Becoming a Reform Jew? Could I really?

As many of you probably already know, your obed’nt srvt., Valteron, is a cranky, misanthropic, pretendingly suicidal, middle-aged, unobjective crackpot of an attention whore who is 58, gay, and legally married to his partner of 30 years (we are Canadians). And, oh yes, my use of extra !!! in my postings indicates possible mental illness, I am told.

Anyhow, I have been informed by an atheist, of all people, that I am too hard on certain religions like Islam. So I went to a site called Belief-0-Matic where they give you a test of your beliefs. I was shocked and surprised by the results.

Number 1 of a list of 27 faiths is Reform Judaism, with which I have, apparently, 100% compatibility!!! Following that are Unitarian Universalist and Liberal Quakers both with 99% (perhaps my aversion to oatmeal accounts for the 1%).

My childhood religion, Roman Catholicism, comes in 26 out of 27, just ahead of Jehovah’s Witnesses (no surprise there) with only 35%. I was obviously NOT meant to be a Catholic.

So, since Jews are not entirely rare on the ground on this website, I was just wondering. Does anyone here have experience in being a Reform Jew or has anyone here converted to RJ? Or any other branch of Judaism? What is it like?

Another shocker is that Islam and **Orthodox ** Judaism both score a not-unrespectable 71% on my list. This is a bit confusing considering that I made it clear that my liberal opinions on homosexuality, abortion and women’s equality were extremely important in my belief system.

Is that test a load of bullshit do you think? I mean, 71% for Islam and Jewish Orthodox? Can you just see my same-sex partner and I going to our local Mosque? Or our local Orthodox temple?

I know I can look up Judaism in Wikipedia and elsewhere and I already have. But I just thought it might be interesting to get personal views from posters here.

My ex-wife converted to RJ. I attended most of the classes which was a requirement. That is, if a non-Jewish person is married to a Jewish person, the Jewish person is required to go to the classes too.

You will have to take a year long Intro to Judaism class. Anyone who wants to learn about Judaism can take this class but it is required for potential converts. This will teach about Jewish history, culture and religion. The next year is the conversion class which is more intense. You’ll have private meetings (or with the spouse) with the rabbi as well. At the end you’ll meet in front of a three person conversion board who will ask you a series of questions. This isn’t a test. They more want to make sure that your motives are sincere. In theory they could not allow you to convert if they feel like you are doing it for the wrong reasons but in practice I am sure that that almost never happens.

In my ex-wife’s conversion class there was a couple who were converting together. They were lesbian life partners who happened to also be black. Being gay black females just wasn’t enough I guess. :stuck_out_tongue:

You know, Hajario, I was just wondering the same thing. Am I somehow attracted to minority status? :smiley:

Well, I was raised in a (culturally) RJ household, but I come out as a Unitarian on Belief-o-Matic. I do notice that “agnostic” and “atheist” aren’t listed, and that only one Buddhist sect is listed.

Just out of curiosity Shoshana, how did Islam rate in your test?

I mean, I still find my 71% compatibility with the religion of the Prophet hard to believe. What would a gay Muslim do? Bury himself up to his waist in sand and stone himself to death while yelling “God is Great?”

The do have Secular Humanism (99% for me) though. I scored 100% for Unitarian, 36% for Reform Judaism and like 7% for Islam.

Valteron:

Why exactly would you want to join a religion if you pretty much know what you believe in anyway? I’m not trying to be snide here, but I’ve always thought of a religious group as binding yourself to others’ guidance in moral/ethical/spiritual issues, and choosing one that suits the beliefs you ALREADY have seems superfluous.

Why so? Your disagreement about homosexuality is probably included in the lacking 29%. It might be a major problem for you because you’re a gay involved in a relationship, but you would get the same %age of compatibility if you were an heterosexual who happens to support gay rights, and wouldn’t be personnally inconvenienced. In the catholic church, for instance, there are plenty of people who disagree with some positions of the Church and still feel for the most part comfortable with its teachings.

Finally, if you search hard enough, you’ll find religious muslims and even muslim clerics who are supportive of gay rights. Lacking that, or being personnally convinced that homosexuality is a sin, a muslim homosexual could abstain from having sex. That wouldn’t be different from being a catholic homosexual.

I don’t follow your logic here. Of course I would join a group, religious or otherwise, whose beliefs match my own. Should I join a group that has beliefs that I oppose? I would want moral/ethical/spiritual guidance within a framework of beliefs that I hold in common with a group, right?

