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I converted to Judaism AMA

83 replies

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 12:54

I converted to Liberal Judaism last year.

I occasionally encounter some religious AMA but they are mostly centred on Christianity (understandably because it is the majority religion in the UK). But thought this might be interesting. My husband is Jewish but is completely irreligious.

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LApprentiSorcier · 16/03/2021 12:56

Hi OP. You say your husband is irreligious - what motivated you to convert to Judaism?

MrsArchchancellorRidcully · 16/03/2021 12:57

Do you have to keep yourself hidden away when menstruating? Or I assume that's strict religiously?

Nightbear · 16/03/2021 12:58

How long did it take?

MildredPuppy · 16/03/2021 13:00

Has the jewish community accepted you fully?

RoyalMush · 16/03/2021 13:02

Congratulations OP. Do you feel very different now, or more informed, more a part of something, what has been the change for you with this conversion?

Did you have any religious faith yourself or was that part of your upbringing before? Do you have kids? Will you be living your life more as part of a religious community now or as part of a cultural community or both? Will this affect any practical issues like schooling or where you live? What’s been the take of those close to you to your conversion?

mumumum3 · 16/03/2021 13:04

Where in the UK do you live? Are you surrounded by other Jewish people? Do you worry about your dc encountering any negative attitudes in school?

Full disclosure, we are Jewish, conservative-masorti. We have a strong community of friends and family but worry about sending dc to school outside of London in case they feel like the odd one out for not kneeling in chapel, not celebrating the same holidays. We have had close friends send their dc to Marlborough where they were bullied for being Jewish and that's my most nightmare!

AdoraBell · 16/03/2021 13:04

I was also going ask what motivated you to convert as your husband is irreligious.

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 13:11

@MrsArchchancellorRidcully
That's a requirement for orthodox jews so nope :)

@LApprentiSorcier I was always very interested in Judaism and my interest increased when i met my husband as he comes from a very religious orthodox family (his own mum is a convert but she converted to orthodox judaism!). We lived with his mum for 3 years before we bought our own place so I ended up living a Jewish lifestyle. I went to orthodox synagogues a few times with my mother in law but felt it wasn't for me (also they are much more insular). I stumbled upon a liberal synagogue while looking up interfaith marriage ceremonies, and decided to visit. I fell in love with the community.

I used to be a Catholic but hated how misogynistic it was. Liberal Judaism allows women to be rabbis and women to read from the torah so I felt more valued as a woman. Its also pretty open to mixed faith couples. I like religion and the idea of raising a child in a religion (as I have fond memories of religion as a child) but I don't like religions which are at odds with 21st century societal norms so Liberal Judaism felt like a good fit. It also means that I can be closer to DH's family as even though they are orthodox, they don't completely reject other streams. My MIL actually attended my conversion ceremony (albeit on livestream as it was during the pandemic) and was very happy for me (on the other hand, as she refuses to enter churches, she missed her own brother's wedding!).

@Nightbear it took me a year and a half. at the minimum, it takes a jewish year so you can experience all the festivals, learn a year of hebrew etc. I was involved in the synagogue for longer than that though, i find that for many people, it takes them a few years as most people would take time for such a life changing decision. Also as its 2 hours of lessons per week and people in london can have busy lives, there are people who take longer to complete the year long course.

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RoyalMush · 16/03/2021 13:13

Also what do you mean by ‘irreligious’ OP?
Not observant of his religion but believing as a private feeling? Non-believing? Against his religion? against all religion? Agnostic? Atheist?
How does that relate to his feelings about your choice?

TheQueef · 16/03/2021 13:15

Can women easily convert?

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 13:15

@mumumum3 I live in north london within the eruv so I am surrounded by jewish people. It was important to me to buy a home in a jewish community, not just because of synagogue but also because we prefer to be near DH's mum (my own family are overseas so its nice to have some family nearby).

I plan to send my DC to a jewish primary school but am open to private school too (if we can afford it when the time comes!) I think a lot of north london private schools do have Jewish children but I guess that would be evaluated when the time comes.

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RedcurrantPuff · 16/03/2021 13:18

How do you change your beliefs? My sister has a friend who was a strict RC and then married a Muslim man, so converted and is now a strict Muslim. How does someone just go “oh no, I don’t believe that religion I had any more, I believe this one instead”? I know you can’t speak for her lol but I have always wanted to ask her, but of course haven’t!!

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 13:23

@MildredPuppy Liberal/Reform Jews accept me fully. As for orthodox jews, it really depends; my MIL's friends from her synagogue are pretty nice to me, but they are converts/baalei teshuva -secular people who became religious in adulthood so are probably more open-minded than the average orthodox jew but thats just a theory. I have prayed at Muswell Hill Synagogue and the people there were really welcoming- but they are much more 'liberal' than a synagogue in Hendon and Golders Green.

As they say, 2 jews, 3 opinions. Its hard to make a blanket statement on Jews as there are so many sects/level of observance.

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onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 13:24

@TheQueef Its easier for women to convert imho as they don't need to get a circumcision unlike men.

Most converts are women.

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Nightbear · 16/03/2021 13:25

Thanks. I can understand the appeal of Judaism to someone raised Catholic. I find Judaism really interesting, Jewish law in particular.

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 13:31

@RoyalMush Its complicated as he doesn't like labels. Religion doesn't interest him and he has strong negative feelings against orthodox Judaism (his mother sent him to a ultra orthodox primary school in stamford hill and he was very badly bullied there, also received no secular primary education even though they are not ultra orthodox).

