Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Conversion Debacle.

Frequent readers will note that I haven't written on, let alone mentioned, the big blow up over the possible revocation of Orthodox conversions in Israel. I've read dozens of blog posts on this, and seen even more news reports about the repercussions across the world and in Israel.

Converts' marriages were put on hold while the dust settled and rulings were analyzed. Then the Conference of European Rabbis declared all converts completing the process in Israel would be invalid. Today, the Prime Minister's Office fired the embroiled rabbi, Chaim Druckman, tied up in this whole eruption -- citing "old age" as the reason. Right. And then, of course, there are the Aussie rabbis who have jumped up to say "none of that going on here!"

In the past day, Google blog search shows 11 posts with the word "Druckman" in them. In the past week? 42. In the past month, 165. The number seem low, especially from how many posts I see just among those on my blog roll.

I'm on an Orthodox women's listserv, and there have been nearly 30 responses in the past five days about the situation from the eyes of Orthodox women, some who converted and some lucky enough (in this instance) to be pretty much unaffected by the situation. At least, not yet.

You question Reform conversions. You question Conservative conversions. Reconstructionist. And now? Orthodox. Those conversions performed in the land that G-d would give us, no less. So who is to say that those who were born, grew up, are living, whose ancestors generations and generations back lived observantly -- who is to say that these Jews won't have to pull out the paperwork, the family tree, the marriage certificates? It's the slippery slope mentality, and I hate it. But I'm worried it's what's happening.

In a perfect world, we'd all be Jewish -- the way Torah means those of the Jewish faith to be. It would be black and white, there would be no factions. But that would also completely obliterate the tradition of questioning and debating and the perpetual argument over what Torah means when it says "do not kindle a fire on the Sabbath."

All the while, my hat goes off to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar for pushing for the conversions to remain recognized. Why does it seem like in all things Sephardim are so much more laid back? Kitniyot is no big thing, conversions by Druckman are no big thing ...

So why haven't I written about this? It happened weeks ago. There have been oodles of posts and comments over on -- where I contribute -- and I've mostly remained mum. I haven't commented in the listserv (then again, in truth my opinion there doesn't necessarily count since my conversion was Reform, making me not a Jew -- legally -- in the eyes of the Orthodox community for the most part).

The truth is, I don't know. Or maybe it's that I don't care. I think apathy and indifference has taken over on this one. Maybe in light of the recent events of being called out on a public forum as "not a Jew, EVER" I just burned out. Maybe, I just don't have the energy to fight it right now.

My philosophy has always been -- and mostly still is, though I have moments of weakness where I'm beaten to pulp emotionally over the topic by others -- that I'm a Jew. That much is black and white. I either am or am not, and I most certainly am. A black woman convert once said that she tells people that she was born Jewish, just not in a Jewish womb, and I think it's pretty accurate. Some are blessed being born into it from breath number one, and some of us have to get there. It's like realizing you have a nose when you're a baby. It's an amazing feeling, too.

But I'm a Jew. I'll jump through thirty hoops and dip in the mikvah a dozen times if you want. What do I care?

There will always be people who think you're not enough. Or that you're too much (as it seems to be the case with me sometimes). And the balance is necessary. These negative Nancy and positive Petes keep you in check, they keep you fighting, they keep you passionate and alive. They remind you that it is not effortless to be a Jew -- convert or not. Someone will always want you to cover more or butcher the cow yourself, and someone else will tell you to loosen up and let your hair down and eat that non-kosher candy bar. It's becuase it isn't black and white.

So this is all I have to say -- right now anyway -- on this whole conversion debacle in Israel and Europe and everywhere else that converts are feeling the burn. I feel for them, we're kindred spirits wandering back to the mount together, catching up with the rest of the tribe camped there. I understand the frustration and the hurt, and I understand the want for it all to just go away and for the slippery slope to flatten out and become coarse as sand paper. But for now, we'll forge forth, nu?

There is always someone standing in our path, and that never changes. It is the reaction to the situation that truly matters. And me? Well, you'll see how I turn out.