a confused covert

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This topic has 3 voices, contains 4 replies, and was last updated by  Debbie B. 1636 days ago.

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June 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm #4789

Anne

Dear community,

I really need to talk to someone, but I am too afraid.  I converted to Judaism a couple of years ago in the reform movement.  I wasn’t raised in any particular denomination of Protestant Christianity, although my father likes to tell everyone we are Baptists even though we didn’t join any church or attend regular services. We were in and out of churches, but I went enough to have some sort of faith.  I visited a Temple and I really felt a connection to God and the people.  I went through a year of studying and then I converted.  It was a very special moment for me and for the first time I felt like I had an actual identity. 
      However after the excitement wore off, I began to notice some issues that I have either ignored or were not aware of at the time.  I started to notice that I had a hard time with not seeing Jesus as God.  When I pray to God, I see the thousands of pictures I have seen of Jesus.  I am a logical person and I understand the historical background of both Judaism and Christianity, but I started having a hard time with guilt.  I have always been a very sensitive person to my mother’s dismay.  Sadly, I am the type of person that if an evangelist ever got a hold of me for a certain period of time ( and he has) I will start to fear their things they threaten with even though I don’t want to.  On top of that, I began to feel like I truly didn’t belong in the Jewish community.  I knew other converts, but they were all marrying into a family when they converted.  And most of them had support.  I would sit in the services and be the only one without a family and after awhile I began to feel very different.  So I gradually stopped going to services.
      Then I moved to an area with no Temple and I became very isolated.  I started going to an Episcopal church and I loved it very much.  It was a very open church where we talked about historical and intellectual movements behind the Bible.  It was not a fundamentalist church.  I enjoyed the people and the discussions.  However, I struggled with the belief in the Trinity and now I have an even harder time coming to God or even imagining that there is a God. 
    I feel like a traitor to both traditions right now.  And I feel that God is truly angry with me for all of this.  I just don’t know what to do.  In either case, I feel doubtful, lonely, and guilty. 

Anne

June 30, 2010 at 12:52 am #4790

Debbie B.

I’m so sorry for your loneliness and confusion. Your story supports my reasons for discouraging people from rushing into Jewish conversion and for not first finding a welcoming Jewish community that one can be a part of. (I also discourage potential converts who live where they are far from any Jewish community.) I guess you should have discussed your feelings about Jesus more with your rabbi when you were studying for conversion. I don’t know if it would make you feel better to hear this, but I think some rabbis would say that your conversion was not valid because you didn’t really understand your own spirituality and whether it would be compatible with Judaism. Therefore you did not truly commit yourself to Judaism when you converted. But if you now feel that it was a mistake and think you would feel better about being “released” from being Jewish, you might talk to a rabbi about it.
    If you were still near a Jewish community I would offer suggestions for how to become more integrated into that community. I know a number of people who converted years before they met their Jewish spouses, so it is not necessary for a convert to be married to a Jew to become a part of a Jewish community. But the fact that you moved to an area with no Jewish community also indicates that you had basically given up on that religious identity.
    If what you are really searching for a supportive community and you think you have found it, I would spend more time really getting to know the people and what the community is like. You don’t have to tell them about your confused religious background. Just be sure not to judge based on superficial things. Greeting you at services is very different from being the kind of people who will invite you to their homes for meals or drop everything to help you if you need it. And you need to figure out if you would fit into the community. Would you enjoy taking part in programs, activities, committees, etc of that church? Given the problems you experienced with not becoming a part of the Jewish congregation, I would certainly take more time evaluating this one.
      If you are pretty sure that you would like to join the church and are pretty sure that you would fit in, THEN I think your next step would be to talk to the spiritual leader of that community and tell him/her your story. If it’s right for you, maybe the best thing to do is to convert to that religion. I’ve heard of other people who have sequentially converted to different religions. But be careful that you are not trying to find something in a religious community that is really a matter of understanding yourself. Things like a sense of belonging and spiritual peace come from INSIDE and a religion by itself is not going to make those things happen for you.

