? I realized that wasn't the truth. At all. It was the opposite. What I experienced was different. And I chose to NOT define myself by what I wasn't and instead take a look at what I was and what I felt and believed.

And here I am. Reaffirming, reaffirming, reaffirming.

But the most important thing? I'm doing this for me. It feels right for me. I was planning this before Tuvia. Before Connecticut. Before all of this. I'm not doing it for anyone or to prove anything. I have nothing to prove. It's how I feel. It's what my heart sings, and if it's right for me, if it's what I feel is necessary for me, for my neshama, for my own heart and mind and body, then that's all that matters. And if you don't agree? Well, you can have your own conversation with G-d to battle that one out.

Because, really? It's between G-d and me.

(It would be nice to have everyone on board with me here, though.)


Anonymous said...

If it's right for you, then it's right for you and therefore, it's the right thing to do.

I like this post. It speaks to me. I suspect that the Liberal Judaism movement in the UK is quite a bit different to the Refomr movement in the US. In my synagogue there are all kinds of Jews and the Rabbi actively encourages everyone, young or old, new Jew or old Jew to continue their Jewish journey by constant learning and quetioning - essentailly 'doing Jewish'. It's a very active kind of approach. When I responded to your poll on what kind of Jew are you, I answered 'Just Jewish'. I don't think it needs any more than that.

Do it for you. And enjoy every moment.


Mottel said...

I honestly think, as I mentioned on Twotter, that those who nay say your reform conversion do so out of guilt. It makes them feel lacking, as if their own chosen path is somehow wrong . . . It's the same knee-jerk reaction of parents who would be fine if their child came home a vegan Mongolian Animist [and yes I know what an Animist is] married to his loyal Yak (if there is such a thing), but freak out when their child won't eat their food because it isn't kosher [enough]. It's Jewish guilt. It's their inability to respect your decision to follow an Orthodox (and orthoprax).
In that sense, I feel that there is no need for you to defend yourself . . . Your reform conversion would not be accepted by the Conservative movement, it may not even be accepted by all Reform rabbis! By going Orthodox, however, it is a universal brand of acceptance . . . one that everyone can set their standards by.
You came to Judaism . . . no you're defining how exactly you want your Judaism to be - one based and founded on a three thousand year plus tradition.

alto artist said...

Just want to say--brava. I really admire the resolve and strength with which you're pursuing this journey, and your willingness to explore the paths your heart leads you to. Only YOU can know where you need to be. I too am not a fan of labels, and so am proudly "unaffiliated," and fortunate to belong to a community with a style of worship and observance that fits me perfectly. It's not right for everyone, but I happen to be at the right place and right time for me--and you are on the way to your version of this, I have no doubt. No one else has any right to judge your spiritual choices.


Joshua said...


Great post!

shlomo s said...

Great post, very well written. I'm an avid follower and love to read these types of posts from you.

ZPP said...

Chaviva, what a wonderful post. You're still searching and I have learned as a convert that Judaism is something you just have to do for yourself because you will never please everyone. No need to explain, even though you do so well. You will be judged if you do and judged if you don't.

Do what's in your heart? Above the journey to Orthodoxy, is the journey of life, and that always lightens things up for me in the often judgmental world of Judaism.


Kate said...

I can only imagine how frustrated you must get reading some of the comments I leave, which I know sound passive-aggressive even when I don't mean for them to. And I was happy and humbled and ashamed to be called out on that the night we discussed our Jewishness via DMs. Sometimes reading your blog frustrates me so much, to no end, because all these things you love so much seem like an abhorrence to me, the reasons why no one would ever want to be Jewish; to me, they are too many, too many, too old-fashioned, too hateful, too close-minded, too anything. To me, Orthodox Jews have always been the Jews who say that my Jewishness is not good enough, who have no shame in telling me that even though I was born Jewish & work for a Jewish organization & try to practice tikkun olam every day of my life, my Jewishness is not the same as theirs, not as good or as valid as theirs, because I don't "follow the rules" -- I become spiteful toward Orthodox Jews because I don't like what THEY do either, so why do they get to judge me? I tried to do it quietly, but so frequently, they say it to my face -- so why be so quiet? And when I read your blog posts, when I realized you were becoming Orthodox after converting Reform, I saw the same there -- even now, when you write phrases like "more Jewish" in association with becoming Orthodox, I bristle & want to say something in defense of me, of us, of MY family.

