Religion & Beliefs

Becoming Jewish: The Conversion Conundrum

Modern Orthodox or Conservative? Which is right for me? Read More

By / May 23, 2011
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

When converting to Judaism, you have to be prepared to absorb a lot of new information. Judaism, in general, is a religion that puts a huge emphasis on education. If you never liked going to school growing up, converting might not be for you. Fortunately, I love learning. You must also have a lot of patience, which for me doesn’t always come easy. A few days ago, I learned that the conversion process might take longer than I thought.

This past weekend, I attended a new Shul, where I felt warm and welcomed by everyone there. I also met with the Shul’s Conservative Rabbi to discuss conversion. I’ve been torn between converting to Modern Orthodox or Conservative Judaism, however, I still don’t understand the intricate nuances of both. I thought that if I chose Modern Orthodox, I would have to dedicate myself entirely to celebrating Shabbat every weekend, being Kosher, and practicing other important rituals well, religiously, but it turns out it depends on what the Rabbi requires of you. I just know I don’t want to set myself up for failure and choose Modern Orthodox when I want to perform comedy on the weekends. The entertainment industry wouldn’t be fitting for that kind of lifestyle. Since my dream of becoming a Jew and my aspirations to be a successful comedian are equally important, I don’t want to choose between either. None of my passions should suffer.

The other side of it is this: Over the past few weeks I didn’t have my Jewish class, and I hadn’t celebrated a Shabbat dinner in probably over a month. I hadn’t read any Jewish texts or participated in any Jewish activities (aside from reading Jewcy, heh heh, shameless self promotion). And you know what? I felt lost. It wasn’t until I once again took part in Shabbat dinner, went to Shul, met with a Rabbi, and researched further topics than I began to feel whole again. Logically, if more Judaism in my life makes me feel like a more complete person, perhaps I should look into the Modern Orthodox route.

At first, I was disappointed to hear that maybe I wasn’t ready to convert, and that I should take more time. The rabbi suggested that I Shul-hop; ingratiate myself into the community, and try to learn some Hebrew over the course of the next year. Of course, I was also given additional readings to look into. I guess I thought that the process only takes a year because a lot of people converting are on a marriage deadline. As much as I want to be a Jew already, I don’t want to rush it. I know it’s what I want in the end, and I’m going to get there no matter how long it takes. I’ll have to try and tune out that voice in my head that makes me feel like an outsider at times and just try my best to fit in. It’s extremely tough when you aren’t officially labeled, because our society loves labels. Admittedly, so do I.

If it takes 10-20 years to be a successful comedian (if I’m lucky, gulp), then waiting a few years to become a Jew should be nothing. In any kind of career, it takes a long time to become really good at what you do. It’s the same for conversion. If it were easy to convert, Judaism would have a lot more followers. But I like that it’s challenging. In my life, I don’t want to do things the easy way because there’s less of a pay off in the end. When I am finally “officially” a Jew, I know it’s going to be that much better because I was patient and gave my love for the religion and culture time to grow. It was difficult to hear, but the Rabbi was right. There’s no point in rushing it. As a young person, I am not always convinced that “patience is a virtue,” but I’m still learning.