Friday, March 19, 2010

A Pro-Convert, Pre-Shabbos Anecdote

Shabbat cometh, so I thought I'd share a cute little "yay convert!" anecdote with everyone. ready?

While in Austin, standing in line at the kosher grill at H-E-B, a little old man, who also is a professor at the university there, turned to me, looked at my SXSW Interactive nametag, and said, "Chaviva? Are you Israeli?"

I responded that I was not, and left it at that.

He replied, "Are your parents Israeli? Such a weird name to give an American girl!" I responded, hesitatingly, "Nope, I chose this name myself, actually." The little old man grinned broadly, saying, "Ahh! A convert! I love converts!"

At first I wasn't entirely sure how to react. It was funny to me how typically I anticipate people experiencing my "I'm a convert" moment through asking me where I'm from (Nebraska, there are Jews there?!) or where I was bat mitzvahed (no where). Never before, although perhaps it will become a more regular occurrence, has my name become the topic for my "coming out." Although, now that I think about it, Chaviva is a very Israeli name. In the U.S. the names Ahava and Aviva are much more popular to express the same idea.

So the little old man went on to tell me stories about the converts he knows, how he "adopted" their children, how authentic and genuine the converts he knows are. He was giddy with love for gerim! So I stood, smiled, nodded, and was pleased to experience the happier side of convert acceptance.

Later, as I sat eating with a friend and two Israelis we'd bumped into, the little old man came over and said something along the lines of, "It was good to meet you all. But it was especially good to meet her (pointing at me); SHE is something very special."

This left me glowing, feeling special, and the Israeli guests puzzled as to what was going on (they didn't know, of course, what the little old man was so excited about). Surrounded by Israelis and kosher food and friends, I felt utterly loved and, as the little old man said, special.

Shabbat shalom, friends!