Over the past few months, we have been introduced to the President’s family. Center stage is his daughter, Ivanka. She is beautiful, charming, educated and articulate.
Ivanka is also Jewish. Like me, she is a Jewish convert.
To some Jews, this is a source of pride. With the support of her parents she not only converted, but took on the stringent mitzvot that define an Orthodox Jew. Each week, she turns off her cell phone and computer. She lights candles and recites blessings she hopes her daughter will one day recite. She gives up her Saturday to walk to shul and daven, when she could be at the gym, office or shopping. She keeps kosher, giving up “A” list parties to observe Shabbat with her family. I am proud of her.
I appreciate her parents and family who supported her decision. Their unyielding support is a million times more powerful than Twitter. President Trump could have disowned his daughter. He could have utilized friends and family to talk her out of her decision. He could have cut her off from the family and sizable inheritance. Instead, he embraced her decision. He proudly wore a kippah to her wedding, and attended the brissim of his grandsons. For the first time in history, the White House provides kosher meals so the president’s daughter and family can join them for dinner. Say what you want, but actions speak louder than words.
I should have been so lucky. I wanted to be a Jew since I was a little girl. When I found out there was a way for me to join the Jewish people, I was all in. I converted when I was 19. I didn’t tell my family right away. When I did, all hell broke loose.
That Christmas, my mom demanded I get a tree. I refused. I bought a Menorah. She outed me as a Jew, a lesbian and a vegan to the far reaches of relatives I never knew existed. I received phone calls and visits from preachers. My relatives sent me cards and letters. They prayed for me and cried over my lost soul.
Then they got nasty. Hell, hath no fury like a family scorned.
Things didn’t improve when I got married. My husband’s family had two intermarried daughters, yet they didn’t want a convert. At first, they announced they wouldn’t attend our wedding. They showed up, but refused to be in wedding pictures. They resented my kosher kitchen and were furious because I was “making” their son observant. When I visited, ham and bacon topped the menu. When I made the decision not to visit or participate in an intermarriage, I was told I broke up the family.
It is not easy to undergo an Orthodox conversion. Under the auspices of a Rabbi who was a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), I studied over a year for conversion number one. A few years later, I was told my conversion might not be accepted in Israel, so I studied two more years, and underwent the process again.
Apparently, that is not enough. Recently, in Israel, a convert was denied citizenship under the Law of Return because the rabbi who oversaw her conversion was not on the “approved list.” He was the same Rabbi who worked with Ivanka. Neither of the Rabbis I worked with are on the approved list. I want to make Aliyah, but I have put it off because I don’t know if I will be accepted as a Jew in the Jewish State. All my children have attended yeshiva and are observant Jews, but I wonder if they are considered Jews.
I have been called a shiksa more times than I remember.
I have sat in our shul as an invited speaker told the congregation we have too many converts and “at least 90% of them need to be rejected.” I rarely attend services, because our spineless leadership refused to confront him or offer support to the many of us in the congregation who made this amazing journey. I assume they agreed with him.
I lost a job I loved when my boss, who told me I was the “best hire” he ever made, found out I was a Jew.
In November, at the General Assembly of Jewish Federations, after being gushed over and told how brave I was to convert, I was then told I wasn’t Jewish because I am not a Democrat.
I can only imagine the anti-Semitism Ivanka and her family have been subjected to. It is a pity Jews can be just as bad. This evening, I received a post from a woman who wrote because Ivanka didn’t cover her hair and her knees, she wasn’t an Orthodox Jew. The thread was full of comments from other Jews that would make the Klan proud.
It seems that unless a convert fits a self-defined vision of “who is a Jew” in the mind of everyone who claims to be one, we are to be rejected. Of course, these are the same people who brag about how accepting and inclusive they are.
Fortunately, the Torah, not narrow minded bigots, decided how a person can join the Jewish people. Stop looking down your nose at us. At least Ivanka and I can prove we are Jews. You cannot.
We must take your word for it.