11/20/2005

Book Report

One of the books I bought last Saturday when I went to Mobile was Choosing A Jewish Life by Anita Diamant. Last year I spoke to some of my family about my desire to convert and they are supportive and unsurprised. I have been reading other books and thought I was doing things backwards in converting but in this new book I am reading I have learned that this is actually one of the things a rabbi will do, assign you books to read about the Jewish life, Jewish history, and Israel. I've been doing this for years.

Last year I took down all the Christian symbols I had in my home and gave them to my sister. This year, I am going to celebrate Hannukah instead of Christmas. I think this is going to be the most difficult part. Christmas has always been an intergal part of my life and my family life. No more Christmas tree! I discussed it with my son and he has no problems with this. I'll be letting my family know in the next couple of weeks.

I don't know how to go about preparing for Hannukah but I will learn. One of the things the book mentioned was that a potential convert should start participating in Jewish holidays and though I don't yet have a rabbi to guide me, I'm going to proceed.

My heart actually leapt when I learned I have the Right to Return to Israel because my grandfather was Jewish. I found about it while reading a post at If I forget thee....

4A. (a) The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law, 5712-1952***, as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion. MFA


Those words, "If I forget thee oh Jerusalem" have always spoken to me in ways I cannot articulate.

Next up, finding a rabbi to guide me and learning Hebrew!

19 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

Shameful confession - We celebrate Christmas as well as Hannukah.

My mother, born and raised a Mormon before converting to Judaism, refused to give Christmas up. She jokes that it's a pagan holiday anyway (and she's right).

http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday7.htm

Hannukah - Get a hannukiah, which is different than a menorah in that it has nine branches instead of seven. Light the lights on eight consecutive nights. Spin the dreidel. Eat latkes. Praise the maccabees for kicking some old Greeks' asses. And thank G-d you don't have to put all that inflatable snowman and barbed-wire reindeer with red glowing nose and moveable head crap on your lawn that your neighbors are all spending wads of cash on.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

mark,

I actually have the hannukiah. I had purchased to give to my Dad last year before he died. I'll have to get a driedel, know how to make latkes(potato pancakes, right?), and I always praise the Maccabees for kicking Greek asses.

And that is a good benefit, no more inflatable snowmen!! Not that I ever went that far. I used to make a Star of David with the outside ligths every year though.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous rachy said...

I have also been thinking about doing the same thing for many years and thought that my Catholic mother would be strongly against it, but when I mentioned it to her she was supportive and also admitted that she suspected for a long time. I will definitely be buying this book. At the moment I'm not yet ready to commit to convert because I have too many unanswered questions, thus I totally respect and admire your choice.

good luck

8:08 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

rachy,

Thank you for sharing. Subconciously I've been wanting to do this for years. I was afraid of my family's reaction. But it has come to the point where I must do something about it. A rabbi from Atlanta suggested these books last year, To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin and This is My God by Herman Wouk. I have found them to be very useful.

Good wishes on your journey.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

As far as learning Hebrew goes, what a schmuck I was for quitting Hebrew lessons when I was a kid. Oh, wait, that's Yiddish. Screw it, close enough! LOL

12:39 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

mark,

Hebrew shouldn't be that hard to learn right? I mean no vowels to get in the way. Oh, and learning to read left to right should be interesting. Give me Yiddish!

12:55 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hebrew shouldn't be that hard to learn right?

Bwahahahahaha!

Mit groys fargenign, Die Katz der Payats.

http://www.yiddishstore.com/dikatderpay.html

6:44 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Oy. ;) I never learned Hebrew but I'm trying to now. Not necessarily to read but the conversational kind for the next time I go to Israel. Seawitch -- I am so excited for you! Welcome to the tribe. :) So will you be doing it as an orthodox? Conservative? Reform? And we must find you a sedar to attend at Passover. Care to travel to MD and join my crazy family? Course, that wouldn't be a normal one. We're a bit nutty. We spend most of it heckling my father who leads.

As far as Xmas, I never have celebrated but my sister, having married a lapsed Catholic and had my nephew with him, has been having a Xmas tree ever since. Then again, we're not the most religious family you'd ever encounter, so I guess that's not terribly surprising. I do make a turkey (sort of like the entire Thanksgiving meal) for all my pals who can't go home for Xmas on Xmas cause we long to make turkey and can't because we fly back to MD for Thanksgiving and have it with another family, who hosts. That was convoluted, wasn't it? Sorry. Long story short for saying.... a lot of people do both. ;)

6:46 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

We should figure out a way to do a virtual holiday - Maybe Passover since we have more than one night. (I can see karen going WTF? More than one night? What the hell did I get myself into?)

One night we can do our family thing, the other can be designated for the virtual seder. I think it would be a blast!

6:50 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

http://www.jewfaq.org/holidaya.htm

Here- this should make you run screaming. And it's just one holiday. LOL

6:53 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

mark,

Good idea to keep it simple, Cat in the Hat good primer!

esther,
I'll probably have to do it as a Reform but would prefer Orthodox.

