Are you in the process of converting to Reform Judaism? Are you thinking about it? If so, I’d love to connect with you and hear your thoughts about this post.
My wife, Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus, and I love to host people in our home. It’s hard to find the time, but it’s something that’s important to us as human beings and in our capacity as rabbis. Last night we had a chance to welcome the students of The Temple’s Judaism 102 class and their SOs to our home for a social evening and havdallah service (havdallah is the short musical service that concludes Shabbat). Aside from the simple joy of hosting people, strengthening relationships, and bringing people together, we had a chance, because of the nature of the group, to spend a lot of time in all group and small group conversations about Judaism and Reform Judaism in particular.
As an icebreaker/ welcome we all went around and shared a bit about ourselves and a question we have about Judaism. If you’ve read even a few of the posts on this site then you know that I love good questions. The questions that were asked last night were profound: How do we raise our children as Jews but still honor my family’s non-Jewish background? Will I ever feel that I live authentically as a Jew? How do I start to live a purposeful Jewish life when I’m on my own? How much of Judaism do I have to observe and practice to feel like I’m honoring my decision to choose Judaism? And my own question, prompted by the horrific stabbings at the recent Pride Parade in Jerusalem: How could someone be so wrong and misguided in their understanding of Judaism that they think such a barbaric act could ever be justified?
Over the course of the evening we mingled and enjoyed delicious food. In break off conversations I had a chance to hear more from some of our thoughtful and gracious guests. In response to the question of Jewish authenticity I was able to offer that we ask the same question in our own family on a daily basis. Authenticity in a Reform Jewish context is anything but straightforward. Because Reform Judaism places such a high value on informed choice, Reform Jews are perpetually confronted with the question of whether our choices are sufficiently informed and purposeful.
Having grown up in a Reform Jewish home and having 8 years of serving in the rabbinate, I am very much an insider when it comes to Reform Judaism. Conversion candidates, by definition, aren’t yet. Hearing them speak with me and with one another about what summons them to Reform Judaism, the feeling of having finally found a faith tradition that they can fully embrace, is inspiring.
One of our guests, pointing at her partner, offered the following question: Why am I so much more curious about Judaism than he is? We all laughed. It’s a reality that “Jews by Choice” as folks who convert are sometimes called, often exhibit greater curiosity, passion, and commitment when it comes to living Judaism. I think part of the answer (though not specifically in the case of this couple) is that many Jews lack the Jewish education live vibrant and dynamic Jewish lives. I think many of us also fail to appreciate how unique Reform Judaism is among the many faiths and religions that are out there. The breadth of Judaism and the commitment of true Reform Judaism to always question, challenge, learn, and grow are all too often lost on folks who grew up Jewish. Obviously this is a total shame and a potential indictment of Reform Judaism in the world today.
Last night was one of those times when I felt fully affirmed in my decision to devote my personal, professional, and spiritual life to Reform Judaism. I am so grateful to have had the chance to connect with such a thoughtful group of people who are each, in their own way and for their own reasons, choosing Reform Judaism.