Guest Posting By A Spiritual Orphan - Without The Right Pedigree
I am a convert. For years my husband and I lived in an established Jewish community. Albeit not within walking distance for most folks. We lived about 3 or so miles from our shul. My husband would walk this on Shabbos and Yom Tov. We tried for a few years to move closer but could not afford the neighborhood. We did finally find one place, no heat, and no basement, wood of the structure sitting directly on the dirt, broken windows and us with two minimum wage jobs. We could only afford it if we took out one of those sub-prime loans we hear so much about now. After much soul searching we turned away from that house because the loan just seemed too ridiculous especially with a baby on the way and that house needing so much work. No, it was better to live in our apartment a little too far away.
When our first child was born we had her naming ceremony at our shul. When we inherited a house 240 miles away, we continued to make the long drive to go to shul on Yom Tovs and for special events. We would take extra days off of work to allow for the long drive up, get a hotel near shul, buy our food, stock up at the local grocer that had kosher food, etc. I drove the 240 miles each way, each month, for the mikvah.
Fast forward several years and we found out we were expecting a boy and hoped to have the Bris at “our shul”. We assumed our community of nearly a decade would not fail us. We drove up for the High Holidays as usual and my husband spoke to the Rabbi after Kol Nidre. He seemed visibly uncomfortable… why was he so uncomfortable?? Others who got a conversion with the same beis din as I, were accepted there (after time and careful observation)… Others from outside of town were accepted there…of course they always pledged big money, but still… My husband and I spent a very worried and sleepless night wondering what was going on. We had so many hopes and plans for our little boy. He did not deserve this.
Oh, Abba what have I done. I mean I can live with me not being ‘good enough’ or ‘Jewish enough’ or ‘pure enough’.. I am a big girl, and I am a convert. I am used to not being accepted. I am used to my ‘spiritual orphan baggage’, as I call it. But my children, please, oh please, accept my children. Being religious Jews is all they have known. As far as they know they are Jews through and through. Please don’t treat them this way. Don’t give them such a personal reason to leave Judaism behind one day.
The next day my husband spoke to our Rabbi again. This time all is good. ‘He has some ideas’ he said. “Call the shul after the holidays and I will give you some numbers.”
After the holidays we called and after a few days we got a call back with the name of a local mohel. ‘This is not the Mohel that they use. This is not the Mohel that we have seen at so many Bris there’ says my husband. “Why?? Why not give us his number? He has done a zillion of these, he is good.”
So we called the local Mohel. We were up front about my conversion. I still have my papers…I could fax them, I offer. No problem, no need, he would love to do it, he said. He would call our rabbi and work out all the details.
The next day we get a call from the same Mohel. He had spoken with our rabbi and now was not so sure things would work out. We should ‘call our Rabbi, he is a nice guy and has some options that we might be interested in.’
Options?? I thought we were all set??
So we call our Rabbi. In that phone call I am told how the Mohel was ‘not interested in doing the Bris.’ What?? He was fine with it… I am told that ‘perhaps he (the Rabbi) can find a mohel willing to do the bris for ‘the purposes of conversion’.’ I see…..
‘Tell me about your observance level’ I am asked by OUR Rabbi. You know the one who has known us for over 10 years. My husband is furious now.. He feels lied to, betrayed, humiliated. If he did not want to be a part of our sons Bris, he could just say so. Honesty we can respect, but this is not so much reeking of honesty.
As a convert I am kind of used to this kind of treatment. A convert is an orphan that is neither trusted by the Jewish world (because their pedigree is not right) nor trusted by the goyishe world (because they are different.) Fine I say, find us a mohel. Yes I can pay to have them flown in. We are talking about my little boy’s bris, here. Money is no object. Yes, I remember that I was laid off over the summer. Like I said, whatever the cost is fine.. This is important.
A week goes by, no call. Two weeks, no call. We check the email (maybe he lost our number.) We are getting mass emails from them asking for money, telling us about community happenings, but nothing else. We check the cell phone voice mails. Nothing. Three weeks go by and I am having the baby..still no call back. What do we do?? We have to make last minute arrangements. I am heart broken, completely and utterly heart broken. My sweet son did not deserve this. He deserved to have his bris with our community. My daughter deserves to still get to go to summer camp. I deserve to have a mikvah. My husband deserves to not be humiliated and lied to. But how can we show our face there now??
‘Oh you have a son’, I can imagine our community members saying, ‘when was the bris?” A loaded question to be sure…and how would we respond?
So now ‘our community’ is our ‘old community.’ I have no kosher mikvah to attend. We still look to move, but no longer look for a community of that denomination to move into.
So as I help my small children with their prayers, teach them to love our dear, sweet G-d as I do, remind them to say their brachas and grace after meals, home school them and cover my hair to go shopping, I am heartbroken, betrayed and furious. No wonder so many Jews who don’t have quite the right pedigree are lost… No wonder.