Thursday, January 4, 2007

More on the "War on Converts"

I came across this story today. It's not so much a story as an opinion piece by an American psychologist about the "War on Converts" in Judaism. Says Renee Garfinkel on Ynet news, in referencing shalom bayit (where abused women were told to return home to try to make peace, to make the marriage work):
As abused women once were oppressed in the name of shalom bayit, converts to Judaism are now being oppressed in the name of The Eternal Family, a code word used by the supporters of a bill proposed by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. The bill would deny Jews by conversion equal access to the Law of Return.
Garfinkel goes on to explain the experience of the convert amid rejection:
I'm not an Israeli politician. I'm an American psychologist. And as a psychologist I know that to question the personal status of someone who converted to Judaism is to whip her with a vicious triple-tailed whip made of the following components: Public humiliation, threat of rejection, and social stigma.
And perhaps most importantly:
The irony of the institutional abuse of converts is that it comes from the very institution that ought to feel charged with the duty to protect them. Members of the Rabbinate have studied religious texts that explain the convert's exquisite emotional tenderness, and advise taking particular care with their feelings ("Do not taunt him" – Leviticus 19).

There is a religious obligation to avoid calling attention to the convert's status, even in casual conversation, lest she feel diminished.