Mar 19, 2010

A Pro-Convert, Pre-Shabbos Anecdote

Shabbat cometh, so I thought I'd share a cute little "yay convert!" anecdote with everyone. ready?

While in Austin, standing in line at the kosher grill at H-E-B, a little old man, who also is a professor at the university there, turned to me, looked at my SXSW Interactive nametag, and said, "Chaviva? Are you Israeli?"

I responded that I was not, and left it at that.

He replied, "Are your parents Israeli? Such a weird name to give an American girl!" I responded, hesitatingly, "Nope, I chose this name myself, actually." The little old man grinned broadly, saying, "Ahh! A convert! I love converts!"

At first I wasn't entirely sure how to react. It was funny to me how typically I anticipate people experiencing my "I'm a convert" moment through asking me where I'm from (Nebraska, there are Jews there?!) or where I was bat mitzvahed (no where). Never before, although perhaps it will become a more regular occurrence, has my name become the topic for my "coming out." Although, now that I think about it, Chaviva is a very Israeli name. In the U.S. the names Ahava and Aviva are much more popular to express the same idea.

So the little old man went on to tell me stories about the converts he knows, how he "adopted" their children, how authentic and genuine the converts he knows are. He was giddy with love for gerim! So I stood, smiled, nodded, and was pleased to experience the happier side of convert acceptance.

Later, as I sat eating with a friend and two Israelis we'd bumped into, the little old man came over and said something along the lines of, "It was good to meet you all. But it was especially good to meet her (pointing at me); SHE is something very special."

This left me glowing, feeling special, and the Israeli guests puzzled as to what was going on (they didn't know, of course, what the little old man was so excited about). Surrounded by Israelis and kosher food and friends, I felt utterly loved and, as the little old man said, special.

Shabbat shalom, friends!


Anonymous said...

That was a great story. It made this convert very happy :)

Shabbat shalom!

Tzach M. P. said...

That is excellent. I'm just at the beginning of the process (though I'm sure it began years ago informally), so I still wonder what encounters I'll experience, but this gives me some hope :)

I'm quite enamored with the name Tzach. I know it's more of a modern era Israeli name, but the meaning is what made it stand out to me. I don't need to be another Moshe or Eliyahu or Yakov anyway, not that there's anything wrong with those chosen names :) Oh, hurdles...

Anonymous said...

Tzach: I think choosing your Hebrew name is one of the most amazing parts of converting. I knew mine was right as soon as I picked it :)

Chaviva said...

@Melissa I'm glad I could make someone happy! It's not all daisies and ponies, but stories like this make me smile. And I agree, picking one's Hebrew name is intense and beautiful. I don't know if you were around to hear about how I picked my second Hebrew name (Elianah) but that was a quick, overnight turnaround in naming. But it came to me in almost an instant!

@Tzach I would love to hear your story. It'll probably be one of the things I ask folks to do (if they're willing) in the group I'm creating. Also, Tzach is interesting. I just threw it up in the dictionary (tzade-chet, right?) and I see it means "pure" or "unblemished." That's a beautiful name for a convert, if I do say so myself.

Anonymous said...

@Chaviva I don't think I was around to hear how you picked your second name, but I'd love to hear it in the group! Shavua Tov!

Tzach M. P. said...

Chaviva, I'd be happy to write my story for the group. I need to write it anyway for the site I'm putting together, actually. I used to blog a whole lot in the past, but it's been a few years since then. I'd like to chronicle my conversion process in a semi-public atmosphere though.

tzade-chet, that's correct. Glad you like it :)

ChayAiz said...


Anonymous said...

Fab story.

One day, when I am in the next phase of my life, I am changing my name. I am so sick of people telling me that I don't have a proper Jewish name yadayadyada...

Yay for you!

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