Friday, August 13, 2010

365 Challenge, Day 27: Shabbat Shalom

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of our move to Falls Church, VA was that it coincided more or less with TJ's decision to pursue a Jewish lifestyle. He began attending services in December. We moved in February.

I've never been particularly religious. I believe in's organized religion that gives me the heebie jeebies. Still, TJ's decision left me feeling a little concerned. Whereas before I was content to live in blissful agnosticism, I suddenly feared for my eternal soul. If TJ became a practicing Jew, did that mean he would go to heaven? And did that mean that I would go to hell? Would TJ think that I would go to hell?

A requirement for conversion is the completion of an "Introduction to Judaism" course. TJ enrolled in a class that was scheduled to begin the week after our move to Virginia. Since it only cost $25 more for me to take it, I tagged along for the ride. All else failing, at least it would give me some background on Jewish culture.

Throughout the sixteen week course, I found myself falling in love with the idea of Judaism. I was surprised to learn that religion has very little to do with it. That is to say, religion has as much or as little to do with it as you choose for your own life. Judaism is a culture, a way of life. It's about remembering the past, embracing the future, and respecting your fellow man. There is no clearly defined idea of what God is, or what happens after we die. Questions are encouraged. It is more important to learn from what the Bible teaches than it is believe that any of it actually happened. Religious text and meaning are seen as a product of the times that must adapt with society. These were concepts that I could get behind, and I began to see conversion as a possibility for not just TJ, but for myself as well.

The trouble began when I started openly discussing the subject with my friends. They would all get that look on their face. You know the one. They would ask why. I found that I couldn't articulate my reasons. This embarrassed me. As the course neared completion, I couldn't think of one good reason to convert. The trouble is, I couldn't think of one good reason not to convert, either.

Discussing religion is hard. It is awkward. It can be embarrassing. Everyone either has a really strong opinion about what the right religion is, or has at some point in their lives been so scarred in the name of religion that it has left a negative impression on them that is hard to shake.

Having these discussions with religious leaders are even worse. Whatever our beliefs, thoughts, mindset, etc., we don't want to offend them. And in a case such as mine, where conversion is a possibility, we don't want to anger or disappoint them. It's nerve racking.

I met with my rabbi sponsor shortly after class ended in June. I confided in her that I was unsure about conversion but didn't want to throw in the hat, either. She suggested that I take some some some thinking, and get back with her in August.

My meeting is scheduled for August 24th. I still don't know what to do. But I know what I will tell her.

I will tell her that every time the Westoboro Baptist Church holds a protest, I catch myself saying "Ugh. I'm so glad I'm Jewish...oh, wait." I will tell her that every time my 'father-in-law' posts something hateful on his Facebook page about preserving the sanctity of marriage, I am grateful that the Jews don't feel this way (well, reform Jews, anyway). I will tell her that even though I don't attend services very often, and even though I haven't done much Jewish reading this summer, there is nothing more peaceful than a Sabbath dinner with TJ.

I might even tell her that she scares me a little bit.

Shabbat Shalom


  1. Shabat shalom to you as well - you're not walking an easy path (even the Reform path), but good for you for finding peace in your family.

  2. Hehe I grew up a conservative Jew! I don't practice anymore, though. hannah banana, are you Jewish as well?