Dec 9, 2006

Call me crazy ...

Every Reform convert I know (and I know a few, by golly) went to the mikvah, sat with a beit din and had a formal ceremony at the shul. But this article, which discusses the importance of Orthodox rabbis accepting potential converts, says the following:

The Reform movement requires that the potential convert agree to observe the commandments (according to Reform standards) and participate publicly in the community, but they do not require mikvah or milah. The movement recommends that the potential convert be made aware of mikvah and milah, and that a Reform conversion would be unacceptable to Orthodox Jews.
I think it's the "according to Reform standards" that drives me nuts. Yes, the Reform movement is not binded to the 613 commandments as Orthodox Jews are, but then again, many Conservatives are not either. Yes, it's just one article in one publication in one point in time, but damnit, they make us sound like lepers!

I once had an Orthodox Jew ask me HOW I could be reform. I went to shul regularly (when I was able to, that is), I kept kosher (to an extent), I had strong feelings of faith and dedication to the House of Israel. HOW could I be Reform, he asked. Of course, it never clicked that I was a convert. I think it would have blown him away to know I was both a convert and Reform. But it was the Reform movement that embraced me, took me in and let me grow in their midst. I went to a Conservative shul and felt outcasted by the rabbi and long-time members. So I converted through the Reform movement because there were classes, there was discussion, there was learning and faith and a driving force of community. Yes, sometimes I wonder if my beliefs are more in line with the conservative-leaning Jewish "brances" ... but I don't judge.

Wait, I take that back. Yes, I frown on the Jews I know who don't know enough about their culture and religion to truly embrace it. The twice-a-year Jews or the ones who use the word to describe themselves yet can't define what the word means. I look at people who were born into such an amazing community and yet do not embrace or understand it. Who don't even try! Then I remember not everyone has the passion, the desire. It's one of those feelings I wish everyone was could experience. My judgement comes as a result of jealousy, I suppose.

I didn't have a baby-naming ceremony.
Or go to Hebrew school.
Or have a bat mitzvah.
Or go to Jewish camp.

It's like ... taking something for granted. Taking this amazing connection to something for granted. It boggles my mind.

Anyhow. I am Reform. Get over it. Someday I might convert Orthodox, and I've thought about it deeply. There's a lot there I want to explore. But right now, I'm okay with my "movement." We're all Jews, you know.


lxr23g56 said...

Hey interesting post I've been actually dealing with the same subject matter since my trip to Los Angeles although I suspect maybe I'm coming to different conclusions than you. I was going to post remarks to a few points you made but I think I'm going to simply do my own post on the topic and source some of the stuff you've said addressing it in my post.

I'm taking a fact that I read this post this morning as a sign that I should be blogging about this because I've been sitting on the fence all weekend.

Be well

Jessica said...

Chaviva -

I just wanted to say it made to me sad to read that you felt outcasted by the Conservative Rabbi/synagogue.

I'm sorry.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Ahh, Jessica no worries. The rabbi was sort of a problem for the community there and they had to oust him ... he actually would sit in the back of the synagogue and "heckle" the new rabbi, too. Eventually he left for a synagogue in Iowa, thank G-d. But the community there is very ... well ... old-school. Not so fond of the outsiders. But I'm happy with what I have :)

Tamara said...

To frown on Jews who don't embrace their culture and religion, or to call them twice-a-year Jews is equal to what, at least from what I understand, you say has occured towards you from other movements.

So many of us were born Jewish. It doesn't mean our parents were firm practicers. It doesn't mean many of us had solid role models or guidance. For many, they don't know better. My step mom, raised in Jewish Chicago, was raised on pork chops, in a Jewish family. For example, think about the thousands of Jews whose parents were the children or grandchildren of a survivor. Their lives were different. Many were afraid to be Jews and raised their children as such. Many feared, even denied G-d based on the attrocities they witnessed. In my opinion, it's no suprise there are many Jews like the ones you name. However, I don't think it's fair to "frown" on them.

I'm not saying that, as adults, we aren't responsible for furthering our knowledge and spirituality (which I, for the record, work on in my own personal ways). I do however think it's important to try to encourage other Jews to reconnect. And I assure you, by frowning and finger pointing, it's not going to happen.

Perhaps the way to relight a spark is to lead by example. I think the people I've met and who have touched my life the most are those who live their lives with Judaism in the forefront. Some are chassidic, others are quite liberal conservative. But, each of them maintain certain traditions and values that leave positive imprints in my soul.

The point is, we all just need to lead by example instead of having feelings of sorrow and remorse.
I speak from experience. My father and step mom do almost nothing that is traditionally jewish. out of 2 brothers and 3 stepsisters, only two married Jewish. There is no doubt I will marry Jewish. Of the two who married Jewish, only one family is, from what I can tell, determined their children complete Hebrew school (reform). I can say this however, even over a dinner where my father is eating shrimp, I can see him tear up when he discusses how proud he is that I'm the, as he says, "most Jewish" of the family. So, in a way, I would like to think I bring pride perhaps teach by doing and being...not by guilting.

Just my thoughts, sorry this was longer than expected.

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