It was not written by someone who had them selves converted. Rather it argued that Seekers should not wait until they feel “perfect”. But the article offered lots of Talmudic quotes to support their idea. That’s fine, but fails to address the question of how does the Seeker know when they are ready? So I asked local Jews by choice to answer:
How Did YOU know you were ready to convert?
What knowledge, emotions, experiences made you think, I’m ready to be a Jew, please describe them.
Here are some answers:
Interesting... that was one of the questions from my conversion beit din. For my personal experience, there was never an "ah-ha" moment. At some point, whenever I hear comment / joke with an anti-semite undertone, I felt insulted because it was directed at ME. I took it personally! This actually went on for quite some time. When I found out I was excluded from the initial call of shomer when my friend Ruth died because I hadn't "officially" converted yet.
I said to my sponsoring rabbi, "Rabbi, what are we waiting for?"
He answered, "For you to say something."
"Well, let's do it." I said
As you see, it wasn't a clear-cut decision-making process. It was just a very calm and natural response to the lifecycle event at the moment... and that's why I ended up with Rut as part of my middle Hebrew name, to commemorate Ruth with the permission & support from her family.
Interesting point. My conversion class included someone who had been studying and thinking about it for YEARS, like 25 years. He still didn't feel ready. I, on the other hand, felt ready from the moment I found out that conversion was actually possible, which I didn't know was a possibility till way after that inner light bulb went on in my head flashing the message "I wish I was a Jew". Imagine my happiness when I discovered conversion existed.
So my ready-time was never based on factual knowledge of Jewish stuff, of which I had not much. I wanted it to happen before I had ever set foot inside a synagogue; I had very little frame of reference, but then inner voices march to a different beat.
Following my classes I studied privately with a rabbi for around 6 months, and in a practical sense it was he who actually set the conversion date, saying "I want you to go before the beit din in time for you to celebrate High Holy Days as a Jew". Obviously he felt I was ready, otherwise he wouldn't have said that. My conversion was a couple of weeks before Rosh HaShanah.
I think people who were born Jewish forget that, for a non-Jew, it’s not as simple as just deciding to take the plunge. A non-Jew contemplating conversation does not do so lightly or flippantly. A conversion, at least for me, was a deliberate and symbolic leaving behind and turning away from everything (culture, religion, beliefs, traditions and sometimes even family) you identified with up to that point and embracing a new identity and way of life. Conversion can be extremely difficult and even painful - NOT an easy decision emotionally and psychologically. The internal struggle and final decision a convert makes is NOT about “feeling” perfect. Someone who makes that assertion is not only naïve but also devalues a convert’s experience and struggle.
My husband who is an Ashkenazi Jew, was oblivious to the difficulty I went thru contemplating my decision. He was impatient and tried to pressure me into converting sooner. Even saying he would ask someone else to take our infant daughter thru the Mikvah to make her ‘official’ because I was taking so long. I held my ground but not without resentment and hurt feelings. My daughter and I went to the Mikvah together – an experience I will always cherish.
Choosing conversation should NOT be made in haste – it’s a life decision that should be made deliberately, earnestly and sincerely. We converts might take a long time to make the decision, but when the decision is made, we make a life commitment.
What made me decide to make the decision? Having my daughter. I was already living a Jewish Life. We were members of a temple, I was VP of our Sisterhood, I sang in the choir and worked for a JCC. But my husband and I made the choice to raise our daughter Jewish. I felt I could not do that – teach her how to be Jewish - when I myself was not. I needed to be true to her and myself.
My formal commitment to being Jewish, almost 3 years ago, was a very freeing decision.
Although I have been on the path for 61 years, this lifetime, the final "Hineni" came when I met Rabbi Nina. She teaches Judaism 101 at the local college here in Prescott, Az.
It was the ah-ha moment that questioning is what Judaism is all about! "Both/And".
I told my spouse, who had a Buddhist sensibility about Rabbi and how I thought she would really connect with her. Rabbi Nina called herself a "Jew Bu", having come back to her Jewish roots through eastern philosophy.
My spouse asked to meet about converting! I was thrilled, and the rest is history...
It is now a moment to moment breath.
I had thought about it on and off for years - as I had many Jewish friends who always included me - but I never thought I needed to convert. It wasn’t until I had kids, who were born Jews through my wife, that I began to change my mind. I suddenly realized I was the only gentile in our home and the the ramifications of the Nuremberg Laws weighed heavily on me.
I love my family, I loved our friends and I loved our Jewish community. This was my tribe, these were my people. And one day I just realized - I was already a Jew - and from that point on it was just a matter of officially confirming it. I cast my lot.
Since becoming Jewish, I feel more whole if that makes sense. It was this missing piece in my life. Looking back, I suspect I’ve always been Jewish; but being born an Irish catholic, I had to find my way back.
I realized I was ready to BE Jewish when I found myself complaining using Hebrew and ladino terms and thinking that my Christian friends had really strange ways of doing things, how couldn’t they see that the Jewish answer was so logical and sensible?
I’d been studying for almost two years at that point, I just went to our monthly meeting and agreed it was pointless to keep waiting any longer, I just said, “I feel it’s time” and just scheduled a date for the bet din