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Canceled due to lack of interest

Well, not exactly fail. But the liberal conversion class that I finally decided to sign up for because I would really, really like to get this process moving?

Canceled due to lack of interest! Yay!

So that sucks. No spring ’12 conversion class for Cae (that’s me, in case I do not have it listed anywhere, idk how to internet, you guys), no formalized structure for learning, and a general delay in the whole deal. It was pretty demoralizing for about five hours of feeling like I was denied and unwanted by the Jewish community.

And then I got a call from my major adviser, who is Orthodox, telling me that she talked to a rabbi, who would love to talk to me about converting Orthodox, and that her friends the Fleischmans would love to have me over for Shabbat dinner and then shul in the morning. Synchronicity? An act of God? I don’t know. But it looks like the longer I stay in this process the closer the winds of change are buffeting me toward Orthodoxy.

Though hell if I know what that metaphor was about.

From what I’ve read about the Orthodox process, I think it would fit me better. I’d like to be studying in depth with a rabbi. I’d like to be taking on mitzvot. I’m still not sure how I feel about Torah mi-Sinai and whatnot, but I do feel like if I’m to join this people, it seems right to do so in as complete a way as possible. To put it simply, I like doing things the hard way. That’s basically what this would be, I guess. It reminds me of what my Hebrew professor told me when I told him I was considering conversion, before subsequently never speaking about it again.

“You can do it the easy way, or you can do it the right way,” he said. “You should not do it the easy way.”

I don’t believe in cutting corners. I’m not criticizing the validity of liberal conversions here–religion is in many ways a social construct, so if you would like to be accepted as a Jew by liberal denominations than a liberal conversion is the way to do that. It’s just that I am, in my heart, an academic, and I feel like the Orthodox conversion process likes that about me. And it’s nice to be liked.

We’ll see how talking to that rabbi goes. But as yet… things are looking up.

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Everything sucks forever

So the reason I haven’t replied to any comments in the past week and a half is that I gave my computer to the university’s IT services to have it fixed, which took a week and resulted in an entirely new hard drive and motherboard and all of my data lost, but hey, at least it worked.

Then the next day I dropped it. From five feet in the air. Twice.

It’s broken again.

I might not be posting for a bit.

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Doubt

I am tired.

As I am also a second-year college student with two majors, a job, and around five hours of kung fu practice a week,¬†this should not seem remarkable. But it’s more than simple fatigue. I’m tired, spiritually and mentally and emotionally. And I’m starting to have doubts.

Converts are generally not strangers to doubt, you know? I got here because I doubted in my former life as a zealous hippie-Christian. I doubted the divinity of Jesus, I doubted the structure of the Church, and I doubted the simple ease of belief as eraser of sin. Now I’m starting to doubt again. I’m doubting that I’m converting for the right reasons.

I’m at a crossroads in the conversion process right now. The class at the local college of Jewish studies that converts in the liberal denominations are required to take may or may not be cancelled this spring, depending on how many of us sign up. On the other hand, due to a series of conversations with my major adviser, who is Orthodox, I am beginning to seriously consider pursuing a Modern Orthodox conversion instead–she has contacted a rabbi friend of hers, as well as others in the Modern Orthodox community who she thought would be interested in helping me through the process.

Because of this, I feel like it might be kind of dishonest to sign up for the class. But what if it’s cancelled because I didn’t sign up. I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS KIND OF PRESSURE YOU GUYS. I AM NOT THE DECIDER.

I’m also not feeling very… “spiritual” right now.

I hate the word spiritual. Whenever I hear it I can’t decide whether it reminds me of 19th century Southern protestant revivals, or white people who think they are Hindu because they do yoga and believe in the healing power of crystals, man. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, I’ve been involved in this largely Christian intentional community recently, and they’ve asked me to bring in some prayer that works for me, from my Jewish(ish) perspective. I love that they want that to happen. I just don’t love that I honestly can’t think of any prayer that works for me right now. I feel like I no longer know how to connect to God. Maybe it’s because I’m at such a middling part of the conversion process that I can no longer identify with Christian prayer, but I also don’t know enough about Jewish prayer to feel confidant doing it on my own. Or maybe it’s because I am making a HORRIBLE MISTAKE THAT I WILL REGRET FOREVER. I don’t know, you guys. I just don’t know.