      Wanting to be a full member of a close knit supportive community was an important reason that I converted to Judaism, and converting was wonderful in that it allowed me to deepen my commitment to my community. Now I participate more fully in our lay-led services by reading Torah or giving a D’var Torah, and I sometimes attend weekday morning minyan where I am needed to have a minyan of ten Jews so that members can say kaddish or the Torah can be read on Tues, Thurs, or special days. But I already felt a part of the community, so one aspect of my conversion was the desire to make my membership in the congregation “official”. However, your situation sounds very different from mine. Good luck.

June 30, 2010 at 2:02 am #4791

Anne.

Thanks Debbie.   I know that sounded pretty bad.  I moved into an area with a small Jewish community because of graduate school.  This college has a very good program–the best in my field–and I received a good stipend to go there.  They have a better program than a school in the north. ( I am in agriculture) Yes, I would have gladly moved to New York City but that was not in the cards for many reasons.  Anyhow, I should have made myself more clear.  There are some Jews yes.  There are many professors who are Jewish.  There is a student center for Jewish students and faculty that hold regular services.   And I was part of it for a time until all these feelings came back.  It is the South so the majority of people in this town are of some Christian denomination.  I has a strong Evangelical feel.   The Episcopalian church I attend is not of that persuasion, however.  And I have become involved with the programs such as the soup kitchen, hospital visits, etc.
      At the time I was studying for conversion, I thought that I was ready.   I think you are right.  It is more of a personal issue with me that religion.  So yes thank you for that.  The church that I attend has licensed counselors that work with depression and that has really helped me a lot.  I feel very strange during services.  It is weird.  I can’t work away Jesus when I am in a Synagogue service, and I can’t even begin to understand the Trinity and my head fills with all sorts of doubts about Christianity in a Christian service.  Communion kind of grosses me out a little. However, the priest as well as the congregation at this church has never condemned me or poured a bunch of fire and brimstone on me when I expressed these feelings.  So that is good at least.
   I guess the best thing to do is to give it a little more time.  Graduate school is not easy and my anxiety might be playing a role in all this confusion.  Maybe it will all work out.  I am sorry about this.  This has to be strangest note you guys have ever had.  

Anne

June 30, 2010 at 2:14 am #4792

Debbie B.

Anne,

I think you accidentally put a part of your personal email as your sign-in in your reply. I think you should try to copy your reply into another comment and delete the old one if possible, or ask the website editors to do that if you can’t.

You should create a login on the website. It is secure and will allow continuity in your posts and enable you to connect with other users. Then if you want, you can also “PM” me.

–Debbie

June 30, 2010 at 2:28 am #4793

Debbie B.

Anne,

How long do you expect to be in your current location. Although it took me almost 10 years to complete a PhD, I’d guess that you’ll be there for less time. In that case, my advise about getting to to know the congregation and making the big commitment to convert isn’t relevant. That would be for a long-term commitment.

As for your religious confusion, I would step back from your feelings of discomfort and decide in which direction you would really like to go. Then work on finding a way to psychologically accommodate a consistent religious view that works. Work with the appropriate clergy; work with a psychologist or other kind of therapist. There are many ways to look at things that make them feel and seem different. Right now you just seem to be scared by having opposing thoughts fight it out in your head. But I’ve been listening to some interesting podcasts on Jewish religious thought, and it is interesting to hear how even rabbis who are on the whole confident in their religious beliefs sometimes have doubts or have conflicting religious feelings or are in some way way religiously unsettled. That is even true of some of the most famous rabbis and sages. One of the themes of the podcast series I was listening to is that doubt is part of the human condition and is actually an integral part of “faith”. Faith with no aspect of doubt is not very meaningful.

I wouldn’t worry about your “official” religious status. I was basically part way to converting for two decades, even though I always knew I would convert eventually. It would have been easier if I had figured out certain things and come to terms with other issues earlier, but at least it finally all worked out and I feel “whole” now as a convert-friend predicted that I would when I finally converted.

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