A family member of my husbandâ€™s, whom Iâ€™ll call Devorah, recently told me that although I may have converted,Â ”you will never think like a Jew.” At the time I didnâ€™t say anything. This woman is an elder and I respect her opinion. But later I kept running that sentence through my head, and I realized it struck a nerve. Is she right? As an adult convert, will I never â€śthinkâ€ť like a Jew? And by extension, will my children never think like Jews, either?
After ruminating for days, I decided to ask my husband about Devorah’s comment.Â He explained that Devorah believed that I converted out of a sense of duty to him, rather than on my own terms. I thought back to my conversion process and it struck me: I had kept the process intensely private, and I sat before the beit din (rabbinic court) and had my mikveh (ritual bath) only one week before my son was born. In Devorahâ€™s mind, I was Jewish for the sake of my children.
Rather than being upset with an elderly relative with whom I had never explained my conversion process, I realized that I needed to work on becoming comfortable discussing my beliefs and my very real reasons for converting. And I needed to be discussing it with both my non-Jewish relatives and my husbandâ€™s Jewish ones. This will be difficult for me. I came from a family where we didnâ€™t discuss faith or religion, and we certainly didnâ€™t discuss individual belief in the context of religious doctrine. My discomfort with discussing faith is rooted in not having any prior experience talking about it, and I have to explore how to do that. Additionally, I need to learn to share my beliefs with my children and teach them to verbalize what they believe. Not because I want them to fit into any particular doctrine, but because I never want a comment like â€śyou donâ€™t think like a Jewâ€ť to silence them.