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Black, Gay, And Jewish: 31 Going On 13

A couple weeks back I ended conversion classes at the synagogue I belong to. Since October of last year I’d find myself in the same chair around the same table with a varying cast of characters.  Some of them started the Basic Judaism class with me, others were further along in their journey.  In that time we saw 2 of our classmates become Jewish and marry their Jewish partners.  Wednesday nights became a sort of anchor in my week.  It was a time for me to ground myself and a time that I was “forced” to talk about Judasim and being Jewish.  With class complete you’d think I’m sort of on my own.

Conversion to Judaism in the liberal sect can take any where from one year to many years depending on the convert.  Some converts take less time others take more but there isn’t a real formula for when it’s time for a Jew-in-Training like myself to become a full-fledged Jewish person.  Rosh Hashanah was the first Jewish holiday that I fully observed.  I made the personal decision that I would give myself an entire year of Jewish observance.  I would observe all of the holidays, I would observe the fasts, I would observe Shabbat to the best of my ability, and I would live as Jewishly as I possibly could before going to my rabbi and telling her that I was ready.  With Shavuot a few weeks behind us, it’s time…or is it?

It has been my experience that folks converting to Judaism who don’t have a wedding date on the horizon have the opportunity to really sit with Judasim.  This is not to say that those with a wedding date speed through the process, but there is definitely a sense of urgency around conversion.  I remember being in class and one of our rabbis told us that something would “click” in us, something would happen-an intangible moment when we “felt” Jewish.  That feeling was when it was time for us to become Jewish, we’d just know that it was time.  I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach as I listened to the sincerity of her words.  I felt Jewish, I really did.  It was a great feeling and a nerve-wracking feeling at the same time.  I felt blissfully alive and vibrant…others in my class felt panic.  What if I never got the click?  What if I don’t get that feeling?  WHAT IF I NEVER BECOME A JEW!!  The rabbi very quickly tried to rephrase but it was already out there.  Something would click and that was when it was time.

With the end of our last class and the date of my conversion looming on the horizon I have so many questions.  The first on my list is.  WHEN.  Then I remember all of the other Jewish Things I have on my list.  I want to learn Hebrew.  I want to be an Adult Bat Mitzvah.  I want to go to Rabbinical School. I want to go to Israel.  I want to be involved in a  diverse Jewish Community…I want a lot of things but at the heart of it all is a desire to call myself Jewish.

I was given my first Hebrew lesson by my tutor and mentor.  She sent it to me via e-mail and told me not to cheat.  Figure it out, she said.  I’ve been staring at it for exactly one week and I imagine it must feel like this to a little girl preparing for her Bat Mitzvah- a giant Torah portion placed in front of her.  No matter how many times I hear Debbie Friedman sing the Alef Bet Song I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my 31 year old brain about the complexity of Hebrew letters.  In my last post I said that all religious decisions would be best suited for an adult but now I’m thinking 13 is a better age.

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