He doesn't like religion but as he is very visibly Jewish in his looks/name, he acknowledges his heritage as its quite difficult to reject it. Also when we first met at uni, he knew that I was attracted to religion so he knew that religion was going to be in the bargain if we married.

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Bells3032 · 16/03/2021 13:31

Good luck with your new path OP! I did a thread on Jewish AMA last year and got literally hundreds of responses (I also do a lot of talks on judaism and often get asked a lot too so I am used to it).

My original thread is here if you want it: www.mumsnet.com/Talk/AMA/3900350-I-am-Jewish-AMA

Seriouslymole · 16/03/2021 13:31

Thanks for opening this discussion up @onlychildandhamster - it's fascinating.

How do you reconcile having believed that Jesus was/is the son of God as a Catholic (assuming of course that's what you did believe) to now not believing that?

You have talked a lot about the religious aspect of faith but not of the personal relationship aspect. Do you feel like you have a personal relationship with God? Is that encouraged within Judaism?

Pinkmagic1 · 16/03/2021 13:32

How did your side of the family react to your decision to convert from Catholic to Jew?

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 13:44

@RedcurrantPuff I can't speak for everyone, but i think that the questioning process can take years. Even if someone is a strict catholic, it doesn't mean he or she believes in everything. There are doubts for years and then a watershed moment.

For me, the doubts were present for years and there was a watershed moment when I was at confession in the Vatican and the priest told me I was evil and stupid for marrying a Jew. I walked out and decided that I didn't want to be a part of this. Before that, I was already massively uncomfortable with the sidewalk protests at abortion centres (which I have been asked to join), the paedophile scandals, the abortion bans, the way women and children were treated in Ireland in the past. I guess in a way, choosing to be with a jewish guy was a subconscious expression of my desire to leave the faith (and I didn't want another Christian denomination either).

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MrsAudreyShapiro · 16/03/2021 13:44

Have you personally ever experienced any antisemitism?

RedcurrantPuff · 16/03/2021 13:48

Thanks for replying @onlychildandhamster

Pootles34 · 16/03/2021 13:57

Have you entirely turned your back on all of it - do you/will you still celebrate Christmas?

Giddly · 16/03/2021 14:07

I'm interested that your conversion seems to be more about rejecting Catholicism and wanting the embrace the Jewish lifestyle and community rather than a deep-seated belief that Judaism is "the truth." Am I reading that right, and if so do you feel that this is a problem?

onlychildandhamster · 16/03/2021 14:10

@Seriouslymole Thats an interesting one. As I was a cradle catholic, , I guess i didn't actively doubt that Jesus was the son of god, i took it for granted. So as it wasn't an entrenched belief backed up by evidence and logic, it was easy for me to stop believing in it once i left catholicism.

I always did have doubts about Jesus though, i remember as a child asking my dad- why is jesus a white man when he is from the middle east? Why is Jesus 30 and not married? I found out the answers to those questions when I was older and I guess that just reinforced my lack of belief in Jesus.

Very interesting article here: www.cardus.ca/comment/article/jesus-is-a-jew/
'I’m always amazed by how many people who have dedicated their lives to Christ have never actually been to Israel. They have money to travel, and go off to Europe and such places, but they haven’t directly experienced the clashing confrontation of faiths, powers, and tribes that marks Jerusalem today and was just as present in Jesus’s own lifetime. They haven’t given themselves the chance to appreciate how misleading it is to associate the faith with the serenity of a church pew or the reasoned domesticity of a Bible study. The world Jesus inhabited was a world of fractious intensity. The Israel of Jesus, like the Israel of today, was a spiritual and literal battle zone. He was love in the most hostile environment imaginable.

The starting point of the Jerusalem view of Jesus is the fact that is everywhere acknowledged but rarely given sufficient weight. Jesus was Jewish. He presumably had the skin colour of modern Sephardic Jews. He wore tzitzit, or fringes, that modern Orthodox Jews wear and donned the phylacteries that Jewish men still put on. He and his disciples kept kosher. He argued with other Jews but within the context of Judaism. In Matthew he tells his disciples not to bother evangelizing among the Samarians and the gentiles. His ministry begins with lost sheep within the house of Israel itself, before it broadens to contain all the world. “Think not that I have come to abolish the Torah and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them,” he says in Matthew 5:17.

In my experience, many Jews today know very little about Jesus. But there have always been some Jews who read about him and recognize how completely Jewish he was. Martin Buber called Jesus a “brother.” Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, a leader of reform Judaism, once declared that if Jesus came back to earth today it would be at a Reformed synagogue where he would feel most at home. The Jewish writer Amy-Jill Levine says she doesn’t worship Jesus, because she’s a Jew, but “I also have to admit to a bit of pride in thinking about him—he’s one of ours.”

Rabbi Leo Baeck, who led German Jews during the horrors of the Holocaust, put it best: “We behold a man who is Jewish in every feature and trait of his character, manifesting in every particular what is pure and good in Judaism. This man could have developed as he came to be only on the soil of Judaism, and only on this soil, too, could he find disciples and followers as they were. Here alone in this Jewish sphere, in this Jewish atmosphere . . . could this man live his life and meet his death—a Jew among Jews.”

Jews believe they have a covenant with god. With jews, worship comes not just through prayer but through the mundane of the everyday life. Which is why jewish observance can be very intense, because the relationship with god is expressed through something as simple as a blessing before drinking a drop of water, a prayer for looking at the stars in the sky. There is a specific prayer/blessing for the most mundane of action. So the relationship is very personal- as you are connecting with god every moment of the day and not just during prayer.

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