“i got no choice, i got no choice at all”

I said I was gonna leave Judaism forever. That’s pretty funny. I was hoping to avoid all the questions. It didn’t really work. How could I even begin to explain? I don’t even know how to explain it to myself. Then I decided I would just be cultural, you know like the people I used to think were so lazy, I made latkes.

But life with religion is much stranger. Judgmental OCD people who use religion as an excuse to boss you around. Ladies who daven weird next to you in shul and you make fun of them in your mind but then you feel guilty but then they look over at you with glaring eyes cause you’re not singing the songs and you go right back to making fun of them in your mind. Feeling like EVERYTHING that happens to you must have a rhyme and reason…but trying to figure it out gives you an angry headache. Feeling guilty all the time over everything. Wondering why you put yourself in a community that’s 70% retired people and 30% really, really “normal” people who like to wear earrings and floral print dresses on shabbos. And sometimes velvet house robes. Not being able to cook for three day yontifs because your roommate takes over the stove, even though you don’t care at all and would cook all yontif long if she wasn’t home. And being with people who literally can’t stop talking or thinking about religion for ten minutes was really a culture shock, even though I was and possibly still am that person.

-Me, circa October 2012

I found myself wanting to go around the block for another round. I don’t know why. Maybe cause I’m in the same environment I was in where this all started; if I couldn’t handle New York then how do I know it’s not just me being an exhibitionist where I know I’m the only one so I can really do whatever I want all day long? It’s a different set of rules when you’re somewhere where there are, like, other Jews who actually know what they’re doing etc.

Here’s something stupid. I know this is stupid; that’s why I’m saying it actually. I remember when I first came to W&M and I was still trying to find a room; I remember deciding the logistics of davening in front of a roommate. (And by roommate I mean roommate, not housemate.) Would I wait till they left? Would I tell them what was going on? I had decided I would just daven in front of a roommate. And I thought about it a lot. And I started to get pretty excited about it. I don’t think I knew how to differentiate “being a complete religious exhibitionist like the worst of the worst” and “doing necessary administrative details because there is no private realm and there is no public realm.” And I decided I was a terrible showy ostentatious person, look at me not only being a flaming BT but being a flaming BT in front of the goyim like that is just plain pointless really, and then I wondered why the christians tried to talk to me about it all the time.

I guess it was disgusting but necessary part of the journey to be like that, I look back now and I was really flaming and judgmental, at least I know I wasn’t the only one in the world. It’s always extremes with me. Of course I was gonna try to leave Judaism forever. (EDIT: I was so hilarious though!!!)

I kind of knew immediately that wasn’t going to happen.

It’s weird to think about.

I’m writing a book, by the way. No, really.

It sounds so dumb. I know it does. For one thing, why am I so sucked in? Also, I think I had a pretty solid theological reason for leaving religion forever? How can I just crawl back cause I’m remembering how good it was? What about the bad times, eh? Do I have to feel bad now about all the bad things I did before?

Does this mean I’m back on the derech now? I’m not keeping kosher or anything. I’m really not doing much except for a bunch of solitary contemplations.

I want to daven again but I don’t know if or how I could go back just like that. Would the whole cycle start all over again? After all, I’m about to start W&M in January…aaaaaaaaaaall over again. (Well, OK, i’ll be a senior this time.) Why am I doing this?

So I want to daven again but when I get in the mood it’s not even zman anymore. How do you deal with that one? I don’t know what to say without my siddur, man. I’m not gonna start saying maariv anyways. And then what? If I do that do I have to start getting up for shaharis all the time again? I can just see it all over again…the cycle of guilt (“oh no I didn’t get up for shaharis!”) At least it’s not like last time where I didn’t know what I was doing so I felt like it had to be more methodical. I really, really, wanted to get into the habit of getting up for shaharis. Maybe that was what was stressing me out. Well nonetheless, I’m not so methodical these days of course.

And then what? Do I have to start keeping kosher again? Maybe just sort of (I like those steamfresh vegetable and cheese sauce packets, dammit). Should I, like, bentch again?

I already did hanukkah, really just cause it’s like the light of my childhood, not cause I’m trying to be religious. I don’t want to rush into things. After all that, you know. I don’t even know what I’d do first if I wanted to try to be frum again. What’s even the point anyway. I live in RURAL VIRGINIA!

