Interesting thread- and so many varied responses. I was born and raised Jewish and now do not practice. I attend Quaker Meeting. It suits my pacifist leanings greatly.
The cold shoulder is not surprising. It is difficult to find a group of Jews who will be openly accepting of a convert since assimilation has been regarded as the end of Jewry and to many Jews, any non-Jew wishing to join is going to dilute the waters so to speak. It is a highly closed-minded attitude but it’s born out of a desperate need for survival at all costs. I understand the mind-set because I grew up in it and was exposed to it repeatedly. I find it to be incredibly nauseating, however. The level of racism in Judaism is nightmarish. Not only are minorities not worthy, but all non-Jews are not worthy. It is the dark side- but an accurate and honest part- of dealing with becoming a Jew. It was thrown in my face over and over and over again.
Here’s a first-hand example. After getting out of Nazi Germany with some clothing, bits of furniture and two small kids, my late grandmother should have had a bit of appreciation for those different than herself. After all, it wasn’t Jews who let her into the United States in the first place. However, her racism against all non-Jews of any color was daunting. When my wife and I brought our freshly adopted Korean-born son to her home so she could kvell a little bit ( Yiddish for expressions of great pride ), the very first comment out of her mouth was, " Well, at least he’s not too darkskinned…" :mad:
This is not unique. The clannishness and closed-minded racism is born of a frantic need to live with, marry and birth observant Jews, so that Jews will not disappear off of the face of the earth through assimilation and whatnot. As I said, intellectually I get it. Emotionaly it turns my stomache and turned me away completely. It’s irrefutable that this attitude persists today and is not solely a part of Jewish history.
Interesting side-note. I live 1/2 mile from a village of Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Even amongst other Orthodox, these folks are regarded as hard-core. My last name is one of the Twelve Tribes. I certainly was born and raised a Jew. To them, I might as well be any other religion, for all peoples are lesser than they are, are unworthy…unless they are also of the same Ultra-Orthodox sect. Proof? They will not touch a hand of a person who is not of their sect. We’re all unclean. When I buy my needles, thread and fabric at the local shop which is owned by members of this sect, I know enough to place the money on the counter. The man ( or his wife, whomever waits on me ) picks it up and makes change. I know not to hold out my hand to get my change. It is put down. Then I pick it up. Lunacy to me, but this is how they regard all non- sect members. And so it is for many Jews of other flavors ( Hasidim, Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and Reconstructionist about covers it ).
All of this by way of saying that you will find people in any congregation who have no use for you as a newly converted Jew, and will never have a use for you or a kind word. I would encourage you to make use of your faith and your desire to learn and become observant and use that as a barrier against said rejections. You will also find people in Reformed congregations who will be delighted to meet you, bring you in and help educate you and be excited at the idea of an adult who is deeply drawn to the Jewish culture and faith.
I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture, only a very accurate one. It is an excellent idea to seek out Jewish adult groups. For one thing, I would suggest that if you do join a congregation, that you become involved in the Adult Education classes immediately. Many are the haughty arrogant Jews who in fact know precious little about their people and past. Sadly, to many American Jews the sum total of their knowledge and mindset stops with the diaspora created by WWII out of Europe. How many could name more than one Talmudic scholar? And so on.
There is a book called The Jewish Book of Why, by Alfred J. Kolatch.( ISBN 0-8246-0256-0 ) I heartily recommend it to you. It is excellent and gives very straightforward answers to the kinds of questions that will occur to you, may have already occurred to you. I keep it right here on my desk, next to the Torah, King James Bible, Book of Mormon and Koran. ( Seriously. One cannot discuss what one has not read, or at least tried to read. )
Here. Lemme open blindly and read one query:
You get the idea. It’ll really help as you move along the path of understanding the Jewish religion. There’s Faith and then there’s Practices. Some of the rituals and practices of Judaism are startlingly beautiful, just as some are in other religions. Others are seen as barbaric or horrible. ( the bris, or circumscision of newly born males comes to mind. At least for some folks. )
As for the Faith, if you have it, then I wish you the very best in your pursuit of knowledge. Remember, Rabbi doesn’t mean High Priest or anything of that ilk. It means Teacher. ;j