I don’t think you are being snide and I kind of see your point. People have morals and values whether or not they have a formal religion. As I often point out to religious believers, if people needed religion to be “good” then the jails would be overflowing with atheists and agnostics. I have heard that their crime rate is actually a little lower than the general rate, although this many be due to nothing more than the fact that they tend to be better educated and higher-earniong.

But there is the principle of community and family. My brother is married to a Jewish woman and I attended the Bar Mitzvah of my nephew at a Referom Temple. Now, mind you, this may be nothing more than a reaction to the nice decor and the friendly, welcoming feeling I experienced as the uncle of the BM Boy, but I remember getting the feeling that “If I HAD to belong to an organized religion, I think I would find this one not too hard to hack.”

People need to be with people, to bounce ideas off them, to debate morals and ethics. What do you think we are all doing here at SDMB, for example?

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

I converted to Conservative Judaism. I’m married to a man who was born Jewish.

Jewish practice varies a lot among liberal (non-Orthodox) Jews. There are people who keep kosher and go to synagogue/temple every day, there are people who consider themselves Jewish but never do anything about it (and might even celebrate Christian holidays, particularly Christmas), and just about everything in between.

Mr. Neville keep kosher and have two sets of dishes. We don’t observe Shabbat (the Sabbath) to Orthodox standards, but we do observe it to our own standards- we make sure it’s not just another day. We observe Jewish holidays, but don’t go to synagogue most Saturdays (we catch up on sleep on the weekends). When we do go to synagogue, the services are mostly in Hebrew. Neither of us speaks Hebrew, but we’ve learned the letters and can sound out words. Reform temples are more likely to have less Hebrew in their services (but they do still have some).

If you’re interested in learning more about liberal Judaism, I recommend Anita Diamant’s book Living a Jewish Life. It has a lot of basic information about Jewish practices, holidays, and so on.

For the same reason people join other groups- he wants to associate with people who have values and attitudes similar to his? Or maybe because having those beliefs but not doing anything about it isn’t very spiritually fulfilling for some people.

Personally, I wouldn’t join any religion if it weren’t compatible with my personal belief system. I think it’s better to be an honest non-member of a religion than to join and pretend that you believe something you don’t. And I’ve tried to make myself believe something I didn’t, with no success, so changing my deeply held beliefs wouldn’t be an option for me.

hajario:

Well, I think that if one feels a certain religious group has a greater sense of the truth of life’s purpose than others, then one will want to attach himself to that religious group in order to know what actions or attitudes this purpose dictates. To join because attitudes conceived prior to joining align well with attitudes the group formed independently of the new joiner means that the joiner does not feel an obligation to follow the group’s views if on future issues they diverge. So what’s the point?

Valteron:

Well, there’s certainly nothing wrong with holding such an opinion.

Certainly…but I guess I’d never thought of a religion as such. The models for the word “religion” as we understand it have always include some sense of absolute authority which guides the adherent in matters that relate to its world-view of life. The notion of a religion as merely a community bonding people with agreeable preconceived ideas…like, say, a political party or special-interest group…has to be pretty new.

Is this really a passage that a gay guy wants to pin his arguments on? :wink:

It was my understanding that one couldn’t convert to Reform Judaism. Or is it just that Orthodox rabbis do not recognize such a conversion?

I always assumed that if you were going to convert, you went all the way (somehow, “going the whole hog” didn’t seem appropriate there :wink: ).

But it’s still you judging that this group is wise and insightful. I’d make that decision if I heard or read their ideas and thought repeatedly, “Oh, yeah! I never looked at it that way before–” so I agree with them. Presumably, I’d also have come to the same conclusion as them on many other issues, even before I’d met them; I hope I’ve got at least a little insight of my own, too. If they later says something that doesn’t make sense, sure, look at it closely to make sure you’re not missing something, but if you disagree with everything or most of what they say, why follow them? What makes you think they have the authority and wisdom of God?

How likely is that?

AFAIK the latter. One of my cousins married a nice Swedish agnostic woman who converted to Reform Judaism. We all call her by her nickname, because it somehow seems odd to call this recently converted nice Jewish woman “Christina.” :slight_smile:

I realize you were mostly joshing me, CM, with that comment, but yes, I am perfectly aware that religious conservatives use the reasoning that homosexuality is evil because “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”.

Which has of course led to hundreds of gay porn videos with titles like “Adam and Steve”, but I digress.