I like Nick Cave; I don’t even care.

middleness

One thing I didn’t expect about being religious was the amount of guilt it would involve. All the time. It was worse in the beginning when I knew more rules than I knew what to do with, having read all the machmir orthodox halachic conversion books and not living in a place where I could actually do it all. Strangely, this tension had no real reason–I never believed in the afterlife, and logically I knew that “as a non-Jew,” I didn’t have to do any of it. I could quit and no one would be the wiser.

That guilt increased tenfold when I was affecting other people. In Virginia, I knew enough to know that I shouldn’t cook for Jews. I did anyway. I knew that I couldn’t say kiddush for them. I did anyway. These were unobservant Jews who wouldn’t have done it themselves, and so therefore I was also faced with the conundrum that I ought to do it, since I did know it, so I wouldn’t have to face the prospect of being a vehicle for them to break any mitzvos. I am still unclear on what my obligation is to Jews, if any, given that I have the knowledge that I do. I’m pretty sure I’m in a situation that not many people find themselves in.

In New York, telling people I was still converting made me nervous, even though I would gladly offer that I was raised Reform or even “secular.” But what if they asked me to light a shabbos candle “with them in mind”? Be motzi them? “Just tell them,” you say. “It’s easy.” It’s not so easy. I don’t think you know how frightened I am by the prospect of watching someone realize they wasted their food/time/goodwill/life on some gentile. I don’t know. I don’t really believe in humanity that much or anything, so I don’t really think they’d equally want me there if they knew my “true” “identity.”

(Nor did I want them talking down to me once they knew.. “Oh, did you need an English bentcher? You know what bentching means don’t you?”)

Wrong Place, Right Time

I am just too worldly for my own good. I went to some thing at Hadar Monday night, and I personally thought it was the most fabulous thing ever. At first I wondered why it was in a Reconstructionist synagogue, but then it occurred to me that it might possibly be because  their congregation’s not in there very often. But anyway, it was the first time I saw a large cluster of people actually close to my age for once, although I have a feeling I was possibly still the youngest by at least a couple of years. And for once they seemed like they knew what they were doing, and in a sense it was even an improvement on the few Orthodox clusters I’ve ever known, since I don’t suppose there was a way someone would join Hadar just out of momentum or, like, tradition.

So basically, during the How To Lead Davening class that I went to, complete with a syllabus even though I’m not paying for it or anything, I learned that participants would have to Lead A Practice Service Using The Nusach You Learned. And even though it’s not real, it made me think about all the instances I have to tell people I’m “still converting,” and tell them the entire tale. It comes up more than you’d think. If I’m not counting in a minyan I’m counting in someone’s zimmun. I told one guy it was “too complicated” when he asked me about my “background,” and it’s just horrid. It’s like a massive secret that no one can know. I don’t like to tell people cause I feel that they won’t want to talk to me anymore, particularly after they’ve invited me for shabbos or let me be their roommate…I mean, I’m in pretty deep as far as that’s concerned but at the same time I should tell certain selected people cause they might know someone who can help me get out of the wreckage. But probably they don’t, so it’s risky.

I just emailed the RCA beit din, and they said, “Yes, indeed, your sponsoring rabbi is ideally the shul rabbi,” and do they even begin to comprehend how difficult that is? Now I have to like this rabbi I haven’t actually met yet, and he has to like me. I’m already going to the most “liberal” of the Flatbush minyans here according to sources, and even so I skipped last week cause I didn’t find it very inspiring. I liked Hadar better.

And yet…I’m too worldly for my own good. Someone told me that RCA likes to revoke conversions if you get too “egal” after your conversion. That’s stupid of course, and I’m getting really sick of these rumors about revoking things, but perhaps it’s true. And how could I find out before it was too late? I couldn’t. I’m not really sure what my options are, but I’m starting to feel like that’s my only option. Most people, I think, would recommend RCA first. So basically, if I have RCA I can’t have Hadar and if I have Hadar I can’t have Orthodoxy. And I’m really starting to want to punch people who tell me that “The Orthodox are letting you into their lives! You have to adapt to them, not they to you! They have no obligation to you/you have no right to complain or have any problems! They have ‘no reason to accomodate you’!” These are the people who say if I find even one complication I shouldn’t even try anymore, cause obviously I was meant to be a Noahide. Cause “maybe your mission in life was actually to be a Noahide! Being Jewish is hard you know!” Thanks for that advice, cause I haven’t heard it before.

