The Conspiracy

Putting Conversion Into Stages Is Wack

Crossposted at Crystal Decadenz

So, I recently learned that, supposedly, there are “stages to conversion”. At first I thought, “Why, how interesting,” but then I thought, “They would pathologize something like this.” The only thing I could find on the internet that was written specifically for Judaism was this:

Stages of Thinking During Conversion

  1. 1st think about conversion and anxious/stressed wanting to do it NOW
  2. Learning and hopefully experiencing the mitzvot and in a rush to learn it all and be Jewish NOW
  3. Convinced we know what we are doing and frustrated that our rabbi does not think we are ready NOW
  4. Convinced that we will never know all we need to so we will never be ready to convert – and this is frequently when your rabbi starts talking about taking you to the beit din – because this is when they know you are ready – when you are the one slowing things down and feeling uncertain.

Stage 1

Just getting interested, reading some books, surfing the net, thinking about it, hopefully getting to know Jews both observant and non-observant.

Stage 2

Starting to implement the mitzvot (cutting out pork and shellfish, tznius dressing, making Shabbat a different day), hopefully spending some time in Jewish communities for yomin tovim and Shabbat, listening to Jewish music (helps towards learning Hebrew sounds), start keeping a journal or tracking your journey (what was your introduction to Judaism, what mitzvot you’ve taken on, what’s gone well, what hasn’t – look at and update at least every few months), making good use of your library or the local shul library to read books – but do NOT forget the importance of learning with people as books are written for a specific audience and based on ideal situations.

Stage 3

Looking for a rabbi/community, adding more mitzvot (kosher style, more Shabbat/at least all the “positives”, beginning Hebrew, beginning prayer, studying laws on honoring your parents), letting your family know what your plans are, spending more time with observant Jews and confirming that you actually like us (yeah this sounds funny but its true – some people are drawn to Judaism but don’t actually like the Jews they know – and those people end up being unhappy and angry converts since they must move into a community in order to convert).

Stage 4

Working with a rabbi and becoming more careful in your mitzvot practice and talking to the rabbi when you have the urge to eat a cheeseburger or a situation where you won’t be able to keep the mitzvot – depending on where your are he may give you different advice than you’d expect (like have that cheeseburger).

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So, ah…this fails (and not only because it has you eating cheeseburgers into Stage Four), because I’ve cycled through these steps about fifty times in the past year. To use an especially relevant example, back in January I went and bought a binder and labelled the tabs stuff like “Halacha”, “Holidays”, “Mitzvot”, “Tefillah”, “Hebrew”, and so on. And I made this whole schedule wherein I’d study a certain subject for a certain period each week. I must be in Stage Two, right? But lo, the week afterward was the very week I totally gave up and decided to spend a Week Without Judaism, but then the month after that I decided to start going to minyan and studying more all over again. Step 4: Denial.

So naturally, without my rabbi’s approval, I’m now currently in Step 3.75, which is when you would be in Step 4 if your rabbi was, you know, talking to you.

So, what gives? Now suddenly if I happen to mention to my rabbi, “Oh, by the way, I thought this was the right thing to do, but never mind,” then and only then he’ll realize that it was always meant to be?! What kind of nonsense is that?

Obviously, these stages were made for people who were raised Christian, or something. Lots of times there will be a “This is how Judaism is different!” section, which serves to “un-teach” its readers their previous theological convictions. But where’s the step where you realize that you have no other freaking choice?

“You’re joining a people!” “You’re becoming Jewish! Get rid of all your idolatrous jewelry!” “Soon, you may even start to really feel Jewish!” “Now remember, you’re not allowed to believe in Jesus anymore!” My favorite: “You’ll gain a Jewish soul once you leave the mikveh!”

imageI’m not really feeling a connection. If only my mom were Jewish—committed or not!—well, no one would question my “sincerity” in “joining this people”, at the very least. No one would dare to lump me in with ex-Christians. All the Jewish books and junk I have about my room would be tokens of my newfound dedication, not telltale signs of “doing too much, too soon”! I wouldn’t be just another generic convert “like the rest of them”, with all the predictable “classic traits”—Double standard?

I didn’t sign up for being chuckled at knowingly by people who have seen it all before, who know that soon my so typical enthusiasm will settle down. I am glad, however, that at least some people see my plight.

But I don’t even want to be called a convert—a convert from what?

What step is that?

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