Why We Love Jews By Choice
Each month, we at the URJ choose a theme to spotlight on our blog and throughout our other online mediums. All throughout the month of June, we’ll be focusing on the theme Expanding Our Reach, the many ways we welcome and embrace those looking for a home in our congregational communities, including interfaith couples and families, spiritual seekers, LGBT Jews, individuals with special needs, and the disengaged.
This also includes, of course, Jews by choice. Because Ruth is widely considered the first Jew by choice, lots of insightful piece about conversion pop up all throughout the weeks leading up to Shavuot. This year was no exception, and May saw a number of wonderful columns that perfectly relate to this month’s theme of Expanding Out Reach.
- In “Why We Welcome Converts,” Lawrence J. Epstein reminds us that “in Judaism there is no religious distinction between someone born Jewish and someone who chooses Judaism.” With this in mind, though, he highlights a few of the ways Jews by choice contribute in meaningful and enriching ways to the Jewish community and encourages all Jews by birth to be more welcoming of their converted brethren – and those considering conversion.
- In a piece from early last month titled “Do We Really Love Ruth?” Rabbi Elyse Goldstein questions the Jewish community’s treatment of – and thinking toward – Jews by choice, particularly those who challenge stereotypes of what Jews should look like or even the reasons why they should convert. She writes,
I’ve heard people say that although someone converts, they will never really, truly “be” Jewish. They don’t really feel it in their kishkes the way “we” do. In the vast majority of cases, this is utterly false. In the vast majority of cases, it’s the passion, interest, skill, knowledge and commitment of the Jew-by-choice that threatens us to the core. It threatens our complacency. It threatens our jaded boredom with our own heritage. It threatens our smug sense of “I am a good Jew even though I don’t do a Jewish thing, ever.” It threatens our security when our kids cease being interested in anything Jewish. It threatens our romanticized picture of who we are as Jews.
- Rabbi Dan Moskovitz recounts some of his favorite Judaism success stories, the many individuals who he has worked with throughout the courses of their journeys to Judaism. In “Why I Love Jews By Choice,” he writes, “It is because of stories like these that rabbis often say that one of the most inspiring and fulfilling aspects of our calling is to work with Jews by Choice. Every student we study with amazes and astounds us because, through their eyes, we see Judaism as something new, full of hope, promise, wonder, fascination and awe.”
It should also be noted that all three of these pieces were republished in last month’s newsletter put out by Be’chol Lashon, a research and community building initiative whose name translates into “In Every Tongue.” Be’chol Lashon seeks to grow and strengthen the Jewish people through ethnic, cultural, and racial inclusiveness – expanding our reach indeed!
Interested in joining the Jewish community? Check out www.urj.org/conversion for the Reform Movement’s conversion resources and support.