Monday night also included this lady’s talk about “Identity.” Little did she know I was her target audience:

One who is half slave and half free: works for his master one day and for himself one day–are the words of the house of Hillel. The house of Shammai said to him–you have established his master but himself you did not establish! He cannot marry a maidservant, since he is half free, and he cannot marry a free woman, since he is half slave! Should he be idle? Has the world not been created but in order to be fruitful and multiply? As it says in Isaiah “he did not create it to waste but formed it for habitation”…Rather, because of tikkun olam, they force his master to make him a free person…The house of Hillel reversed their opinion, and taught the opinion of the house of Shammai. (Mishnah Gittin 4:5)

She said that you can’t be “half a traditional Jew and half a person of contemporary values,” which is a nice message and everything, but I extrapolated it in my mind to mean many things. First of all, obviously I am this person. I am also idling. And it makes me want to throw up. I can go to Hadar, and I can go to the Flatbush minyan, but I’m not doing anything. I can’t move forward. Was I created to waste? Is it all for naught? Half slave and half free. How much longer can someone go on in a liminal state?

And also, she made some sense when she said that you can’t be half one thing and half another thing, because my entire life is pretty fragmented like that. There is Flatbush and there is Hadar. There is Jewish and there is gentile. I’m in a variety of different worlds, not all of them do I actually want (i.e. I don’t actually want the “gentile” part obviously.) Like Kate Bush says, ‘Can I have it all? You can’t have it all.” But whoever says that is an asshole because I’m not trying to “have it all,” whatever that means; I’m just trying to not be fragmented.

What I’m trying to say is, that’s not allowed apparently. If you’re having a hard time finding your place, you’re obviously just “trying to have it all.” If you like Hadar and Flatbush, you’re “asking them to accomodate you.” (Whoever “they” are.) Apparently, conversion wasn’t meant for people who are already in the middle of taking classes at two yeshivas at once. Apperently, that is too complicated. Apparently, it was meant for people who want to live in one place for the rest of their life and get married immediately and maybe get a degree in Banking and just Settle Down. I am 21. I can’t do it! But then I think, “What am I doing here? Do they know there is a flaming gentile in their midst?” Perhaps it’s an inferiority complex. More likely, though, is that I’ve been doing this way, way too long with no actual progress. I haven’t actually changed (i.e. I didn’t suddenly want to go to Hadar just to be rebellious). This was an organic process. And to that end, it’s been and is going to continue being pretty messy. I’m not going to deny this obvious fact. Sometimes I wonder “Why me, obviously I can’t be this stable Banker,” but that’s inconsequential. I’m just watching the train crash.

Throwing up now.

Intermarriage: An open letter to Orthodox and Conservative rabbis

Crossposted at Frum Satire

An open letter to Orthodox and Conservative rabbis:

You say you’re against intermarriage, you know there’s a 50% intermarriage rate, and you know some kids who come out of those marriages aren’t going to be halachically Jewish–maybe 30-40%. So, about 15-20% of all Jewish marriages will result in non-Jewish children. You say you’re against intermarriage, but what are you going to do about it?

I’m one of those kids. I got lost in the system. To be told by someone that you’re Jewish one day and to be told you’re not the next, well it’s pretty disconcerting, if you can imagine. And as much as I’d like to believe the former, I’ve decided to convert. I’m tired of wondering in which contexts I can call myself Jewish, and in which contexts other people would be offended if I did. I’m tired of wondering whether the words of the Torah were meant for me or not. I’m tired of having it implied that the God of my fathers doesn’t want my davening. I’m tired of thinking that’s actually true. I’ve been trying to convert since I was nineteen, but I keep running up against you.

I like to think I’m doing the right thing, you know. Next to all the halachically Jewish kids my age, for whom you are happy if they just light some candles on Shabbat or something, I’m gladly taking on a whole lot more. I don’t know about them, but I have the extra burden of knowing I’m the only one in my family left to keep it going. I’m here. I’m ready. Heck, I’m even completely willing. And yet–I get no compassion. You don’t even notice. In the halachic world of categories and laws, I have no category. I fell through the cracks. Do you care what happens to me? Am I a part of klal yisrael? If so, what do I do about it?

Nothing would make me happier than having you tell me you’d like to see me convert because it’s my responsibility as a part of the Jewish people. Instead, it’s as if you hope I don’t mention it too much. It’s as if you simply cannot tolerate the subject, so instead you always come up with the same line: “You are Jewish if your mother is Jewish.” And the conversation ends. And I feel terrible. And you don’t notice. Your hands are tied, you say. Just be patient, you say.

