The practical question is why am I doing a blog on post-conversion life. I converted to Judaism in January 2010. I felt very focused during the conversion process and well-supported by my fantastic rabbi. But, once I stepped out of the mikve and dried off, I kind of felt like I was dropped in the woods somewhere and was befuddled when a voice from above said “Mazal tov! You’re Jewish! Now…just go be Jewish…go ahead…you can do it…get goin’ now…what are you waiting for…chop chop.” Did I mention that my husband isn’t Jewish and practically our whole extended family is Catholic? (I do have 3 fab cousins who are Jewish, which is an interesting story I’ll save for later.) So, I don’t have close family or in laws whose Jewish traditions I can adopt. For this reason, I feel like I’ve very ham-handedly been managing the process of learning what I need to learn and doing what I need to do to feel Jewish (enough). BUT – and here’s the thing – I’ve talked to a lot of people, both born Jews and Jews-by-choice, who feel the same way. Who are wrestling with questions great and small about Judaism and Jewish identity.
This blog is my way of imposing structure on my ongoing, self-directed Jewish study and connecting with others who are doing the same. Questions of particular interest to me are the following.
What is a Jew? (A biggie, I know. But, why not just tackle it, head on?)
What is the basis of Jewish identity for born Jews? What does it mean to “struggle” with Judaism?
Who are Jews-by-choice? In an age of “retail religion,” in which people have unprecedented access to information on all sorts of religions and feel more entitled to choose a religion that differs from the one in which they were raised, who chooses to be Jewish and why?
What can synagogues do to support congregants after they convert?
How important is conversion in ensuring the longevity of Judaism?
To what extent is Reform Judaism American Judaism?
What accounts for the intensity of inter-denominational conflict? (This was the most surprising/shocking/dismaying thing I learned in my conversion study. I mean, we’re all Jews, right?)
What about conversions to other religions? How does that work?
How does Judaism differ from other world religions and what can we learn about Judaism from its commonalities with other religions?
I’m sure there are other questions that will crop up. Another reason I’m doing the blog is because I am a person of action and I feel most Jewish when I am doing Jewish things and seeing Jewish places. So, I will do regular field trips to Jewish places. I have already found that there is a Jewish museum in Dublin (yep, you read correctly. Dublin.), which I will visit this summer.
Oh, the existential why-am-I-here question is a good one. Short answer: I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.