But what it comes down to is your soul, and what you feel, and what you want and what you NEED. And this post is beautiful. So even when it doesn't make sense to me, I respect it - very, very much - and am honored to call you a friend & watch your transformation & growth from one kind of Jewish into another - I will not say "more Jewish" or "more observant" because those are the terms that boil my blood, but as I watch you change & grow & fall more in love with Judaism, so, too, do I want to find that sense of placement & being within my own Judaism. It may not be the same strand, but it is the same love.

Good luck, Chavi. You're really something.

Mottel said...

-Kate: I wonder where your feelings of such discrimination come from . . . Have so many people made negative comments about your religiosity and mode of practice that you lash out so strongly? Are these emotions from experience, or merely perceived?
In any event, your ability to embrace the decisions of others and love them for it is key . . . If we stick to that, things will work out well for us all!

Neil said...

Great post. You are not discounting your Reform conversion, you are just opting to choose the a more accepted conversion. It's important to be aware of Hakoras HaTov (thankfulness) to the movements within Judaism that have brought you to where you are today. If I hadn't been raised somewhere between reform/conservative I might not have become frum.

ZPP said...


you are just opting to choose the a more accepted conversion.

accepted by who?

mTp said...

You go girl. This is your wrestle. I too converted to Reform almost 15 years ago. I would give you crap if you were going through orthodox conversion because you rabbi told you so but what you are doing is your wrestle. May you be like Jacob and wake up after your wrestle a changed person.

I have had the Rebbe of Boston tell my orthodox brother-in-law that he would convert me. That infuriates me. I am Jewish. I am observant and my rabbis happen to be Reform. My community is mostly reform. I have no reason to convert again.

However, I, like you am wrestling everyday. I just do it in a different way. More power to you.

mTp - With Intention

(PS I followed Shavua Tov here:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the hat tip, mTp!

Chaviva said...

Okay. It's taken me ages to get back to everyone, but Wednesday is my rough day and I've been very, very busy. But, I have to say, THANK YOU to everyone for posting your honest, candid thoughts. It means the world to me. Now? To delve into some of the comments ...

But first, I need to explain myself. When I used the phrase "more Jewish" you'll note it was followed by "whatever" and preceded by "more observant." It might not have been obvious, but I was tossed over how exactly to word it. I try -- very hard -- to use terminology that might offend my readers, my friends, but sometimes, when I'm writing hastily and with my heart, things get put in print. But, as I've written on Rachel's blog, what I meant by that was "more traditional." By traditional, I mean tradition in the sense of how our ancestors lived for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years prior to the reformers branching off into the Reform and Conservative movements. Before the late 1800s, there was only one type of Judaism -- it was just Judaism. Thus, when I say traditional Judaism, I mean traditional in the most literal sense of the word. Traditional meaning, there are mitzvot, they are binding, I do them. I don't merely daven on Shabbos, we daven daily. Etc.

@Rachel I've posted a comment on your sort-of "response" blog, if I can call it that. Everyone should go read Rachel's blog post!

@Mottel Your words, as you know, mean much to me. And your knee-jerk Yak comment gave me a good giggle. Thank you for your input, and your ever-present support is truly something.

@AltoArtist Thank you for the comments! Your confidence in where you are and your respect for those around you is something special.

@Josh Thanks!

@Shlomo I always get excited when lurkers show up and say something. :) Stick around!

@Akira Todah rabah. The journey is the important part, darn't.

@Kate I've told you many times, and you know it pains me that you've had such bad experiences with Orthodox Jews. Part of me wants you to come up and visit and spend a Shabbat with me up here in West Hartford. I think you would be 100 percent blown away. In fact, I URGE YOU to come up and do it. In truth, I feel (and this is just me) that until a Jew (and you are, I am, Mottel is, we all are) is comfortable with or completely accepting of the idea of Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Renewal, Humanist, Secular, Zionist, Traditional, Haredi, Hasidic, Chabad, etc. forms of Jewish worship, then a Jew can't be comfortable with their OWN Jewishness. I'm not saying I'm 100 percent comfortable with Reform Judaism anymore, because of how I grow up sometimes it reminds me of going to Church, but that's how I feel because of the experiences I had growing up. It's not the same for you, or for my shul back home in Nebraska. And that's where I came from and I still identify with that part of my eternal Jewish family. I'm just in a different place, and in my world, I'm becoming more traditional. You've gotta forgive me for saying "more Jewish," because YOU know I'd never purposely do that. Especially because of our friendship!