My request isn’t that radical. I’m not asking that you accept patrilineal descent. Hey, I’m with you: my childhood was a perfect case study of the mixed messages kids get from an intermarriage, and therefore I’m against it because intermarriage caused this.

I’m only asking two things, and I think they’re pretty reasonable: Make it easier for people like me to convert, and stop reacting with such horror when you hear the term. It’s not a “death sentence” for continuity unless you make it one. Look, I’m on your side. I want to do this the right way. Why make it so difficult? There’s a lot of people like me out there, and I bet the number is growing. Ignoring it isn’t going to help you, me, or us. Telling me that I’m 100% a gentile and you couldn’t care less one way or the other whether I convert or not is pretty hurtful, you know. I know it’s easy to say it anyway, especially now that it’s an “issue.”

I want to know something. What do you suggest I do? What would be ideal? Do you want me to be Reform? Convert to Christianity, maybe? Would that be convenient for you? Do you really think keeping the children of 15-20% of married Jews alienated from Judaism is going to be a good thing? I didn’t choose the religion of my parents, but I am choosing what I do next. I love Judaism, I’ve never had another religion, I don’t want it to die in my family, and I don’t believe you really do either. So, can you help me out here?

Sincerely,

A Patrilineal Conversion Candidate

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he pleased.

I recently wrote to a friend:

I’m not looking forward to Yom Kippur because, judging from Rosh Hashana, it won’t be very revitalizing, and then I’ll feel worse, because it’s supposed to be. Sort of like you said. I feel more inspired from things that just happen in everyday life that make me think, you know? And I hate being made to feel things from piyyutim or responsive readings or whatever. And it’s hard to go into a holiday specifically knowing you probably won’t get anything from it. How can you expect to, every time? I feel like I could get more from reading and drinking coffee and listening to Popul Vuh and talking to people about God and theology—like, personally, not just from a machzor…but that won’t be happening, sadly enough.

I just realized this week that the liturgy’s not really speaking to me lately. I guess that doesn’t sound so weird in itself, and it’s certainly happened before, but this is now happening at a time where my interest in other religions is reigniting, what with my new job to interview different clergypeople for my modest little religion section in my school’s newspaper (thanks to David for suggesting I write for them in the first place). And it’s not just that—I’m realizing that Christians are just, well, more excited about their religion. I come from my interview with the Catholic chaplain who says that students come to daily Mass and all these things are going on and his answers are replete with references to God and love and transcendence, and that students come and talk to him often “about their faith,” and from that I get to go back to our Hillel and my Jewish friend who told me that “We’re only interested in hanging out with other Jews” and I quote “I don’t give a shit about the rituals. The only time I say the blessings are during the Hillel Shabbat dinners.” It just makes me really disappointed and discouraged to see how little the Jewish students here care about their religion.

They care about their ethnicity, all right, but they don’t care about their religion.

Then how can I go back home and pray about how we’re so chosen and God gave us His Torah and that we meditate on it day and night and if He would just save us from those other nations we would surely return to Him as in days of old? If God chose us, we must certainly be very disappointing.

Because what are we doing besides just existing nominally?

Christians are also less afraid of talking about spiritual matters. When I first started getting into Judaism, I distinctly remember being glad that it wasn’t necessarily essential to believe in God to be Jewish. (Apparently, that was what I was looking for in a religion.) And I really liked that it was more about “doing” than “believing.” But now I’m coming into this, new and fresh and excited, and no one wants to talk about it with me. There’s no outlet, I guess. And that seems to be a majority of the Jewish community—at least in my limited experience. (And living in a campus bubble, that experience is simply everything.)

Even our hippie synagogue that from the outside might appear spiritual—what with the clapping and the nigguns all the time—but I feel like there’s nothing underlying it. They’re just there to have a good time—that what it seems like to me, anyway. And the Shabbat service can be fun, that’s not illegal…but when it seems like that’s all it is about, I wish such people would remember for whom they are there.

Maybe other religions are just new and shiny to me because they’re different and the newness of practicing Judaism is wearing off. But it frightens me to wonder whether there’s anything left under that shell of what Judaism is ideally. It feels like I’m going to other lovers to get what I need or something.

