I was recently interviewed for a magazine about The G-d Project. And while I am grateful for the interview, I was miffed about a series of questions from the reporter about my “religious background”.
I answered honestly, “I grew up without religion.” It’s that simple. My parents aren’t atheists. But we never went to church (or anything else, for that matter), we didn’t celebrate holidays religiously, and I never went to any kinds of events that promoted religion, with the exception of seeing the Dalai Lama speak on world peace.
But this was not enough for the reporter.
“Oh, so you converted?” She asked.
This is a sticky situation. I’m open about the fact that I converted to Judaism more than I should be. People who know me, or know PunkTorah, or stumble upon one of our videos, know that Patrick Aleph is a big ol’ ger. Loud and proud.
But does that give anyone a right to ask me about it?
Technically, no. Judaism discourages “outing” converts. Abraham was a convert. All the matriarchs of the Torah were converts. And Ruth, the most famous convert in Torah history, has a holiday surrounding her (Shavuot). No one can trace their heritage back to Mt. Sinai, so in a way, we’re all Jews By Choice.
In reality though, converts are second class citizens. I’m done pretending that the Jewish community treats us any differently.
I have been asked by rabbis of every mainstream movement of Judaism, across the spectrum, if I am a convert. This is a violation of Jewish law, and no one can play the “they don’t know any better” card. Maybe a lay person walking down the street doesn’t know, but a rabbi does.
I hope people disagree with me, because I’d like to see some light at the end of the tunnel.