@Neil It isn't because it's more accepted. Sure, it's a bonus that I can go to Israel and get hitched to a Jew there with no problem with an Orthodox-okay'd conversion, but that's not the point. The point is something completely different!

@mTp Glad you found me through Rachel (isn't she MARVELOUS!?). It means a lot to me that you -- someone who converted Reform -- is so completely on par and understanding of what I mean in this post. It's hard to explain it to people without sounding like I'm just after acceptance or because I dig the praxis. Your confidence in who you are Jewishly? That's so admirable, too. You're at ease with yourself and others, and that is where we all should be.

Schvach said...

mTp: Good for you!!! You converted and you are a Jew, whether by Reform or by any other bet din. I think it's unfortunate that so many Jews like you and Chavi find the need to
'wrestle' with your Jewish lives
(or Jewish selves). It's a shame that so many in the Tribe put up obstacles and criticisms of those who have chosen their Jewish way through life. Kol hakavod to you both!

Many A Mile said...


Thanks for this honest and moving acccount of your "spiritual journey" thus far. May you only continue, as the ancient Hebrew saying goes, "mi-chayil el choyil," "from strength to strength!"

The only question I had after reading this -- and glancing at the other comments -- is: what about the fundamental differences in belief between these Jewish movements?

Reform Judaism does not believe in the Torah as God-given, nor does it accept the authority of Talmudic law and (today) the Shulchan Arukh. It embraces a basically monotheistic but otherwise secular ethical humanism, with Jewish footnotes and latke parties on Chanukah.

Conservative Judaism is just that -- more traditional, redefining the Torah as at least "divinely-inspired" instead of God-given through Moses in its present form; and declaring loyalty to Talmudic tradition with some tailoring and seam-alterations to fit Jews living the modern world.

Orthodox Judaism (which not long ago was "just plain Judaism") affirms that the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, that it is binding upon the Jewish people until further notice, and maintains fidelity to the Talmud and the living halakhic tradition.

An Orthodox Jew is committed to following these beliefs and mandates -- regardless of the ups and downs of life, regardless of whether the local rabbi turns out to be a creep, regardless of whether the local Day School provides a good education, regardless of all the sacrifices large and small, and regardless of all the frustrating things than sometimes happen to us in Jewish life.

As Davey Crockett said: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead!"

(And have a nice Pesach!)

Jess said...

I think your last sentence is most important- it is btw you and G-d... and that's it, doesn't matter about anyone or anything else.

I know its a lot different- but I was Lutheran and converted to Catholicism... but then converted back to Lutheranism because my Lutheran roots went deeper than I thought. But really it takes a lot of thought, prayer and support and do what makes you happy and what G-d wants you to do (both do not always mesh tho lol)

Good luck Chavi <3 and remember- after G-d, you do you :)

Anonymous said...

Perplexed I ask myself how much you know about Orthodox Judaism? If one accepts the 613 mitzvot and believes the Torah is true then how can you be a supporter of GLBT and want to become Orthodox? Not saying I do or dont support GLBT but the point is that the Torah and Orthodoxy dont. A GLBT lifestyle is even incompatible with the noachide laws. Yes you may find a minority fringe group which does accept those lifestyles but 99% do not. So I am confounded by your ideological decision. Also you said that Orthodoxy wasnt secretive and wanting to live in the archaic past. You must never have been to Mea Sharim or the Orthodox Syrian community in Brooklyn. The Syrian Orthodox do not accept converts. Their are many orthodox communities which dont accept converts at all. They follow the belief that during this time of spiritual galus when in prosperity the convert is considered a plague upon the Jewish nation. IE: the convert brings new outside ideas into the community which isnt compatible with their Torah beliefs. Signing off now, the curious yid...

Chaviva said...

@Shvach Thanks for chiming in! Always good to have your cents in.

@Many-a-Mile I know there are fundamental differences between the "movements." Believe me, as an academic, I've done my homework on everything from history to halakot when it comes to each movement. But even though there are very different and varying takes on whether the Torah came from G-d and all that, I still accept that individuals have a right to choose what their spiritual path may be. How am I to know I'm doing it 100 percent right? Hell, how am I to know Judaism is the REAL and TRUE religion? I can't know. No one can know. It's all craps at this point! But I respect other's choices, and I choose Orthodox, the 613 mitzvot, Torah from Sinai and all else as far as theology and praxis go. I'm there in the ups and downs, as you say. So what's the beef?