This quote is regaining its truth for me again:

“I feel a lot closer to a religious Christian than I do a non-religious Jew” -Benyamin Cohen

I’m having a hard time with my newfound realization that I need to stop judging people, and now reconciling it with the fact that underneath all the judging I really am very uncomfortable with having to deal with so much vocal staunch non-observance and ambivalence around me. It’s just really sad, and I’m not really sure who to discuss it with. The rabbi? He’d just think I was coming to my senses, giving up all these archaic ideas of halacha and theology. Christians? They’d just think I was secretly hoping they would convert me. Can’t complain about Judaism around Christians.

I’m not looking forward to Yom Kippur because I don’t really know how to feel—and you know how you’re supposed to feel something different for every holiday? Like, for Rosh Hashana I was supposed to be repentant. I’m not really sure what Yom Kippur is about still. More importantly, I am uneasy with the fact that I have to actually go read about Yom Kippur to find out how I must feel on that day. That is odd, if you think about it. And if I’m just supposed to be reflective—well, I think you can tell from this blog alone that I don’t really need more of that; I’m already waterlogged with reflections.

I could understand fasting on Tisha b’Av because 1.) Not everyone was doing it, so I could feel however I wanted to…and lo and behold it worked, and 2.) I didn’t have to be in shul all day being told how we collectively feel. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being childish. I mean, I love Judaism most of the time, but sometimes its routines are suffocating me. Like, I don’t want to be in shul on Yom Kippur. I don’t really want to fast, but that’s not quite as bad as having to be in shul all day.  I feel like I could get more out of listening to Popul Vuh and talking to people than reading out of a static book, like I said. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not in the right community. But if I can’t get what I’m after out of Judaism—then what? I don’t believe in secular Judaism; I don’t believe in SBNR; I don’t believe in any other religion. I’d be way lost. I’m deadlocked.

I’m also starting to question if my dismay with everyone’s practice (or lack of practice) here is supposed to be what I should be repenting for. I know I judge—but am I allowed to say I dislike, say, the way they sing inappropriate parts of the service at our hippie synagogue? Can I complain about the disproportionate amount of time they spend on the stupid Mi Shebeirach (it’s not magic, people, why are you so worried)? Even besides that, how can I reconcile different practice with how important I feel halacha is? (I feel like Conservative rabbis definitely have this problem.)

William & Mary: a Hillel report

Crossposted at New Voices

My first week of school has been…chaotic. Before I even came, there was a fire, after I came, there was an earthquake, now this horrorcane, not to mention the most grueling Orientation ever invented and having to be social 24/7 which can get pretty tiring when you’re not used to it. (Apocalypse Now!)

Meanwhile, my priorities have shifted. Back at home, where it’s considered a great achievement to graduate community college and not get pregnant before age eighteen, I had great room and impetus to formulate all these fabulous lofty plans for life, and my theoretical theology grew and grew, and I had tons of time to decide that I had things figured out. No obstacles! No fear! But now that I’ve moved to Williamsburg, all the obligations I made while I was in my bubble are starting to have their consequences now that I’m outside of my bubble.

For example, keeping kosher is hard on an Orientation schedule, where everyone is supposed to eat at the same time in the same dining hall. So is keeping Shabbat when you move into your new apartment on a Friday and the very next Friday you’re under evacuation orders! I’ve had to pray on a bus, on campus, on the stairs, and at the bus stop (all in front of tons of people, of course), and those were the days I remembered to do it. And I’ve had to wonder how many people avoided talking to me because they thought my tzitzit was too weird or my clothes make me look poor (that one’s probably true). When it’s the first week of classes and you’re trying to make friends, it’s a little exasperating to be confronted with this sudden clash of values. I’d prepared for this in theory, but now that it’s starting to dawn on me that I’ve actually chosen to start this new life as that really, really religious kid that you ought to keep away from, it’s a little frightening. Because I’m doing it to myself. For reasons I still don’t quite understand.

It all came to fruition at the first William & Mary Hillel event of the semester. During the Club Fair, the girl at the Hillel table seemed really excited to see me. “You should come to our barbecue!” she urged. So I had to go. I want to change the Jewish world as we know it, remember? I had to make friends with them. Needless to say, whether it was the impending hurricane or the fact that everyone looked like they were from Long Island, it didn’t go very well.

We had to walk through a bit on construction to get to it, and “it” turned out to be two picnic tables with hot dogs and chips on them. And a small group of people who could be barely bothered to look at the newcomers cautiously approaching them.

