Becoming Jewish: It Ain’t Easy Almost Being Hebrew

When you tell someone you’re going to convert to Judaism, they’re probably going to have an opinion on it. These opinions can range from, “I’m so happy for you!,” to “Wow, you must really want to marry your boyfriend,” and “Don’t do it. I will stop at nothing to make you change your mind.” For me, I simply say, “It just feels right.” And then I go into a long schpiel about always feeling really comfortable around Jewish people, always looking forward to actually getting to celebrate Shabbat, having fun in my class on Judaism, and how my spiritual views are similar to those in the religion. I associate good feelings with Judaism. It just makes me happy. Still, it’s hard for people to understand.

Why would I want to become part of a community that has been persecuted and prosecuted throughout history and still is today? What 22-year-old living in New York City would choose to sit through shul on a Saturday afternoon or stay in on a Friday night? Who would I want to go through the hassle of taking a year of classes and hardcore studying? To other people, these reasons look like sacrifices. But I see them as steps to becoming a more whole and happier person.

Once, I was invited out a comedy show on a Friday night by a non-Jewish friend. I declined because I wanted to go to Chabad and take part in Shabbat dinner. They laughed, persisted that I come, and I repeatedly declined. A snarky comment was posted on my Facebook wall after I lamented about giving up bacon. And the agnostic person mentioned above who will stop at nothing to make me not become a Jew (hopefully half joking) just couldn’t comprehend why I wanted to go through such a process.

No matter how nuanced Judaism is, people don’t understand that I’m up for the challenge, and I’ll do what it takes to be part of the community and above all, try to be a better person. The religion promotes charity, something I know I have to do more of. It’s all about questioning, too. Heck, I was a journalism major in college. I think I know a bit about questioning. And, I’m also a comedian. I’m constantly questioning my lifestyle choices!

I must admit, the whole ‘feeling like I’m on the fringes of society’ aspect goes into this. I don’t have a full-time job and I’m trying to make it in one of the hardest businesses out there. I also don’t feel like I fit into the rat-race, fast-paced culture of Manhattan. I’ve had a cough for two months because I can’t afford health care. A chicken and a rooster once lived in my backyard in Bushwick, and I think their situation was better than my overpriced apartment!

It’s hard when people take my converting lightly, or they don’t try to understand why I’m doing it. But why try and convince them? This is for me, and nobody else. If they get it, great. If not, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m going through the process slowly and deliberately, starting with my introductory class and celebrating the holidays to then seriously studying all the different options – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist – that there are to consider. I know that no matter what I choose, someone out there will always have a problem with it, be it a rabbi or an anti-Semite. I might not be liked simply for being a Jew, or I might not be liked for not being a certain kind of Jew. But the beauty in all this is that I can choose. And there are people out there who will welcome me with open arms, which is what, I think, it’s all about. It’s why I’m doing this. No matter how many Negative Nancys I meet, there’s always a bunch of Welcoming Wendys (made that second one up, you likely?). It’s certainly not an easy path, but becoming the person you imagine yourself to be one day never is. But it’s the only way I know how to really live.
(Tags: Judaism, Conversion)


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