Jewish Pentecost, the time per excellence to focus on converts
Everything in Judaism is simple but also complex. So is the below text.
I will only discuss Orthodox conversion because that’s the only Judaism that I know from close by. I will not go into the crazy myths about Jews.
I’m not a rabbi, so you cannot claim any rights from what you read below.
I will not cover the details of converting adopted or ‘one’s own’ children.
To everything in Judaism are exceptions, but I’ll ignore them here. When I talk about Judaism, I mean most of Orthodox Judaism.
I’d encourage those with an unexplainable strong urge to convert to Judaism to check their family tree. Your Jewish ancestors may have done a solid job hiding their roots to protect their offspring from Antisemitism. So often, people who ‘became Jews’ later find they were Jewish already!
Jews worldwide are not of one biological race but rather an ethnic group (although in many countries, as former immigrants, they differ genetically from autochthones, and are threatened by Nazis and racists), a Nation, with its own collective history, traditions, culture, language, awareness, character traits, humor, and enemies. A central part of this tradition is a religious Literature, history, dedication, and goals, including raising kids so that it’ll fit them. Some Jews don’t see themselves as religious, but they are still very Jewish, often unbeknownst to themselves, possibly because the religion tells us how to relate to G^d and to people. Judaism laid the foundation for most of Monotheism (most people alive), modern science, and democracy. That’s one reason why Jews aren’t just equal to everyone else, and the Holocaust must stand apart from all other genocides.
So, the Jewish religion is not a religion like Christianity or Islam. People who convert to the latter join a religion. Jewish converts join a Nation.
Jews can’t un-Jew themselves. Jews have (acquired) special, holy talents that would be a waste to ignore. One can’t ‘choose’ away capacities one is born with or has acquired. But Gentiles can un-Gentile, become Jews.
Becoming a Jew is not like getting a diploma and then forgetting what you learned. Every day, you need to apply and expand on what you learned!
Judaism does not believe that everyone should become a Jew. It holds that everyone is inalienably worthy because created in G^d’s image. In fact, a Gentile who puts a lot of effort into being a proper human is more virtuous than a Jew who does less to be a proper human and a proper Jew.
So, better to stay a good Gentile than to become a bad Jew. For a Gentile, it’s enough to be a good person. A Jew must be good and holy. Holy means set aside for special tasks. Being a physician is fantastic, saving lives. But not everyone should be a physician. We need food and good shoes too.
Judaism is really laborious and 24/7. That’s what you want, suits you?
Judaism tells us to embrace converts but, at first, not to encourage them. Discouragements like: Are you sure? Why should you? It’s really not so simple to be a Jew. It’s OK to be a Goy. You can’t go back if you dislike it.
Because you can’t undo a conversion, the Rabbis don’t like to convert someone for marriage to a specific Jew. What if the marriage fails? And maybe this Jew is charmed by Gentiles and would not marry a Jew.
Gentiles with some Jewish ancestors are either 100% Jewish or 100% Gentile (we recognize no half-Jews), but the earlier are helped quicker to convert because our Rabbis understand why they want to belong with us.
Conversion is not a criticism of the parents, just like it may fit the child of academics more to be a framer or vice versa. Converts become spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah but still need to honor their biological parents, who gave them life, and the will and abilities to become Jews.
Race and cultural background play no role in converting to Judaism. Some proper Jews have parents or grandparents who were leading Nazis and mass murderers of Jews. Yet, becoming a Jew is not a proper route if one wants to neutralize the guilt one feels about one’s ancestors’ or fellow congregants’ Jew hatred. No one is responsible for others’ lives, and fighting bigotry now is the best way to break with such a past, as the German Nation shows already every day since WW II. (Still, some 20% are dangerously racist, but the other 80% won’t let them have any power.)
The Rabbis also need to be a bit cautious because a few times, a potential convert had become not a humble Jew but a leading, bitter Antisemite.
The Jewish religion is such a central part of Jewish culture that you can’t convert to become a member of the Jewish People while rejecting Judaism. As Judaism is more a lifestyle than a faith, prospective converts must commit eventually to execute all Commandments they may do.
Gentile, homosexual, highly spiritual men may be so attracted to the comradery between men in the synagogue that they forget the Rabbis expect them to get married to a woman. (Different from Christianity, the Jewish religion focuses on the home and not the places of worship. In an investigation, I found that homosexuality is only forbidden to heterosexual men, Jews and Gentiles. Most Orthodox Rabbis are still waking up to this, so I understand future converts who won’t come out when converting.
It seems to many Christians easier to adopt Moses than to drop Jesus. As a Gentile, he was your holy buddy. But for a Jew, the Trinity is idolatry!
Judaism is especially interested in converts who have or required ‘Jewish’ character traits or traits that we would like to have in our midst, being:
We focus on traits because they are hard to change and often transmit to the next generation. Someone who served idols is readier than someone who’s an Atheist. At least, idol worshippers already feel a need to serve higher powers—that’s a start. Changing behavior is easier than learning from scratch that sometimes we need to submit and comply humbly.
If you find talking about traits hard, think choosing values. Everyone finds honesty sort of important. Those with real integrity prioritize honesty.
More important than being very intelligent is being ready to learn a lot.
More important than agreeing with everything is being stubborn enough not daily or weekly to abandon good things one thought or did until then.
More important than loving G^d is loving His Creation and creatures.
It’s easier to convert someone who already has close Jewish friends.
It’s easier to convert someone who fights Gentile supremacy in the world.
It’s harder to be a good and holy Jew and be hated through time and space than being a relaxed and good Gentile. Also, Jews are judged more sternly by Heaven. But we also get more help. Thousands of years and ticking of Guidelines and wisdom give direction, unity, pride, and gratefulness. But G^d is fair to all. Chosen People means responsibility, not favoritism. You don’t need to be a Jew to be close to people in general, Jews, or G^d.
For a good reason, Judaism obliges us to especially love the convert. Rarely do folks have such courage and devotion. But also, Gentiles don’t need to.
Rather than feeling flawed for not having the same angst from genocide, converts should be happy to add some more calm to the Jewish People. Yet, many Jews learned to ‘fight’ paranoia by being naïve. We don’t need more naïve Jews. But we could use a few more realistic but relaxed ones.
Because of red tape and political polarization and competition in Israel, conversions here will be faster and more pleasant when you find a Jewish Community that can ‘adopt’ and teach you, and help you get married.
Converts may discover super-religious Jews finding it easier and an honor to welcome converts, who want to go the same route as Abraham, Sarah, and Ruth took, while not-so-religious Jews might be more skeptical.
But, again, it’s fine to be a proper Gentile. Especially if one is willing to learn from learned Jews and fights Antisemitism.
It’s much to be preferred for Jews to teach humble, great, Gentile friends and students over miserable, dysfunctional, Jewish converts.