Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Being a Convert, School, and Music

Ready for another installment of Ask Chaviva Anything!? Because I am! Let's get started. [PS: Ask more questions here!]
Do you think that maybe you over-emphasize the whole convert thing? That most Jews (myself included) don't really care if you are a convert, that they'll accept you for who you are? I sometimes wonder how real the feeling of being an outsider is for you, because to me, you seem as much a part of our crazy tribe as the next yid. And it is as normal for you to struggle with your Jewish identity as it is for anybody to struggle with their identity. I know this is phrased as a yes or no question, but any further thoughts from you would be appreciated.
This is a question that I was asked a bit ago and am just now answering. Not because I hesitate with my response, but because I didn't want to give 'tude and give someone a reason to be mean. My answer: No, never, it's impossible, are you crazy!? I can't explain how it's different to be a convert moving through Judaism than for someone who was born Jewish, except to say that as a convert, nothing is ever certain. Nothing. Confidence is everything, but confidence is never going to be enough. I'm a proud, confident, certifiable Jew, no doubt, but just because you are okay with that and don't think it's a big deal doesn't mean that many, many, many Jews out there who were born that way feel the same. Can I pick up and move to Israel with the same ease as a born Jew? No. Can I marry a Kohen? No. If I marry another convert can our child marry a Kohen? No. Can I sit down with a table full of Jews -- secular or not -- and reminisce about childhood Shabbats or Passover or Chanukah or camp or family lost in the Shoah or inheriting my ancestor's Judaica? No. Someone will always care, someone will always make it a big deal, and it will always matter. I will always be different.

Am I bitter about it? No. Is it a big freaking deal? Yes. Am I okay with it? Heck yeah!

I am happy that you are able to look beyond the things that make you and me different (there should be more Jews like you!), but that's not the real world, and I embraced it very early on. Many converts never get to that point where they can cope with the fact that no matter how many rabbis say it, and no matter whether the gemara professes it, I'll always be a convert. And with that, I'm okay!

I wish I could make it easier, but that's me speaking truth.
Are you afraid that the scholarship committee will shy away from future applicants who are converts because of your actions?
Um. No? I'm not sure what my actions are, anyway. Please elaborate! I mean, everyone goes through life changes, everyone hits a point where things change. Does me getting divorced and having huge life changes make me a bad person? And does being a convert have anything to do with that ...? I don't think so. But thanks for asking!
Do you have a favorite song?
I have a million of them, seriously, a million. My life has a very detailed and lengthy soundtrack. Right now -- if you want to know my soul -- my favorites are anything by Mumford & Sons, Abigail Washburn, and Adele. I'm also wholly devoted to Death Cab for Cutie, Erez Lev Ari, Rilo Kiley, Tegan & Sara, Weezer, and so many other musicians.