Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Ba'al Teshuvah and the Ger.

(I'll write about last night and the Jewish experience a little later, but for now ...)

I came across this story over on a friend's blog, and I had to say a few words about it because I think it's truly a moving issue and story and it comes back to the whole "Who is a Jew?" issue. The story is about a woman that realizes at a friendly dinner table one evening that she is not Jewish. That is, that her mother converted under the auspices of the Conservative movement in the 1950s and as adopting more mitzvot (ba'al teshuvah) and becoming more frum, she realizes that her frum husband is indeed intermarried, that her children are not accepted as Jewish, and that she is not at all Jewish (her words, not mine).
The truth was that my earnest commitment, my core identity, my lifelong affiliation and my membership in Jewish organizations were irrelevant. Judaism is not a club one decides to join, nor is it a democracy where the majority make the rules. The only handbook for admission is the Torah, and the rules were decided by God.
The blogger, whom I consider an e-friend, stresses the heartache about this situation, and this I understand. But the article is written with poise and definitely does not portray the writer as resentful or angry about the entire episode. Most poignantly, the author ends with this:
Yet, I would do it again. The raison d’etre for the Jew is to change and grow beyond the limits we imagine we have. As I look back fifteen years to the beginning of my odyssey, to the woman I was at the rabbi’s Shabbat table, and see where I sit today, I realize that when I cast my lot with the Jewish people and commit to doing God’s will, anything can happen.
It seems to me that the author, while upset that her dedication to Judaism could ever have been questioned (though, she never actually says anything about it being questioned, per se), would jump through the hoops once again, because it is where she belongs and who she is. I have to say I don't agree with a lot of the author's sentiments about what it is to be a Jew, or a convert at that. Though, I do have to say her comments about being a BT and a ger are significant -- you are neither, but both. (This makes me think about people who move to the United States, live here for dozens of years, and never become citizens for one reason or another -- they may feel like a full citizen, but they lack the rights and privileges of being a full citizen, nu?)

While my blogger friend says this is why she will never be anything more than a Reform convert no matter how many mitzvot she takes on, I have to say that it is stories like this that encourage me to pursue an Orthodox conversion. I don't want to get to that point where my children are placed in such a position that they are in this woman's shoes. That isn't the only reason -- and of course it's definitely the wrong reason -- to convert Orthodox. But I'm on my way, in some ways.