By Andrea Karshan
Some born Jews feel that as converts we owe something to the Jewish world because we converted. These Jews think they are doing us a favor by “letting us join the club” and “allowing” us to participate. To them unlike them, we aren’t the “real deal.” We are a convert. Damned by the fact that we don’t choose who our mothers are, so by no fault of our own our mothers are not Jewish. The fact that we chose Judaism and worked hard to convert instead of just having our Jewishness handed to us at birth is not even considered in these circles. We are the converts. And this we converts are reminded of time and time again, and not in a positive way.
Many converts hide that they are converts because of the problem of discrimination against them in the Jewish community. Though Jews are commanded not to oppress converts or remind them of their status, this commandment is often not followed.
A born Jew said to me,”Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” She thought that I was indebted to her because she was nice to me at one time and because I was coming to “her synagogue” and “participating”. This statement followed an argument triggered by her being upset about me sharing on Facebook an article that she thought made Jews look bad. She and some others in the synagogue said someone who is “converting” shouldn’t post such things. I pointed out that born Jews on Facebook including a rabbi shared the same article. But of course, that didn’t matter. I was the person converting in the room. The argument soon turned into a lynching of my personality and Facebook. I learned a long time ago that in those kinds of circles when you are the only “convert” in the room things never go in your favor.
To some born Jews, there are certain “expectations” of those converting and converts that born Jews don’t necessarily have to abide by. Here is a list of some I have come across in my travels.
Those converting or converts can not:
-Share any negative news about the Jews, Judaism or the Jewish world on any social media platform. If the convert or person converting does, they are a heretic and are betraying the Jewish people.
-Write any negative news or views about Jews, Judaism or the Jewish world in a newspaper, book, blog or elsewhere. If the convert or person converting does, they are a heretic and are betraying the Jewish people.
-Disagree with or dislike any born Jews because a born Jew is always right regardless of the situation because the born Jew is Jewish. There are a few exceptions to this. For example, a Jew who is a child molester everyone has “permission” to dislike him.
-Engage in a group discussion with born Jews and express an opposing view because that view is automatically wrong because the convert or person converting is a former goy or goy.
If a convert or someone converting expresses a halakhic opinion, some born Jews will pull the “Jew card” on them and accuse them of trying to take over Jews.
A convert is expected to follow Judaism “perfectly.” Though many excuses are made when born Jews don’t do this or that, when a convert doesn’t follow something it is a different story. There is a big double standard here. Born Jews can pick and choose what to follow, how to practice and can go from one denomination to another. A convert, on the other hand, comes under much more scrutiny when they fall short of the community’s expectations. When some born Jews wake up and realize that converts are human beings like everyone else the world will be a much better place. Like born Jews, converts have imperfections, their strengths and weaknesses and their high and low periods. We are human. We aren’t superheroes!
If you disagree with the above statements or you think that you are a born Jew that doesn’t behave like this the keywords here are SOME JEWS. Everyone is an individual. Not every born Jew I have run into has treated me or others like this. These statements are just a collection of some of the ridiculous expectations some born Jews have tried to put on me and others.
To quote a friend,
“There aren’t 50 shades of Jews. There are 100 shades of Jews.”
So for those converting don’t be dismayed by the few shades that are complete assholes. There are plenty of shades that aren’t. The key to converting to Judaism is to find the right Jews, synagogues, and organizations to surround yourself with. You will find some are very friendly and welcoming. Some will forever dislike you no matter how “Jewish” you get. Others will act like they like you and then if any “issue” comes up throw your conversion or the fact that you are a convert in your face. It just is what it is. As converts, we are definitely at a disadvantage in the Jewish world compared to born Jews. Our conversions are under scrutiny. Our Jewishness is often questioned. That is why I truly believe that conversion should be motivated by the Jewish religion and never a community or a person. People come and go as does acceptance at times. But if one believes in G-d and the Torah that is eternal.