@Jess Thanks, girl :) Agreed on your point about things meshing. Sometimes it feels like an eternal tug-of-war!

@Anonymous Your understanding and view of things is, well, very narrow. There are Haredim and there are other Orthodox Jews, and I recognize that there are varying higher views of Orthodoxy. I would like to think that, as someone who acknowledges and understands that there are certain aspects of life that people don't have control over (ie: GLBT), that that is small potatoes compared to whether I honor my mother and father, remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, and the other big dogs there. Yes, there are 613. Can you name them all for me right now? Do you observe each of them each and every minute of the day? No one does. No one can. Even the greatest tzadik would be hard pressed to be perfect 24/7! It's acknowledging the imperfection and the imperfect world we live in, and that G-d doesn't demand perfection of us. The point, of course, is to get closer to a perfect world, world at creation when there was perfection, and this is what we strive for. I know all about the Syrian community (G-d knows they'll have some genetic problems someday, like the Samaritans did when they had to start intermarrying women ... but not men!). I know about Mea Sharim. I know about the Haredi communities. I'm not ignorant of the reality of Orthodox Judaism and the insulation -- it's self preservation. At any rate, I'm getting the idea that perhaps you've come newly to the blog and aren't a long-time reader. If you were, you'd understand perhaps my perspective. Further, even though Orthodox Judaism as an "organization" does not CONDONE the gay and lesbian community, it doesn't turn away Gay and Lesbian Jewish community members. It doesn't ordain Gay Jewish individuals, but there are openly gay Orthodox Rabbis, including one who wrote a book. And what's more, the Orthodox movement does not endorse the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would write discrimination against same-sex couples into the U.S. Constitution. Support perhaps isn't as important as acknowledgement in instances like this. The Orthodox Community doesn't IGNORE GLBT Jews like it, well, frankly, ignores the conversions of Conservative and Reform Jews sometimes. So they have it a step ahead. I just can't figure out why you pinpointed such an item as your tour de force.

Anyhow. The point is: I choose Orthodox Judaism because hashkafically, halakichly, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, it makes sense!

Anonymous said...


Yes I am new reader to blog but I can see you are very young in age and in Judaism. The reason I mentioned GBLT issues was because it is the most obvious example of your inability to accept the Torah and yet you want to convert Orthodox. Have you considered what your Beis Din would say if you told them you dont accept all the 613? To put it simply the Torah is very black and white... And yes my view is narrow because the Torah is narrow. Hence why the patriarchs say not to deviate left/right from the derech. Havdalah is a simple principle which is enforced every generation through daas Torah. Right now Rav Eliashiv Shlita and Rav Shtienham Shlita are the generations decisors who rule the Israeli Rabbinate. And if you understand this principle then you know our opinions dont matter. In Torah democracy doesnt have a place. (see parshas Korach)They are adamantly opposed to any gay parades in Jerusalem and the option for gays to adopt in Israel etc... So what I fail to understand is how you can ignore such obvious Torah principles which go against YOUR OPINION? To me thats like taking a black marker to the parts of Torah I dont like. I tell you as a Jew it is depressing many times and I dont agree or understand some of the rulings but I follow it because I understand my responsibility and my place! I get the impression you dont understand either... sincerely, a curious Frum Jew

Chaviva said...

I have been at this for 6 years. Searching, wandering, battling. You want me to say that being gay is wrong, because the Torah and being frum demands it? That is what you want. But this is not a public forum where I will go through all 613 mitzvot and say, "yes this is the law, but it pains me to say so." I know, and feel, and believe that the Torah is law, divinely inspired. I have dreams and deep feelings and actual images of standing at Sinai, so I know. You do not know me, and you insist on remaining anonymous, which makes it difficult for me to pay you any attention. Your insistance on telling me I feel wrongly, without knowing my knowledge or devotion to mitzvot invalidates your need to watch me say things that I will not. But thank you for your time.

nadav said...