I don’t know if you can see what’s going on here, but I quickly noticed a certain something about the demographics of this event. It started out rather evenly distributed, but as time went on, more dudes started showing up. Weirdly, a couple of them seemed like they came straight from Long Island. That alone was enough to make me fearful, but I would have been perfectly OK had they been friendly Long Island dudes. But no, they went straight for their friends and my two guests and I went pretty much ignored.

Eventually, we were approached by one girl who had recognized my friend from one of her classes, and they started talking, as I stood near them awkwardly. Some guy came up to my friend’s boyfriend and asked where he was from and so on. “Are you Jewish?” he asked.

“No, I’m just here with her,” he replied, pointing to my friend.

“Neither am I!” he whispered gleefully. I sighed.

They talked for a while and then the stranger walked off. And I took that moment to babble incoherently to someone near me (“Man, look at all the dudes,” I seem to recall saying).

Maybe I’ll give them a break because it was their first event of the semester, and I guess they were more excited about seeing their friends than about greeting new people. Suddenly I thought back to all the discussions on how independent minyanim tend to be perceived as unfriendly to outsiders, but that’s just because they have a higher initial social curve…or something. After all, this Hillel proudly describes itself as “tightly knit”, and here I am seeing that description in the flesh. But look at these people! They seemed so incredibly…normal. It could have been any club on campus. What differentiated it? What made it special? What made it Jewish? These are the questions only a detective can answer.

But maybe it was partially my fault. These probably weren’t the type to wonder how to keep Shabbat during a hurricane evacuation, or to say seemingly constant berachot for things, or to go through painstaking soul-searching to figure out how they feel about halacha. And that seems to be the baseline here. A cultural baseline. Fine.

But what does that make me? Ultra-Orthodox? Am I going to be the religious token again, just like I was in community college? Look, I know tzitzit looks weird. It’s weird to wear a denim skirt while everyone else is wearing shorty shorts. Of course they didn’t want to talk to me. When you suspect that you’re “too much” even for your Hillel, you really start to wonder what your priorities are. I knew all my newfound obligations weren’t going to make me any friends, but good heavens being ignored feels terrible when you know you’re probably bringing it on yourself. Am I doing a stupid thing? Should I just put an end to this before it’s too late?

YOU DON’T CARE

This post is not to be confused with YOU WON’T LET ME CARE, which is about something totally different.

This post is about how little compassion certain people—not limited to Orthodox and certainly not limited to non-converts—have for those who aren’t halachically Jewish. I’ve found, fortunately enough, that most people in the larger context will accept people as Jewish if they aren’t matrilineal and/or haven’t had the strictest conversion (whether I can believe this and still not accept Reform conversions without kabbalat ol hamitzvot is another story for another day). But there is a good-sized group of people who are vehemently against it.

I say vehemently not because they are legally and rationalistically opposed to something that is against whatever is spelled out in the Talmud or whatever doesn’t live up to their community’s standards of conversion (i.e. the beit din’s necessary level of observance, for instance). This group isn’t interested in looking at the sources and prooftexts for descent and/or conversion so much as they are only wont to express their opinion in any given arena, offending whom they will (“Sorry man, just telling you the facts, don’t blame the messenger”). It happens a lot on the internet, for obvious reasons.

They might say that there is absolutely no room to consider patrilineal descent, whilst not acknowledging that somehow the Rabbis detracted from the Torah by no longer allowing it in favor of matrilineal (prooftext or not; patrilineal was used by the Israelites.. see previous post for details). They might call such people gentiles who can’t touch your wine, and group perfectly hardworking willing potential converts with third-generation nonobservant patrilineal Jews who just like Seinfeld and guilt (whom are spoken about with derision, of course, so to get grouped in is not a good thing). Kiruv groups aren’t interested. Rabbis treat them as gentiles. If you answer “no” to “Is your mother Jewish?”, the conversation is over.

To be clear, I am fine with accepting only matrilineal descent, but there are some stipulations here. Being grouped with gentiles isn’t fair. Questioning my motives isn’t fair. Delaying my conversion isn’t fair. I don’t mind not counting in our Conservative minyan, but being told totally point-blank “You won’t be Jewish here” with no more options provided isn’t fair.

I could complain about conversion all day long, but I’m not on the inside so I can’t do much about it. You know how I feel anyway, right?