Some links to sink your teeth into:
Two high-profile conversions: Mare Winningham, best known for playing Wendy Beamish in St. Elmo’s Fire, is starring in a new off-Broadway play, “10 Million Miles” and has just released a new country album of Jewish songs, titled “Refuge Rock Sublime.” She tells The Jewish Week of her enthusiasm for Judaism, “Converts can be annoying sometimes. We can be too enthusiastic and passionate, if there’s such a thing.” The other convert is Bob Tufts, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals, who converted when he married his Jewish wife. It’s interesting to compare the reactions to their conversions. Tufts converted 25 years ago, and recalls telling a fellow player he was converting to Judaism. “His eyes kidn of bugged out,” Tufts said, “and he said, ‘Well, then, you’re going to hell.’ and turned back to watch the ballgame.” Meanwhile, Winningham converted five years ago and found that her devout Catholic father was happy for her: “It was more important to her that her children be happy and have a relationship with God. When she found out I was having one, that was more important to her than what religion it was in.” I think the contrast highlights the way American culture’s relationship to Judaism has changed, even since the early ’80s. Especially among religious Christians, there seems to be a widespread acceptance of Judaism as a valid, and even perhaps blessed, religious path.
Julie Wiener wrote a provocative column last week on intermarriage in the Bible:
Yes, there are passages in the Bible that rail against Jews marrying gentiles, and certainly much of the midrash, commentary and Talmud are devoted to this theme. But every spring, when Purim, Passover and Shavuot come and go, I can’t help but notice that the Bible stories we read for these holidays are all about people — Esther, Moses and Ruth — in interfaith marriages. (Yes, I know Ruth converted, but not until after her Jewish husband died.)
She gleans some good insight from Rabbi Brian Field, who led a session on the topic of a “midrash of intermarriage” at our conference last month.
The Forward has a thought-provoking column on the relationship between Jewishness and whiteness and the Jewish community’s newfound enthusiasm for “diversity.” One of the more interesting observations:
For instance, as immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, they were expected to conform and adapt to the sensibility and style of the more established and better-off German Jews, who themselves were hypersensitive about the reactions of the American Protestant elite of that time. They feared that their hard-won position would be disrupted by their wretched Eastern European cousins. In this climate, the concern was about conforming and being respectable, rather than celebrating diversity.
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