This is a very poignant post to me. Recently at Ben Gurion airport I was going through security and having my bags rummaged through when the person doing it came upon some kippot I bought on my trip. "Why do you have these?" I said, "I'm Jewish." She said, "But you don't have a Jewish name. Please wait a minute." Then she brought over her supervisor who proceeded to further ask me why I had these kippot, why I had never been to Israel before, and finally I said, "I'm a convert." She asked me to name the holidays, tell her the name of the shul I attended, the rabbi who performed the conversion, etc. At the end she smiled and asked, "Did you enjoy your stay here in Israel? Will you come back?" I smiled and said yes. While I found the experience initially humiliating (although I understand its necessity), I had the same wonderful feeling explaining my conversion as I did when I sat before the Beit Din. My point is that we are all Jews no matter which path we decide to take. I commend you on asserting your desire to become Orthodox and your stance on GLBT issues. No matter your age, it shows a profound maturity. Conversion is not easy, in fact, it is a hard road that most people I know could never follow. I have personally seen and heard so much negativity in my own conversion, but my drive to stay on course and the positive experience of being Jewish far outweighs it. Kudos to you on your path. Much respect, and keep us informed.

Kol tuv,


Anonymous said...

Well said, (young) Chavi!

And thanks for your lovely comments!


Anonymous said...

The idea of you becoming an Orthodox representative to the nations with your actions/beliefs contrary to Torah trouble my neshamah. Yes its YOUR LIFE and YOU have to answer to Hashem BUT it is MY PEOPLE. Im sure you are aware of the principle ALL ISRAEL IS ONE. Dont you understand it is my OBLIGATION to protect the Jewish people from a person who wants to be Jewish but adamantly states they promote a GBLT lifestyle that is contrary to the Torah? Our people are under attack from the nations both spiritually and physically. Many want to learn our traditions, dress like us and then pick and choose what they want to follow in the Torah. Then many convert orthodox and create CHilluls Hashems. I have seen this many times! So Gd forbid you convert and become a Halachic Yid and then you promote GBLT lifestyle, creating a Chillul Hashem. It bothers me that you hide your true beliefs amongst Orthodox Jews ( your Rabbi and im sure the Beis Din) and dont openly state you believe things contrary to the Torah. THat is like a wolf in sheeps clothing. I think deep down you know you wouldnt be accepted by most Orthodox if you were openly honest and revealed your beliefs. And so you find the minority of Orthodox, (a few Rabbis who are liberal and frum) to justify your beliefs, building Gd and the Torah around your goyisha mind and emotional feelings. You are like Midian who sought to destroy our nation through assimilation. Of course what does it matter I am just an angry frum yid who was curious to learn why a person going through conversion wants to convert even though they dont practice/believe in the Torah 100%. And now I have my answer... Just remember YOU will have to life with the FACT that you conceal your beliefs amongst us to be accepted in most communities. And you will have to live with the FACT that you had to DECEIVE your Orthodox Rabbi and Beis Din in order to convert!

Chaviva said...

In the words of R.S. Hirsch:

"...any replies written anonymously or signed with a fictitious name will not receive any consideration from me. One who lacks the courage to sign his true name to his views must be aware that what he is saying is meaningless and that he therefore cannot expect others to take notice of it.

Let the anonymous gnatz buzz happily in the sunny meadows. I certainly do not want to spoil their pleasure."

Anonymous said...

If deception is achieved by declaring your detailed thoughts and beliefs, describing your striving to learn and understand all that is beautiful and yet confusing in this wonderful religion of OURS, whilst showing a picture of yourself online for all and any to see, then Chavi truly has deceived us all.

Dear Anonymous - YOUR people are also MY people and I wish YOU didn't think that Chavi needs the rest of US to condone her stance on OUR religion. It's clear she does not - and nor should she.

Having said that, I wish you a Shabbat Shalom. May it bring you joy, as it does me.


muse said...

fantastic post
You're going for Judaism without the adjectives, like an uncropped picture.
Good luck!!

RivkA with a capital A said...

"Underconstructionist Jew" -- I LOVE this!!!

That's what I would have called myself!!

I have lots of thoughts about what you write... maybe one day I'll share more....

I used to slam labels, but more and more I realize that the labels are short-cuts. Afterwards, we can qualify who we really are.

If I tell you I am Ortho, then you know that I keep Kashrut and Shabbat, and Chagim, and I believe all sorts of things that are fundamental to religious Jews.

Afterward, you can find out about all my liberal ideas about women, and my Zionist ideas about Israel, and my not-so-conventional ideas about God, etc, etc.

Regarding conversion, it is absolutely a good thing to embrace where you have come from. It is equally important to realize where you are going.

Without an Ortho conversion, religious Judaism is closed to you. Judaism is a package deal. Without Torah and mitzvot, there are lots of nice customs, but there is no real meaning, nor any continuity.