So I guess what I’m looking for now is any recommendations you guys have for dealing with doubt, or for learning about praying as a Jew, or even for just reconnecting to prayer in general. Because I’m tired now. And I don’t think I can do this by myself.

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Surrogate Jewish mother

Things are kind of unhappy in my life right now, and I feel like because of that, I’ve let my religious life slip.

Ty moved to Thailand, completely and unequivocally. He’ll be back in the summer, but it won’t be the same. I’m taking six classes, practicing kung fu, belly dancing, and working on the intentional community. Kung fu and belly dance are both so political and full of drama, and the intentional community is so confusing, given that I’m the only non-Christian. I feel frustrated with virtually all of the people I interact with.

Judaism is really the only aspect of my life where interpersonal politics isn’t making me miserable.

I go to shul every week now. I feel decidedly welcome at the Conservative synagogue, so much so that I don’t feel the need to really look into any other denominations at the moment. I love how simple singing is without accompanying instruments. I love that we move through the prayers quickly enough that I don’t get bored, but slowly enough that I can still follow even with my extremely basic Hebrew. I love the combination of egalitarianism and tradition.

Also, every time I try to visit the Reconstructionist synagogue, God strikes me down with an illness. I can take a hint, bro.

Also, there’s my friend Jen. She’s one of the belly dancers, but probably the only one whose ego isn’t cramping my style at the moment. She converted when she was 30, and she likes to remind me that she’s old enough to be my mother. Which is technically true, but only if she was rather… precocious. But that’s beside the point.

She came with me to services last Shabbat, and it was a lot more awesome than I expected. Normally I feel really weird praying too close to other people, but somehow this was not true with her. And as we were leaving we started talking about the holidays, and what it means to be a convert with no Jewish family. This is something I’ve been worried about since Ty left–with him out of town, what will I do for Pesach? But then I talked to Jen.

“We could have a seder together!” She said. “I could be, like, your surrogate Jewish mother!”

And I said, “Yes.”

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In which I am not dead, but do have suspicious IV marks on my arms

So… hi. How are you? I’m still alive. Sorry to disappear.

The past few weeks have been pretty ridiculous. First my computer broke, so that’s why I didn’t post after Christmas. Then my boyfriend left for Thailand and I spiraled into depression for about a day before deciding that was a stupid thing to be depressed about. And then I went to the hospital! They thought it was appendicitis, but it turned out to be a random infection in some internal organ or another. I don’t really remember; I was on a lot of morphine. But I’m better now! Even if they drew so much blood that my inner arms now make me look like a heroin addict.

I missed going to the Reconstructionist synagogue again this week, this time because I was hospitalized. I wonder if God is trying to tell me something, given that I get struck down by illness every time I try to go there. Jk, jk, lol, etc.

Other miscellaneous thoughts that I will write more thorough posts about later: Shabbat dinner with my friend Max’s family, klezmer and my undying love for it I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU HATE ACCORDION, the possibility that I might move into a suspiciously Christian intentional community and the religious conflicts in that process, classes starting, and how, apparently, Tila Tequila is converting to Judaism.

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Angst, woe, and dim sum

A combination of an awkward conversation with the boyfriend and a paper I wrote for Jewish-American Literature class have sparked some doubts about the conversion process for me today.

Ty was over briefly visiting while I sniffled into a Kleenex box, and on his way out he made some remark about the Shabbat thing at the hippie’s house that we had been thinking about going to before I came down with the Cold of Death. This remark referred to me as something along the lines of a “Jewy Christian Sufi” or something else that had the connotations of what I’m really about but still with the term Christian sandwiched in the middle.

This bothered me a lot more than I would have anticipated.