And my family is nutty also.

mark,

Virtual sedar? interesting idea! Hey, I think I could get into the idea of no work for 4 days!! Of course removing all the leavened bread beforehand seems like fun.:(

Thanks for the link to Jewish 101.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Removing all the leavened bread? Oops. We're supposed to do that? Did I mention my family wasn't very religious? :) Karen, I have a feeling I'm going to learn a lot about my religion from your journey. Waaaaay cool!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

esther,

Blame it on Mark! He gave me homework! :)

4:27 AM  
Blogger Esther said...

Hahahaha. Excellent.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Daniel in Brookline said...

Wow -- my hat's off to you, Seawitch!

Converting to Judaism is an act of courage... and it's not for the fainthearted. As rabbi Harold Kushner once wrote, there are millions of people who have nothing against you personally now, but who will hate you unreservedly once you become a Jew. This is one of many reasons that, when a rabbi is faced with a prospective convert, he (or she) will do his (or her) level best to talk you out of it.

(Speaking of which, I highly recommend Kushner's book "To Life!", which gives a capsule commentary on Judaism from many different angles. He also speaks lucidly on the reasons for doing many things, and the reasons why things are important.)

Don't worry about adopting Jewish customs. I suggest that you learn as much as you can about the customs, but adopt only a few at a time; try to stay comfortable with what you're doing. You might choose to try some aspects of keeping kosher, for example, or you might choose to set Saturday aside as a day of rest, in terms of what that means to you.

Don't go overboard with the strict customs all at once. (For example, don't try to make a kosher kitchen all at once; it's a daunting prospect. But you might try to not eat meat and dairy at the same meal, for a week or so, and see if it speaks to you or not. Ditto for Passover -- not eating bread for a week is hard enough; don't worry at first about the strict housecleaning that Orthodox Jews insist upon.)

Hebrew is a daunting subject all by itself. It's a difficult language, not at all like English, and while it is a very logical language, its logic is not what an English-speaker is used to. Go at your own pace, and don't get frustrated. Once you get into it, Hebrew is a lot of fun!

Here's an offbeat suggestion -- find a synagogue that speaks to you. Me, I prefer a more traditional service, with lots of Hebrew and lots of singing, and NO separation of men and women. After a while, you get caught up in the music and the public chanting... and this helps with your Hebrew reading, because much of the traditional Saturday service is repetitive, giving you lots of chances to practice following along.

Feel free to ask questions, by the way! You know where to find me.

respectfully,
Daniel in Brookline

10:57 AM  
Blogger Daniel in Brookline said...

Oh, on the subject of Israel: beware!

Visiting Israel is a wonderful experience and a lot of fun, which I recommend heartily to anyone. Living in Israel is difficult enough to make the conversion to Judaism look easy and simple. Trust me on this one, please. Living in Israel is great, but it's emphatically not for the faint of heart.

But I do recommend that you visit Israel when you can. There's far more to do there than you can hope to accomplish in one trip, but you can get started; no doubt your readers here will happily suggest don't-miss places and things. And visiting Israel will almost certainly make you feel a whole lot better about the tribe you're talking about joining.

One more thought. A French writer named Edmund Fleg wrote a brilliant little piece in 1927 called "Why I Am A Jew". Please read it; it won't take much of your time.


all the best,
Daniel in Brookline

11:11 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

Daniel,

Thank you for your suggestions. I am somewhat limited by choices of synagogues at present. The one in Biloxi is Conservative and was damaged by the hurricane. Mobile has several synagogues. I am not sure of the status of the ones in New Orleans at present.

Your tips on kosher are very good ones. I'm also reading To Be a Jew that was recommended by a rabbi in Atlanta. It said not to try to turn your kitchen kosher until someone can come help you. Very good advice. I was a little daunted by the task.

I have been leading up to it. Giving up certain foods has been easy. Not cooking meat and dairy products is another I've been doing.

I am going slowly. There is so much to learn. But the further I proceed, the more I am sure this is right for me. It's hard to explain but I no longer feel conflicted within myself. It's kinda of like coming home.

I am looking forward to learning Hebrew.

Thank you for the offer of answering any questions I may have.

To Life sounds another book to add to my reading. I'll read Why I Am a Jew later.

I've wanted to visit Israel for a long time. The only true regret I have is that when given the chance to visit a kibbutz in the 80's, I didn't take it.

Karen

4:03 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Two more volumes:

The Jewish Books of Why.

They will answer a lot of questions. And, to echo Daniel, I wouldn't worry about becoming too Jewish too fast. There's a lot I don't even know. As Esther said, we're going to learn a lot with you!

Mazel Tov!

7:16 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

mark,

Thanks for the recommendation. The book I'm currently reading told me to get a bookcase for all the books I'll be reading.

Mazel Tov!

6:10 PM  

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