“Are you Jewish?”
“Then there you go, sport.”
Brian and Jillian, “Family Guy”
One of my other goals is to behave as a practicing Jew, also for an entire year. I’d love to experience what it’s like to be fully Jewish before taking the plunge and really looking into conversion. Something that I find to be mildly upsetting is the fact that Judaism places a strong emphasis on community, and as such I may not be able to convert with a partner who is not Jewish. As I’ve mentioned previously, I have gotten into the habit of keeping tznius, or Jewish modesty law. This is something generally practiced by Orthodox Jews, and I’d never have a halachic (or Orthodox) conversion because I’m gay and Orthodox Judaism would force me into a life of celibacy. All the same, I find myself inexplicably drawn to many of the mitzvah that generally only Orthodox Jews practice. On the few occasions that I have attended Shabbat dinner at a local Chabad center (a place that would not recognize me as Jewish for the aforementioned reason of not having a halachic conversion), I have felt that connection and movement that I seem to have lost from Paganism. Another thing that Judaism offers that Paganism does not is the allure of weekly services – I like the idea of having structure in my religious beliefs and the frequency of weekly services appeals to me greatly. It gives me something to look forward to. But one of the reasons I’m hesitant on converting to Judaism, aside from a lack of support from my family, is the finality of it. A conversion to Judaism is much more permanent feeling (in my mind) than a conversion to any other Abrahamic faith, and that finality is the same reason I put off a “dedication to the Goddess” celebration when I was more actively interested in Paganism. I like the idea of being all over the place and letting my spirituality guide me to whatever feels right at the moment. I’m not sure if I reached one of those ebb and flow places in my spirituality while I was Jewish if I would feel the need to leave the faith or not, as I do now with Paganism. That’s part of the reason why I would like to dedicate a year of actively practicing to each faith – to act as a barometer for my interest.
One of my cousins is a lover of that saying, “God has a plan”. I have to imagine that if for some reason I reached a block in my conversion to Judaism, all it means is that I was simply meant to be Pagan. Technically I think Noahides (a popular concept in Orthodox Judaism – Judaism doesn’t mandate that you need to be Jewish to get to heaven, so righteous non-Jews who follow the seven Noahide laws are called Noahides) need to be practitioners of an Abrahamic faith and not Pagan, but for my purposes I’ll pretend that the two can be reconciled to one another. There are always aspects of Judaism that I can incorporate into my life even if I’m not Jewish – special Friday night family dinners, unplugging during the weekend, and dressing modestly, to name a few. I think that my biggest hurdle on this spiritual journey will be determining how comfortable I am raising an interfaith family, something that I’d never put much thought into until recently. I know that my father converted to Catholicism so that our family could celebrate holidays together, so the idea of putting aside some less strongly felt convictions for the sake of unity is not an unheard of concept. Mostly I wish that I had looked into a conversion to Judaism before I became romantically linked with anyone, but that’s neither here nor there at this point (hindsight is always 20/20). I suppose that as long as I’m able to retain my core values and come off as an intelligent religious person (despite the fact that “intelligent religious person” is a paradox to some), I’ll have succeeded in building a healthy spiritual base and remaining happy with my choices. And sometimes that’s all we can ask for.