Answering a readers question

I can’t explain it, but the number of emails I’ve received lately from fellow converts or people considering joining the Jewish people has increased lately. One woman wrote, “Just a quick question, as I didn’t see this on your blog – but how did your family react to you telling them about wanting to convert?”

As often as I’ve had this discussion with people in person, I guess I haven’t clearly written about it. Many stories that I hear from fellow converts include mentions of mothers crying, fathers going stoic, and grandparents disowning. It is a source of great strain and can take years to heal the wounds, if the wounds ever heal.

That is not my story.

I think I told my sister first. Her reaction was, “But we aren’t anything, why would you have to convert, can’t you just be Jewish?” She was never anything but supportive and she has come to my synagogue, let me light Hanukah candles at her house, made kosher options available to me and bought me wonderful Judaica for my house.

I told my mom next. I told her the night of her mother’s funeral. I don’t know why I thought that was the right moment. I was sitting on the floor next to the couch and my mom was playing with my hair. That’s when I told her. “Oh,” she said, “you’ve been on that path for a long time.”

HELLLOOOOOOOO, you knew and you didn’t TELL ME???? It might have saved me some time if you’d told me that I was slipping into the name you gave me. No, I didn’t retort, but I did wonder how she knew I was leaning towards becoming a Jew when it surprised me.

I waited a week before I told my dad and I told him, erm, on Christmas Day. You see, Christmas Eve was my first meeting with my Rabbi and my first shabbat. I would suggest taking the advice of all the books–do as I say, not as I do–and don’t tell your family about your conversion on an important family holiday.

But I did.

And my dad said, “Oh, well then you should open your Christmas present now.”

An aside, every year my dad does a big secret art project for the family. I have painted boxes, a Nixon clock, All Growed Up, and now a handmade menorah. That year he did stained glass. Mine? He put a Star of David in the middle of mine. “I didn’t know why, but I thought you might like that. Guess we know why.”

My dad came up to Chicago a few weeks later, attended services, and met my rabbi. I have had nothing but support from my family. They respect my choices, like my community and seem truly happy that I am part of the Jewish people.

My parents had hoped I’d find something, that’s why they left the door open for us. “When you want it, you’ll find it.” I found the Jews, that works for me. I get tradition, community, Hebrew, Israel and chicken soup. What else could I need?

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