Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

That’s right, I’ve got chutzpah!

Posted by lchaimlover on April 22, 2007

For those of you who don’t know, I’m not “technically” Jewish. My mother converted to Judaism when she was younger, and fell away from it as I was growing up. I remember the occasional latke, menorah, and matzah ball soup, but it was always  fleeting and unexplained. I recall my mother often accusing me of having chutzpah, but I took this as a good thing and would dance around the house singing “I’ve got chutzpah!” at the top of my lungs. My journey to Judaism began in college, when I discovered first Hillel then Chabad then, of course, a Jewish boy. I now live as an Orthodox Jew, and as you can see, have many Jewish opinions. Why am I telling you all of this? I have just officially submitted my application to convert to Judaism to the Rabbinical Council of California. I am now eagerly awaiting a response, any response, to hear if all of my studying and crazy lifestyle changes are worth something.

                Ever wondered what an application to be a Jew looks like? It’s quite intense, not to mention expensive, with questions ranging from how you feel about your family, to the state of your health. Mine clocked in at about 10 pages. I know what you’re thinking, 10 pages, that’s it? 10 pages and we’ll let this meshuganah be a Jew? Yeah right! But as I make this final journey towards “proving” I was at Sinai, I will occasionally update you on the state of things, just to remind you what demanding people us Jews can be. Oyster inspired me to share my journey when he allowed us to share his intensely personal experience on March of the Living. “Chutzpah” you say, “this girl wants to be a Jew and wants to tell us about it!” Yep, I’ve got chutzpah! Complain if you like, I’m a Jew, you’re a Jew, we thrive on complaining.

                So what do you think? Have I got what it takes? We’ll see…

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19 Responses to “That’s right, I’ve got chutzpah!”

  1. Mommy said

    lchaimlover,
    I am curious. Do you currently live in a frum community? I just wanted to know because if you live in an area with little or no frumkite then you will have to also consider moving. Besides your extensive application this will have to be something to consider.

  2. Oyster said

    Mommy:

    First off, it’s very weird calling you “Mommy”. G-d forbid if you’re a dude.

    How ‘frum’ is frum? Does LchaimLover have to move to Monsey, or will the myriad Chabad rabboinim in LchaimLover’s community suffice?

  3. Mommy said

    Oyster,
    Yes, I am a mommy.

    How frum the community lchaimlover lives will depend on the Rabbi doing the conversion. Each case is different, but many times the convert will also have a tutor, asked to read a selection of sfarim, and live in a Jewish Orthodox community.

    Living in a place where the only Orthodx family is the Rabbi’s doesn’t seem to count.

    No, I do not think everyone needs to move to Monsey to convert, but Northern California is lacking in the kind of communities that would support an Orthodox woman, especially if she is married. My question was merley out of curiosity.

    I think it is very interesting that L’chaimlover decided to post her progress and I will be interested to see where this goes.

  4. Oyster said

    M: (sorry, it really bothers me calling you by your handle!)

    Northern California is no Upper West Side, is no Me’ah She’arim, and is no Pico-Robertson. Yet if that were the standard for the minimum that one needs for a vibrant (orthodox) Jewish community, then many communities around the world would have to fold. Or move to Israel.

    I’m under no delusion that being an observant Jew is easy in NorCal. But we have strong orthodox communities in Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Jose with mikvot, kosher markets, multiple synagogues, and even a kollel!

    So while it won’t be as easy as in NY or LA, I wouldn’t characterize it as not being able to ‘support an Orthodox woman’.

    I’m similarly interested in following LchaimLover’s journey to get on the ‘derekh’. M, have you ever lived in NorCal?

  5. lchaimlover said

    I do live in a frum community, with a mere 30 minute walk to shul every Shabbos morning. I have close friends nearby who are Shomer Shabbos and I spend Shabbats with them occasionally. While it isn’t easy being a frum Jew in NorCal. I have lived as such for 2 years, and have found that with a little hard work, all of my needs can be met. There are many Orthodox families in the area who have found the same thing.

