Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Birthday to Jew...Part 1

After many months of studying, thinking, practicing and writing about my impending conversion, the deed is finally done. I am officially a Member of the Tribe. Not surprisingly, I feel no different than I did on Monday. That's OK, though. It reaffirms to me, anyway, that this was the right decision. I have been living, as the rabbi put it yesterday "Jewishly" for the past few years. This just kind of cemented the deal. I will warn you now - this is going to be a loooong post.

I am thrilled to report that my rabbinic court, the bet din, when extremely well. I could not possibly have asked for a better group of rabbis to give me their blessing.

Rabbi Emily Rosenzweig was the rabbi with whom I studied for the past few months. She is one of two rabbis at Temple Israel here in Columbus and she is the whole package - incredibly smart, dryly funny and delivers a riveting sermon (oh she of sexting fame). Did I mention that I think she may just be a smidge over 30, if that? She is amazing.

I specifically requested Rabbi Elka Abrahamson as a member of my bet din. I am slightly in awe of her, actually. She is a presence. She is tall with this fantastic head of extraordinarily curly short, jet black hair that has a few wisps of gray in it. She smells of patchouli. If it sounds as if I am describing someone I have a crush on, you may be right, but in the wrong way. You've heard, maybe, of a "bromance"? This is maybe the girl equivalent. I want to hang out and have a beer with Elka, because she is really one of the most hilarious women I know (and I know a lot of gut-busting, fall off your chair and laugh yourself to tears kind of hilarious women). She, too, is incredibly smart and well-spoken. Also, she happens to be married to the senior rabbi at Temple Israel, so I am extraordinarily thankful to him for bringing her along for the ride to Columbus.

Finally, my "player to named at a later date" as Emily referred to the third position, was Rabbi Sharon Mars. I have met Rabbi Mars a couple of times and found her increasingly delightful. She, too, is very smart (seems to be a requirement for rabbis, eh?), soft-spoken and just seems genuinely Nice-with-a-capital-N. I would suppose you would have to be, as part of her work duties is ministering to Jewish inmates at various Central Ohio prisons. Good people, that Sharon.

Honestly, I was never very worried about the bet din part of the conversion. I have been practicing Judaism now for a number of years, eliminated the Christmas tree this year, make Shabbat on a regular basis and know more about Judaism than some people who were born Jewish. So the bet din discussion revolved around how I was raised, how I came to the decision to convert, my relationship with Osi's family (funny that a full quarter of the conversation should be devoted to my reaction to my orthodox families' reaction, but it was interesting to get these rabbi's views on that), and how I plan to move forward. As I step up to the plate a temple's Sisterhood co-president next year, have chaired the Outreach Committee and am fairly involved with Jack's class at the JCC, all of these women knew I was already involved in the temple and in the greater Jewish Community. No problems there.

By the way, did you notice that all three rabbis were women? How flippin' COOL is THAT? Loved it! That Sharon was able to step in as the third rabbi just felt right. Part of that is because some of my struggle with the more conservative sects of Judaism (orthodox, in particular) see women as "less." When counting the number of bodies in the room for prayer, they don't count the ovaries. There is a very intricate set of "purity laws" still practiced there that do not apply to men, etc. So the fact that Reform Jews see women as equal was important to me and I was beyond thrilled to have an all-female bet din.

The discussion went well and I apparently passed, because after I stepped out of the room for about 2 minutes, so the rabbis could discuss my readiness for conversion, I was called back in, asked to read and sign a profession of faith (hello...flashback to Catholicism!) and dress down for the mikvah.

The mikvah, dear friends, is another story all in itself. So it will be the topic of my next post.

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know it went well, I am beyond thrilled to finally "be" Jewish and am so thankful for all of the support (and questions) I have received.


Pam said...

I know very little about the Jewish faith, but I do know this: Mazel Tov!

Tammy Howard said...

Congrats, Chris!

Anonymous said...

Now you can answer the question "jew eat?' by answering no, the jew did not eat (thanks woody allen)