a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Baby Steps-a Rambling Post

Posted on: December 17, 2010

One Day at a Time

Easy Does It

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

This morning one of you readers, always inspiration, said that she was taking baby steps in divorcing herself from Christmas and it got me thinking, am I rushing into this?  The short answer would be yes the long answer is no.  Yes, in the fact that I’m hungry and literally devouring nearly everything that I can get my hands on.  Devouring may suggest that I’m gobbling it up without tasting it which is a strong visual so I’ll edit a bit, I’m consuming it…  Granted consuming makes me think of a fire that takes over a forest in an alarming rate but that’s the metaphor I’m going for.  Consume…Absorb?    I like absorb better, it’s more peaceful, like a sponge.  Alright, absorb.  I’m absorbing my Judaism at what could be considered an alarming rate and there’s no “date” in my future.  For many of the converts in my class the date they’re working for is a wedding date.  They’ve got to get it, get it done, at get to being Jews before March 15th, June 9th, April 27th.  Those dates aren’t real wedding dates as far as I know but they’re definitely markers for them, the finish line if you will.

My new friend who’s converting Orthodox has been in private study for 5 years before making the very recent decision to convert.  Her knowledge of Hebrew prayer and the order of service is astounding and inspirational.  Then there’s me, I jumped right in feet first into the deep end and guess what-I can swim!  (These analogies bothering anyone else?)  It’s not as though I didn’t try out other things before hand, because I certainly did, but when I found what fit the best, what inspired me the most, what felt like the right place to find myself after years of searching I wanted it all and immediately.

As we all know as converts and Jews the Jewish learning never stops.  We read Torah every year over and over again trying to look for new meaning, learn new lessons, and revisit lessons learned.  As a Jew-to-be the learning seems endless but not overwhelming.  I feel like I just got a handle on what happened at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and another one of you readers helped me to remember the “big deal” that is Passover.  Still I wonder, should I be taking smaller steps rather than giant leaps.  Am I taking enough time to relish what it feels like to be a Jew in Training or has the want to be a Jew clouded the appreciation for the process I am in right now, what I’m going through at this moment.

I think back to the spring when I started shul shopping and rabbi chatting.  I sat down with 4 rabbis and visited 4 shuls before finding the rabbi that inspired me and challenged me most.  To be honest, I’ve never actually attended a Shabbat service there rather attend a shul closer to home with a rabbi that I’ve only met in passing.  The next step in my conversion process is meeting with a rabbi on a regular basis for one-on-one meetings.  I’ll continue to attend the larger classes starting in January for the second trimester of Judaism classes but in order to secure the one-on-one meeting I needed to join the synagogue.  I struggled with this decision not only because of the financial burden but because besides Kol Nidre, I’ve never experienced the synagogue’s worship style.  What I did know, as I signed a check and filled out the membership paperwork, was that Rabbi L always makes me think, she always makes me consider and reconsider, she always says something that is challenging to me and that is helping to form me into the Jew that I will become.  She’s active in the synagogue as an educational rabbi, she doesn’t do the sermon part-still she’s so very much a part of why I chose this shul.  The way I explained it to Mirs is that the mikvah is my finish line, joining the synagogue is the race course.  Great thing is that it doesn’t actually end at the mikvah, it actually begins at the mikvah.  The beauty of the mikvah is that afterwards, I can go to which every synagogue I chose and I will be a Jew.

Still I’m wondering if this step, the reform step, is the step in the right direction.  Is an Orthodox conversion a better option for the just in cases of the future.  You know, just in case my child as an adult moves to Israel for a trip and falls in love with another Jew whose parents want to verify that they’re crazy lesbian mothers are both “real” Jews.  It’s a silly what if but it could happen.  Could I be jeopardizing my potential future child’s love life?  Will an Orthodox conversion better the troubled mind of the rabbi who makes sure that Mirs has her candles for Shabbos?  Do I even want an Orthodox conversion?  Why haven’t I taken a longer look at Conservative conversion?  I considered it for a second before heading directly for the Reform.  The truth in the decision relied heavily on my gayness and need to be in a place that it would be accepted and acknowledged rather than ignored or swept under the rug.  The fact that I’m gay and will be a gay Jew is important to me.  In class and at last week’s Shabbat service the rabbis talked about  LGBT issues as Jewish issues.  I like that and I wonder if I’d find that message of acceptance and love for all people in a Conservative shul or an Orthodox shul.  I don’t know and can’t know, but this is what happens when you slow down a bit and take a look at where you’re going and where you’ve been.

