20 Years a Jew: One Convert’s Observations in Seven Installments

Contributed by Athena Derasmo

Installment #2 “Why Judaism? What made it special (to me)?”

As I mentioned in installment #1, the form and function of Judaism has always been hugely attractive to me. Who can deny the intellectual appeal, the turning of Torah again and again, and the Socratic method of study? Even for those of us who tend to be more spectator than participant, the questions and curiosities are there, and we are obliged to get involved with the process of Judaism. This keeps Judaism alive, vibrant, relevant, and ready to take on the modern condition.

Another attribute of Judaism that is very intriguing is the inherent disinterest in proselytizing and seeking the conversion of non-Jews. Because, as I see it, deeds are more important than faith, and what we do is more important that what we believe, there is no need for non-Jews to “join the club!” Living a good life is enough. Unlike other monotheistic religions that threaten soul damning repercussions for being a non-believer, Judaism is not in the saving business. I believe it has no interest in placing the yoke of Judaism on others. To me this is the ultimate expression of coexistence and tolerance. I could not resist learning more about a club that was not interested in having me as a member (with regards to Groucho Marx).

The test of time is a useful yardstick by which credibility can be measured. Judaism can certainly boast the attribute of longevity and the respect it commands. It is remarkable to me that after everything, which has occurred over thousands of years, Judaism remains strong and enduring. I recall a proselytizing group coming to my door to share “the word.” When I told them, “This is a Jewish home,” they politely smiled, nodded, and left without a word. I like to believe that their reaction came from respect. I think it can be said that Judaism is the closest thing the world has to an “O.G.” religion still operating in modern times. The permanence of Judaism is a powerful and impressive thing indeed!

When I was going through my conversion process one of the members of my Beit Din asked me about the fact that I was not baptized and that I had no affiliation with any other religious group. I explained that I was born in the 60s and my parents did not see the need to impose belief systems on their children. Furthermore, while they believed religious education was an important part of being an educated person, my parents felt that it was up to the individual to find their spiritual affiliation. As a young person, I did look around, study, and observe, but I was always something of a spiritual orphan. It was a struggle, and as a young woman, I often felt lost. It wasn’t until I was a mature woman that I realized I had been wandering long enough and that it was time to find a home. I was told by a Rabbi, “For you, this is not a spiritual conversion, this is a spiritual adoption.” And so, it was.

I cannot finish this installment without mentioning the resolve and humor of the Jewish people. This feature of Judaism is very endearing and attractive to a non-Jew, and as a conversion candidate, I was no exception. What’s not to love! After all the Jews have been through – to succeed, to persevere, and still have humor – who wouldn’t want to belong to such a family! And so, I do.


Installment 1 – “The Decision To Convert – Simple, Right?”

Installment 2 – “Why Judaism? What Made It Special (To Me)?”

Installment 3 – “What’s An Orphan To Do?”

Installment 4 – Balancing Secular and Sacred 

Installment 5 – “Modest Fashion and the Modern Woman”

Installment 6 – “Conversion and Jewish “Pedigree””

Calendar
Upcoming Events
  1. Hol Hamo’ed Pesach

    April 22 @ 6:30 pm - April 25 @ 7:30 pm
  2. Pesach Day 7

    April 25 @ 7:00 pm - April 26 @ 7:00 pm
  3. Yizkor

    April 27 @ 8:00 am - 10:00 am
  4. Pesach Shabbat Services

    April 27 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Categories
  • Passover, Questions and Pulling Ourselves Together
    Passover is a time for transformation. We start in our own homes but we are working on transformations that the world needs. We are telling a story which takes us out of our isolation and puts our lives into relationship to a larger picture, and shift of perspective makes all the difference. One of the […]
  • Paradigm-Shifting Conversations: Healing Ourselves and the World
    As we witness and experience the epidemics of addiction, loneliness, political fragmentation and the environmental disasters of climate change and mass extinction it is becoming abundantly clear that our present course is not sustainable. In these seven webinars from winter 2017 to spring 2018, Organic Torah founder Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D. talks with leaders in […]