I realize that it goes on to say that he told them to be fruitful and multiply. Believe me, I have had this shoved in my face by enough wonderful Christians.

But do me a favour and read the first two chapters of Genesis (it only takes a few minutes). Do you not get the funny feeling you aree reading two similar but different stories one after the other? At the end of Chapter 1, God has created everything in six days including a male and female human couple, sees that it is all good, and rests.

Then in Chapter 2, God is looking at Adam and saying it is not good for him to be alone. This is where the story of the rib comes in, in Chapter 2. Nothing about it in Chapter 1.

Scholars have long agreed that there are two creation myths run together here.

Now, when illiterate tribesmen in the middle east were telling their creation stories around the campfire, obviously, they were NOT going to say, “It all began with two guys” or “It all began with two gals”. That would have led to some pretty obvious questions about biological possibilities.

But does it follow from that that God would have wanted “no exceptions whatever” to the male-female reproductive rule? What about post-menpausal women who get married? What about infertile male-female couples?

Do you know that I once sat there with a clergyman thumping the Bible at Genesis 2:24 “And therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife.” Only later did it occur to me that the guy doing the Bible thumping was a celibate Roman Catholic priest!

But do you want to know something? The Adam and Eve version makes about as much sense as the Adam and Steve version would have. After Cain murdered Abel the bible says he “knew” his wife. What wife? Did he fuck his own mother, Eve, or did Adam and Eve also have girls, in which case Cain was fucking his sister? So does God want us to have sex with our sisters?

“Oh, but that was then, and this is now”, I was once told by another Christian apologist. Apparently, only the “everybody must have sex with the opposite sex” rule is immutable through the ages. :smiley:

I converted from Lutheranism (Missouri Synod) to Reform Judaism, although my conversion would be recognized by thr Conservative movement. I san answer any specific questions you might have.

You said …

My synagogue welcomed a struggling GBLT congregation into its ranks. RJ tends not do the “Look at us! We welcome gays! Look ar our many rainbow flags! Gay gay gay gay gay!” thing like the Unitarian Universalists; gays and lesbians are just accepted as equals, no muss, no fuss, no condemnation. Many reform rabbis will perform union ceremonies.

The rabbi at the temple where I was a Bar Mitzvah and Confirmed just retired after nearly 40 years there. The new rabbi is a gay man. Even in the 70’s when I was a kid, there was a small gay Jewish group that used my temple as a meeting place. It’s simply not an issue.

Look at my typos!

A few things:

There’s a joke that goes “If you put two jews in a room, you’ll have three arguments.” Reform Judaism, and to some extent Conservative Judaism, encourage learning, questioning, and in some cases doubting; it’s all part of one’s spiritual development and growth as a Jew.

The amount of Hebrew in Reform services varies depending on the congregation. Some use more Hebrew than others. At the very least, the core prayers will be in Hebrew, and the Mourner’s Kaddish in Aramaic. At my synagogue, not including including the sermon and announcements, about half of the service is in Hebrew. Reform prayer books will include an English translation alongside Hebrew sections, and transliterated versions of some songs, readings and prayers in the back.

If you’re use to a Protestant or Catholic service, a Jewish liturgy will seem confusing. Even born Jews will sometimes flip through their prayer books in confusion. There’s no hymns, but some of the service is sung by the congregants.

Jewish services tend to be less formal than Christian services. It’s not that people get dressed down, but rather that there’s a lot more chatting among the congregants before the service, and it’s okay to be late. Beleive it or not, Conservative and Orthodox Jews tend to be far more laxidasical about arriving to service on time than Reform Jews.

Reform congregations all have their own personalities. Near me, there’s the Upper Middle Class Congregation, the Blue Collar Congregation, the Egalitarian Liberal Congregation, the Old People’s Congregation Where They Use A Lot Of Hebrew, and the Really Liberal Congregation Where They Use Very Little Hebrew. :smiley:

I, too, was deemed to be a Reform Jew on an internet “test” and can’t speak for their validity. Since the “test” was based on one entity’s view of each religion, I don’t know how accurate they could be. There are so many variables within each religion, the experts can’t even keep them all straight. (no pun intended :D)

I was loosely raised as a Lutheran but more than anything, taught to learn and not accept any faith blindly. I’ve had neither the time nor the inclination to take it any further right now but I will certainly look at the RJ’s when my life is ready for a structured faith.