If you want a Jewish life, then you have to join the Jewish people, religiously, spritually, and practically.

(OK, that was a bit more than I meant to write, but still a lot less than what I'm thinking....)

ilanajackson said...


I was intrigued by the exchange between you and the annonymous poster. While I disagree with his/her beliefs and support yours fully, I am afraid that you will find many people in the Orthodox community that will be uttely resistant to your ideas about LGBTQ. Growing up in this community, I saw it all the time, and even though it saddens me to write this, I do not want you to be dissapointed if you encounter this later on in your life. I hope you are aware that even though there are so many beautiful Orthodox Jews, there are many many close minded ones as well. I may be a pessimist, but that is how I see it.

Chaviva said...

@Rivka Thank you for the comments! You worded yourself well, and I look forward to hearing more on your thoughts!

@Ilana Sometimes I wonder if I give off an air that I am naïve, because I most certainly don't mean to. Above all else, I am a realist, and I have experienced much in the Orthodox community to show me that opinions vary and are not always kind to wildly liberall notions. At the same time, I have yet to come across an Orthodox Jew, be they Chabad or Modern or somewhere in between or more extreme, who is NOT willing to dialog the politics, halakah, etc. But, as someone else said, I am willing to take the good with the bad and work with what I have on the way!

Kate said...

I giggled when I saw that you typed, "I try -- very hard -- to use terminology that might offend my readers." I know it's not what you meant, but I got a giggle nonetheless. And please, never, never censor yourself or your feelings for the likes of cranky folks like me. No matter what I ever say or how accidentally offensively I may say it, I hope you know how much respect I have for you. And I will happily join you for Shabbat sometime. Promise. <3 Many thanks for the invite!

IsraLuv said...


The most important line of the entire post was

"Because, really? It's between G-d and me"

now its time for everyone to respect your personal relationship
with G-d and realize that we are all made up differently and our brains are not the same.

Anonymous said...

As an Orthodox Jewish woman living in an Orthodox community with my Orthodox female partner, I want to say thank you for standing up for LGBT rights. You will encounter resistance from some, but you may just find there are *many* Orthodox people who are on the same page as you - My partner and I are lucky to have found supportive people in our community. We have lost friends but we have also made new ones. Our frum friends don't obsess about what we do or don't do in bed, they try to make sure we feel comfortable enough in the community to continue observing mitzvot, attending shul, and all the other things that are important for Jews to do regardless of whether they love the people they are "supposed" to love. They love us the way Jews are supposed to love one another, and they see the light and wholeness we have as a result of finding each other - It's hard not to!

As you know, it is a particular sex act which is (or may be) prohibited, more than it is an identity or being in love or living with someone or even having a committed relationship and raising children with someone. There are some halachic voices in favor of dignity for LGBT frum Jews, too, especially as people realize more and more the way that we get driven from our communities by their hatred, only to end up abandoning yiddishkeit because we feel there is no place for us (which is truly a shonde).

I fully intend to raise my children in the religious community, going to religious schools, as have a number of Orthodox lesbians that I know.

But to the more important matter at hand: I hear you! I am not a ger but I have an easy time wrapping my head around both the decisions you've made *and* the conflict those decisions bring up with regards to not wanting to invalidate your first conversion and what it means to you. You are not alone in that experience. I think that the journey to yiddishkeit is often a continuum but not always a linear one. It's important to honor everything that got you where you were!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I admire your work at finding clarity and sharing it with the rest of us. I've known a few people who converted twice (one who did 3 times!). Each had a different approach and motivations and reasoning. I think your post will be of real benefit to others, as well.

Enjoy W. Hartford. It has a special bunch of Jews. I enjoyed the time I spent there.

Anonymous said...


