Recently I reached out to a young woman on Facebook who is about to go through the process of the beit den to finish her conversion to Judaism. Although I am a Jew-by-Choice (a term I will be using to describe myself but I do not apply the same phrase to others who have converted unless they chose to identify as such), it is hard to believe that less than two months ago today, I was in the same position myself.
I decided to reach out to her because she was expressing some of the same fears and anxieties that I had both leading up to the date as well as the actual day itself.
In my opinion, Judaism is one of the most intimidating religions to convert to as well as one of the most challenging, and one could certainly argue, with good reason.
Unlike other religions, you take on a legacy and a history quite unlike any other. Along with all of the richness and beauty that comes with the religion, also comes along the ugliness of persecution and discrimination.
It is not something that converts to other religions usually have to be so consciously aware of. Yes, their newfound faith certainly had its dark side but it is not something in many cases (in mainstream religion at least),that threatens its survival. That is a huge burden to chose to take on.
When I began studying Judaism I was so intimidated to mess up, to do something disrespectful, to say a bracha (blessing) wrong. I was in awe of anyone that could speak Hebrew fluently and who could perform rituals without a second thought.
I felt like an outsider for the longest time and was subconsciously expecting someone to call me out because I was not officially “Jewish” yet.
Then something changed in me after I started getting more and more involved with the community. I craved finishing my studies so I could officially join the Tribe. The more I learned about Judaism, the more I fell in love. Then my mentality changed and all I could think was “how can I not be Jewish”.
I could not help it. I was in love with Judaism, and I had found it all on my own. I wanted to share this beautiful belief system with everyone but I definitely overloaded some of my both Jewish and non-Jewish friends with constantly talking their ear off on anything and everything Jewish. I could not be satiated.
The day of my conversion, I was on the verge of having both a panic attach and a complete meltdown because my emotions were running so high. It was hard to believe that all of my learning and studying had boiled down to this very moment. What would happen if the beit den wanted me to wait to convert? Part of me felt like I would never be ready and the other part of me felt like I had to be ready because why wait any longer.
I will say I am now drawing a blank on what I actually said during the beit den because I was so nervous but I do know that I was crying happy tears both in the mikvah and afterwards. I have never felt so happy in my life and proud of myself.
Its amusing to me sometimes when born-Jews don’t seem to understand why I, or anyone else for that matter, would choose to convert to Judaism. I think that, for me atleast, the beauty of the religion is worth the risk for the potential ugliness that can come along with it. Yes, I do worry about anti-Semitism daily and my heart drops every time I hear a new report in the news about it. Nevertheless, there is so much beauty to this religion, that how could I not be a part of it. To share the joy that Judaism has brought to me is why I have chosen to start blogging about it starting right here and right now.
Channah C. is a newly converted Jew-by-Choice who enjoys reading, writing, volunteering within her local Jewish community, and learning everything she can about Jewish living. She converted through Darshan Yeshiva and is currently studying to be a Darshan through their training program. Follow her on Twitter @JewishlyNew