    Thanks for the interest!

  6. Archangel said

    Congragulations L’ChaimLover!
    I am very impressed by the commitment you have made AND the discussion it has provoked.

  7. Kman said

    One question: if you mother converted before you were born, aren’t you technically Jewish no matter how observant she was when you were growing up?

  8. Oyster said

    Kman:

    I think the issue here is that the conversion wasn’t considered valid by the frum community LchaimLover belongs to.

    Aside from that, for anyone newly-observant, whether born Jewish or not, it can’t hurt to go through the rigorous preparation that LchaimLover is now doing. There are plenty of Jews who were born Jewish that are “Jewishly illiterate“.

  9. lchaimlover said

    Actually, Conservative conversions aren’t considered valid by any orthodox cricle, there are even problems having them considered valid in Israel. The frum conversion is a guarantee that you are 100% Jewish and you will be able to make aliyah if you should so desire.

  10. Squeedle said

    @Lchaimlover:

    According to the rabbi teaching my conversion class (who is about to go back to Israel for good), even if you converted non-Orthodox, you can still make aliyah. All Jewish conversions are recognized as valid for the purposes of granting immediate citizenship in Israel and going to live there; so are marriages between any two such people.

    However, if you were to make aliyah before you got married, any marriage performed in Israel would not be considered a valid Jewish marriage unless your conversion was Orthodox, and even if you were married before making aliyah, your children, if born in Israel, would not be considered Jewish unless the conversion was Orthodox, and they, in turn, could not marry another Jew and have it be considered a Jewish union there, and so on. Incidentally, this doesn’t really stop anything – there are instances where such people simply travel out of Israel to get married.

    It is safe to say that an Orthodox conversion is a “100% guarantee,” but people should also know the above.

  11. Oyster said

    Squeedle:

    Good points, but I think you’re wrong about the following part:

    and even if you were married before making aliyah, your children, if born in Israel, would not be considered Jewish unless the conversion was Orthodox.

    Last I checked, the Israeli Supreme Court upholds as valid Jewish conversions officiated by Reform and Conservative rabbis outside of Israel. In fact, it also upholds conversions by Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel!

    I mean, if we go from shtark to shtark, only a wedding officiated by Rav Eliashiv HaGaon himself would be considered kosher! 🙂

  12. Squeedle said

    Ah interesting, thanks for the correction. Good to know – you never know, I may be making aliyah some day.

  13. Oyster said

    And when you do, I’ll be first to tell ya, “yasher koakh!” 🙂

  14. lchaimlover said

    I think it’s interesting to point out that the soon to be Israeli Rabbi of Congregation Sinai is not considered a Rabbi in Israel because of his conservative smicha. And while there are a few cases Oyster, I’ve heard more along the lines of what squeedle is saying. But either way, I prefer the frum lifestyle so I might as well join the best. (j/k j/k) ; )

  15. Oyster said

    I prefer the frum lifestyle so I might as well join the best.

    OH NO YOU DIDN’T!!!

    [Oyster snaps a Z in LchaimLover’s frummer-than-thou punim]

  16. lchaimlover said

    LOL, oh yes I did, joking! joking! don’t throw the smackdown on me.

  17. Oy Bay! said

    […] Oyster has updated us on the story of Ruth, you are all in the mood for more tales of conversion.  So now I will pick up my own tale. I was given a list of books and told to read the top three, then, if I was still interested, call […]

  18. Squeedle said

    @lchaimlover

    by “not considered a rabbi in Israel” I guess you mean can’t serve on a Beit Din or the Chief Rabbinate? There are non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel and it follows that rabbis of those movements are considered rabbis by those of those movements.

  19. Oyster said

    Yes, I believe LchaimLover means that they won’t have any standing within the bureaucracy of the Rabbinate (which is slowly transitioning from dati to haredi). :-/

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