I think its important for you to understand that the Torah applies to ALL Jews, and that unlike Christianity, l'havdil we do not have denominations. We do have a mitzva to love all Jews and to be respectful of one another as people, but we do not have a mitzva to be accepting of behavior or beliefs that completely oppose the Torah or keeping its commandments. We don't get to tell G-d how we would like to serve Him. G-d told us and its all in the Torah, and that Torah is for every Jew. I think its important for you to know that G-d does not ask something from us that we are not capable of doing. So when it comes to GBLT, the prohibition applies. We have no idea why certain people come to this world and struggle with certain issues. But it is certain that G-d does. And that His accounting is exact and precise, and that He does not ask things of us that we can't do. So a person isn't born GBLT anymore that they a born a theif, a lashon hara speaker or anything else. We all have free will. And that boils down to how much we want G-d to be in the picture, not how much do I want myself and what comes easy to me to be in the picture. I would strongly urge you to have an open/ frank discussion with the Rabbis of your Beis Din about these crucial points. You may argue that different people have different views and that there are lots of ways of seeing things and narrow-mindedness etc. However, in Judasim there is no such thing of well, some people eat mehadrin and some people eat treif. While there are standards of/opinions on kashrus, keeping kosher applies to every Jew whether one wants to keep it or not. Anyone who wants to become Jewish must understand that the Torah was given by G-d Himself, it is binding, and must be certain of its absolute undeniable truth. Becoming Jewish is the MOST significant choice that a human being can make in this world. It changes a person's entire life in this world and the next for all generations. Torah is not a this works for me now kind of a thing. Once a person converts and accepts the 613 mitzvos, that cheeseburger that was once perfectly fine now rips a gaping hole in the person's neshama (soul). Conversion is an awesome and difficult journey. Its a complete and total paradigm shift to move from the secular world to the Jewish world. What's the critical shift? We don't mold the Torah into our own image we mold ourselves into the Torah's image of what a Jew should/could be.

Gayle said...

Well, putting aside the topic for a moment - you have a fabulous writing style. Entertaining, passionate, honest, open.

You are obviously on a journey of self exploration. I have not read anything you have written but this particular post (thank you Twitter). For the record - my background is conservative Judiasm that I have eschewed for the wrong reasons (blaming a lot of childhood issues on upbringing/Judiasm that really had more to do with my parents than religion.) At 43 I'm still on a journey too.

I don't have strong opinions or even knowledge as some of your other readers do. It is not for anyone to judge in any case. It is between you and G-d as you say. I am a little surprised at the tone and judgement of some of the posters. Seems contrary to the spirit of Judiasm. Ultimately, you will find what is right for you. What is right for you today, might not be right for you in 5 years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with strangers and friends alike. You have if nothing else created discussion and debate. And provided me a break from tedious work.

Anonymous said...

* In response to Kate:

I don't know if the things you said are in response to actual experiences or just mis-perceptions that you have. But I would like to offer an alternative view, based on my on experiences in the Orthodox world here in the states and in Israel. The Orthodox community is a place where tremendous kindness is the norm. Unfortunately, there are people who struggle to live-up to what the Torah asks of us. But the mistakes those individuals make are not reflective of the truth of the Torah nor are they reflective of the Orthodox community as a whole. Its just reflective of the fact that we are human beings and that we aren't perfect. So I would like instead to focus on the positive because thank G-d, there is SO, SO much of it and this is the true picture of the Orthodox world:

Gemachs (free loan societies) - Open any Orthodox phone directory especially in the larger communities and in Israel and there will be page after page of gemachs. Gemachs for everthing under the sun, some examples: wedding decorations, pacifiers, medicine, books, money, baby items, clothing you name it, it exists in a gemach. All free to ANY Jew who needs the help.

I just heard a woman telling her story of how she survived an inoperable brain tumor and all the different ways her community reached out to help her family. And how a member of her Orthodox community set-up a website with her brain scans so that while her family was frantically searching for a surgeon willing to operate on this inoperable tumor they could easily access the scans.

A story of another woman, on very restricted bedrest for 5 months of her pregnancy with 5 kids at home. The woman of her community organized, and took over the running of her home from laundry, to cleaning, to suppers, to caring for the children, and holidays (including Passover!). And these woman who helped her had very large families of their own and very full plates.

A friend of mine and several ladies in her community made bridal shower for an orphan, in order to make sure that she had everything she needed to get married.

Bikur cholim societies (visitng the sick). In my community we have special aprtments, provide all food needs, and volunteers to visit the hospitals. The women who cook for the families don't just provide food they also cook according to what the family is used to. So if the family is Sephardi, then they get the foods they are most comfortable with etc.
And there was also someone who had a sick baby, voluntteers were needed at the hospital at all times. There was no shortage of volunteers.

I could go on and on with many, many more stories like this, as there is some much good. You said in your post that tikun olam is imporatnat to you. Well, a major part of this is Ahavas Yisrael, loving other Jews. And this begins with speaking well of them. There is so much good and I invite you to come and check it out.

frum single female said...

well said. i like your approach

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