I was already crying a little at that point, because I am the whiniest sick person and he was LEAVING MEEEEEEEEE which, you know, would normally be permissible except I’m SICK and he’s moving to THAILAND and my life is SO HARD, YOU GUYS. It was a bit embarassing. So this really just set me off more, especially when he started trying to comfort me by talking about how unimportant titles and labels are when you’re talking about faith and how my relationship with God is between me and God, not anyone else. Which, again, would normally be permissible and even welcome, except for the extenuating circumstances of arrrrrrrrghCold of Death, as in these circumstances it mostly caused me to go into a death spiral of angst about how I’ll never really be Jewish so why am I even trying and I should just go back to Christianity even though I have a problem with their theology and textual analysis and historicity blah.

So once he was gone and I had taken some deep breaths and played a bit of Skyrim and petted a kitty to soothe my nerves, I started thinking about why I was even doing this in the first place, given what a hostile place Judaism can be for converts and how, as the boy said, labels are in general not all that important.

I wrote a paper on this as my Jewish-American Lit final–as the lone undergrad taking the graduate course I was allowed one personal¬† paper instead of an academic essay. I’ll summarize it later, since it was super long-winded, like eight pages long. But the important part is what happened right then as I was passive-aggressively watching the Big Bang Theory while ignoring the book that the Reconstructionist rabbi gave me about how Judaism is a civilization, not a religion, which of course was SO HELPFUL to my alienated convert mind at that point.

What happened was that my friend Max from high school called me, to invite me (in his words, “in light of your recent transformation”) on a “classic Jewish tradition”–going to dim sum Christmas Eve morning with his family.

Secular as that may be, I remembered what Jewish community feels like.

I’m doing a lot better now.

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Chanukah for the invalids

So as soon as my concussion healed I wound up with a killer cold. Have I told the I Got a Concussion while Belly Dancing story? No? Okay, fine, I’ll tell it, but only because you asked so nicely.

I was practicing sword dancing–that it, belly dancing with a sword balanced on my head. Or hip, shoulder, chest, wrist, or chin, but mostly the head because that’s what looks coolest. It was going quite well. I’ve found that dancing with a sword has improved my belly dance technique in general, but especially my isolations. But then I remembered I was supposed to meet my friend Quin at a movie theater (coincidentally the movie theater at the shopping center where I play Spot-the-Orthodox-Women, not that that’s mildly offensive or anything) so I had to rush out. I put my sword down like the graceful dancer I am, turned around, reached down the the floor so I could grab my bag and head out of the room in one fluid, elegant motion, and…

…smacked my temple right into the sword that was balanced on a fellow dancer’s head.

I am the most graceful one.

I might have blacked out a little at that point because I don’t remember the next few seconds. All I remember is rushing out the door while crying a little (I have issues about things and people touching my head, I’ll discuss those some other time) and ignoring everyone else trying to find out if I was okay, because for some reason I thought going to the movie was more important than, you know, checking to see that my eyes were dilating properly.

I ended up having a minor emotional breakdown at Ty’s house that night after the movie as I was taking care of him while he was sick, which was when I realized that perhaps I should go home and check myself over for concussion signs. Turned out that my pupils were uneven, which, in combination with the nausea and mood swings, made me think that perhaps something was wrong.

I made it through the night without going into a coma, which was good, and I completely got over the concussion symptoms by yesterday, except immediately afterword I came down with the same cold that Ty had while I was taking care of him. I know they say sharing is caring, but really.

So basically the moral of the story is, I’m spending my first Chanukah as a conversion candidate lying on my mom’s couch sniffling and cooking chicken soup and knitting hats like the bizarrely domestic kid I am. On the bright side, while in the grocery store buying chicken soup and Christmas cookie supplies with me today, my mom bought one of those little bags of chocolate Chanukah gelt and a loaf of challah for me. It was kind of adorable. On the less bright side, my teach-myself-to-make-latkes plan has failed because I can’t leave the couch without my sinuses sloshing around all disgustingly.

And I’ll leave you with that charming mental image. Happy Chanukah!