I have written (but not edited) a post which I planned to put up last night. Unfortunately, the wifi in coffee house where I was writing went out. I then traveled to my mother’s house to find hers out as well, but for a totally different reason.
Then I got on the phone to fix it and spent and hour and half becoming increasingly angry and ended up telling the poor guy that if he didn’t figure this out I might have to kill someone. Then I remembered the phone conversations are taped so I ended it with a light-hearted laugh to confirm I was indeed joking. (Or insane?) and promised not to actually kill anyone if he promised to help me.
He didn’t help me. But, I also didn’t kill him. So at least one of us kept our promises. (Uh, me. If you don’t catch on quickly.)
I will save that post for another day because I haven’t the time to handle it tonight.
But, here is something else on my mind–since all the shit hit the fan with the whole disgusting and sick RBF scandal, so many, many people have reached out to me. I’ve had countless people offer up their rabbis, their money, their time, their ears and shoulders. I’ve been astounded by the love poured out.
But, there is admittedly a part of me that wants to reply, “where were you when I needed you?” Even though it isn’t inherently their fault.
My family has dealth with this conversion the way most converts deal with it–predominately alone. Conversion is a lonely business. It just is. You never know that going into it and by the time you figure it out, you’re so far into it that you just duck your head and wait to come out on the other side–as a Jew.
Oh, but I never came out. We didn’t. Not yet. And we dared not tell a soul how frustrating an experience it often was because, as all converts know, if you complain about delays or misunderstanding or just the lack of guidance through the process–well, you find yourself out of the process real quick. And who wants to throw away all that hard work they’ve put into it!? We know to keep our mouths shut.
Unfortunately, bitterness, resentment, and deep feelings of rejection and isolation tends to grow in many of us who have been delayed for lengthy times. As much as people want to paint this picture that a person should be ready to go to hell and back to prove their loyalty to Judaism, the real result of overly lengthy conversions and other such delays, is psychological damage. It turns a healthy, happy perspective orthodox convert into depressed and anxious Jew, at best.
Conversion candidates are just regular old people trying to do their best in this life. We don’t have super powers. What would hurt any normal, rational person will also hurt us. And does hurt us.
There have been so many good people along this journey. So many. I love you all dearly. You are in my hearts. Unfortunately, none of those people were the ones in charge of our process. And so as often as I have heard, “if it were only up to me, you’d have been Jewish long ago”, here we are. Not Jewish.
The truth is this, my friends… My family and I have spent the last six years (four here in the DC area)ves trying to prove we would make good Orthodox Jews. And we would! We have. We have done all that has been asked of us, to the limits of our abilities. But, there is no loyalty between conversion candidate and Orthodoxy. At the end of the day, no matter how much you give of yourself, you ain’t a Jew if you ain’t a Jew. And you are guaranteed nothing. The loyalty goes only one way, and it’s emotionally draining to always be an outsider.
So, given the ultimate betrayal by RBF–which in my humble opinion only emphasizes and highlights the lack of loyalty and true love for the convert– I am taking a step back. My family is taking a step back. And for a change we are going to now consider if Orthodoxy is good enough for us. This, I know for fact, is not a question we are alone in considering. Converts and conversion candidates worldwide are both openly and privately questioning the same thing. And I think it would be wholly stupid of us not to, honestly. When you are betrayed, you should never run right back into the same damn situation without taking time to closely examine your life and what could prevent such a thing from happening again.
Look, my dear friends, respected mentors, and much loved readers–I understand the intentions of your heart when you say such things to me as, “you can’t judge Judaism by the Jews”. I really do.
But, that simply isn’t true. Judaism IS the Jews. Hashem was before and will continue to be long after the Jews. But Judaism? It is how the Jews connect to Hashem and to each other and to the world. Judaism, for all intents and purposes, IS the Jews. Plain and simple.
I know many of you want to help. And that many of you are hurting and confused too. I understand, and you have my sympathies. His betrayal has hit us all in different ways. The only ones who I don’t have sympathy for are those who pooh pooh how hurt the rest of us are. Now those are just people incapable of empathic emotions and I have nothing to say to them which would be polite.
But, please realize this hits converts — and those of us stuck in limbo between — in a very, very vulnerable place. We need time and respect. We need to step back and get some air. To consider if this is the life we signed up for. To make very personal decisions and to make peace with God and ourselves and Judaism in our own ways.
Everyone keeps asking me what we are going to do now. Everyone wants to lend me their rabbi. To offer a solution. To invite us to a new shul or comunity. But, we are not ready for that yet. Right now we have a lot to figure out.
I guess the best thing I can ask for the Jewish community is to look around and take stock of what is going on. Consider your leaders. Hold them accountable. Question them. Yes! Question them! Welcome converts with love, or at least respect. Listen when they talk. We see things with a different perspective and it might be just what you need to hear.
And seriously, please just give us time to work through all of our complex and confusing emotions.