12 Responses to "Baby Steps-a Rambling Post"

That is interesting, you joined the shul? Here you aren’t allowed to join a shul until after conversion. I’m struggling with whether or not Reform is right for me. I initially started with a Conservative Rabbi but then worried about whether or not my husband was going to be able to deal with all the changes we would have to make in our life. But he’s done really well and he probably would have been able to handle it. So now, I don’t know. I disagree with much of the Reform ideas but on the other hand, my synagogue is full of great people and I really like my Rabbi. Plus, I don’t want to start all over again. I do remind myself that is perfectly acceptable to do another conversion down the line with a Conservative Rabbi if there comes a time when I think we’re both ready (my husband and I).

Orthodox was out for me. I’d have to divorce my husband, move to who knows where, quit wearing pants and agree that I believe Torah came straight from God and every word is from Him. I can’t do those things. I don’t think there are any Orthodox rabbis who will convert a lesbian? I know they won’t here. They won’t help me covert either because I’m married to a Non-Jew. I also couldn’t deal with the family purity laws. I just can’t see going for two weeks a month without even touching my husband! No hugs goodbye in the morning, nothing. I couldn’t handle it. I told him I’ll be Orthodox after menopause, haha!

Yeah, part of the process was joining the shul so I’m officially a member of a Jewish congregation. It’s on the books, I’m in the records, there’s no turning back now!!

I think down the line I may consider a conservative synagogue, there are a lot of ideas and ideals that I enjoy and relate to. The funny thing is, a friend of mine is Orthodox and she’s pretty rad. She doens’t wear a wig, she wears pants (I think) and she’s really laid back. She invited me to Shabbat with her a long while ago and I’m still interested in checking it out. I doubt, though, that a rabbi would convert me if he knew I was a lesbian.

Have you been to the services at the shul you joined yet?

Hi J-Not for Shabbat, only for High Holy Day service

Funny enough, I automatically ignored the idea of a Reform conversion; I didn’t even give it a second thought. I was inspired by a YouTube testimonial of a gay convert who joined the conservative movement. There seems to be a lot of head way being made there in terms of queer issues. I also consider myself queer, and I struggled with my decision to convert based on that. My mother made the interesting argument that, if I put my sexuality first in choosing a type of shul then it is like I have set up an idol before G-d. I found that comment to be… thought provoking. I’m still not even sure what think about that. I have been trying to decide between orthodox and conservative. It’s a toss up, but I think I’m leaning toward going orthodox.

I didn’t give the reform movement a second thought-I just thought-that’s the one for me! I’d love to see the You Tube testimonial…do you know where I can find it? I’d love love to learn more about your Orthodox conversion, especially as a queer person. Congrats for making such a bold move!

The You Tube video is at this address:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO2xv_QI1_M
Sorry, I’m not able to make it an active link for some reason. As soon as I have updates on my conversion I will let you know. For now the Rabbi is doing the whole *ignore your request 3 times* part. Not fun.

It’s active! Have you seen Trembling before G-d yet?

Ok I just found it online. I’m watching it right this second. For myself, regardless of what other people have to say, if God wants me to be with a particular woman or man, then God will put that person in my life. Since I’m very single right now, my sexuality doesn’t really factor in (for the purpose of conversion). I do understand that it would be very different if I were in a serious relationship though.

I personally think a person can be “orthodox” in how they keep the mitzvot without necessary being a member of an Frum community. How practical this actually is for a gay Jew to live out, I am not sure, but its what I hope to do. Maybe I’m extra optimistic because I live where same-sex marriage is legal. There are also individual Conservative communities that are accepting.

This film is very enlightening btw!

I love it, I’ve watched it a few times now.

I agree, as a single person you wouldn’t necessarily need to out yourself to a rabbi to undergo a conversion. I also know so many Orthodox, okay a few, people who aren’t frum and don’t live in frum communities. There are many things about Orthodox conversion that are intriguing to me-being a “real” Jew in Israel is one of them. On the other hand, I also feel like I’m going to be a pretty religions Reform Jew-or a Reform Jew with Conservative, and perhaps Orthodox tendancies. On the other hand, the flexibility with keeping mitzvot is helpful. There’s no way I could keep kosher, I don’t have the space, I like to sing in shul, etc., etc. On the other hand, I’m very drawn to a lot of prayer aspects and the dedication to prayer and having a consistant connection and awareness of God…

Yes, one could have even a Reform conversion and live an Orthodox life. As far as Conservative shuls, they should be totally accepting. If one isn’t, I’d defiantly move on.

I totally agree. I figure, after I’m finished converting I can join a conservative shul if I wanted or not. I’m also starting to feel like it has everything to do with me, personally, in terms of how observant I am, etc.

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