So if you’ve ever read any of my other blogs, you probably know where I started off. But if you haven’t, I’ll just give you a little bit of a rundown so that you can understand this blog.
My mother’s family is Jewish, but my mother converted to Christianity before my brothers and I were born. I was raised in a predominantly Christian household, but now that my mom is in contact with her family a little bit more (they lost contact for a while, but that’s a long story), she’s starting to go back to her Jewish roots, with me leading the way.
For the past 7-8 months, I’ve done nothing but lived, breathed, and ate Judaism. Everything has been about my religion, my religious identity, and where I am in Judaism. So it came as a shock to me when I went to visit a Rabbi a couple weeks ago and was told I am not, in fact, a Jew, and that I would need to go through the conversion process.
Now let me just stop right here to say a few things. Before this rabbi, any Rabbi or any one else I had talked to confirmed that I was, in fact, Jewish. They said, “well, once a Jew, always a Jew, and your mothers family is Jewish, as are you”. So I’ve believed I was Jewish, all up until this one man tells me that I’m not.
I didn’t know how that made me feel. I felt almost like a fraud, that I’ve been living a lie by saying I was Jewish, when I, according to this one man, am not.
So what exactly makes someone a Jew? Well, I’ll ignore the Talmud and the Torah for a second to answer just based on what I think. The mentality that “I’m not a true Jew because so and so reasons” got me thinking, who exactly gets to tell me whether or not I’m a real Jew, except for G-d and myself? Sure, the conversion process is a good thing to validate your feelings about the religion, but I know I’m Jewish, with or without it. I don’t need a Rabbi’s confirmation to solidify my faith. I know many people will tell me, “well that’s wrong”, but think about it: your faith is yours alone, and what does a Rabbi do for you that you couldn’t do for yourself by reading books, the Torah, and going to shul, besides taking you to a mikvah and declaring you Kosher? I can understand how one would see the conversion process as helping to weed out the “true believers” from the “nonbelivers”, of course. I’m not saying that we should throw away a tradition (on the contrary, I think that there should be a conversion process), I’m just saying that you shouldn’t let someone else’s beliefs dictate your own.
On another note, a couple months ago I visited another Rabbi, who confirmed that by what I said, since my mothers family is Jewish, that I am as well; but because I have a “goyish” first and last name, that I would need “proof” that I was Jewish. He explained to me that I would need a family member’s Rabbi to sign off that my family member was, indeed, Jewish, and that I would need birth certificates of my family members to prove that I was related to said family member. Let me stop right here for a second, and just ask something: I need papers to prove that I’m Jewish? If any history buffs are reading this, or even anyone that is a little bit knowledgeable about the Holocaust, they might think that this sounds a little bit familiar.
In Nazi Germany, Jews were required to have papers saying that they were Jewish, and were required to wear a Star of David to further prove that fact. In telling me that I need papers to prove my Jewish Identity, this man single-handidly pushed all efforts any Jews have made in these past years since World War II, back 65+ years.
I’ve lived my life in a more Jewish fashion than many of my Jewish friends who’ve grown up in Jewish homes, have. I’ve talked the talk, walked the walk, and done hours of research and studying. I’ve made my religion into every single part of my life. I know I’m a Jew, and I’m proud of that fact.
This journey has been a long one, and the path continues to grow every day. The experience that I’ve had with others opinions have shown me that my journey will be filled with slight road blocks that might knock me down. But I know that I can get right back up, brush off my knees, and walk around the road blocks, which will in turn make me a stronger person in my faith. If I go through the conversion process, or get papers from family members proving my Jewish Identity, it’ll be of my own accord, not because someone else made me feel like less of a Jew because of it.
I guess the moral of this story is, is that the old saying really does ring true “Two Jews, Three Opinions”, but just because someone else’s opinion might differ from ours, it doesn’t always mean that they’re always right, or that even we’re right. Judaism gives it’s people a lot of leeway in regards to opinion, which sometimes proves to be a hassle, but overall can make us stronger in our faith, and, if we can accept that others will sometimes have differing opinions, it can help us grow more as a united Jewish people.