Converting to any religion should be a big deal, but it seems as though converting to Judaism is a bigger deal than most. And it’s something that occupies my thoughts more and more these days, struggling to honor who I am and what I want to raise my children with and reconciling that with my husband. I feel as though I’m putting a lot more effort into this than he is, and sometimes it’s so frustrating. Especially because it is such a lonely process, there’s nobody who understands or supports what I’m doing. Not really. My family loves me but their main concern is that I not go too far, not lose what I am in this. My husband loves me as well, but his concern is that I go far enough, that I make the sacrifices and do it well enough so that our kids grow up as Jewish as my stepchildren do. There is nobody who I can talk to that really understands where I’m coming from, who understands the conflicting loyalties I feel, to my family, to my husband, to the Jewish people, to myself.
The overall goal is to have a Jewish household, with Jewish kids. 100%, totally committed, Jewish kids. But is that fair? To me, to them? After all, I’m not Jewish yet, and even after converting, I’m still not ever going to have had a Jewish childhood, I can’t give them the traditional Jewish Bubbie. I give them my mother, and I think they’re better off because of that. But that flies in the face of what Judaism is supposed to be – never, never have intermarriage, you must be all Jewish, all the time. If I accept that precept, I have to acknowlege that my marriage is wrong, that my children should never have been born. Marc should have stuck with his own kind, and I would have been better off not stealing Jewish seed to make non-Jewish children. I’m exaggerating for effect a little bit, but that’s the way it feels sometimes.
But still – I am trying. Because I love so much about Judaism, because the values and traditions are a part of who they are, I want to give them that. I just worry that I’m getting lost in the process, that what I think, and what I believe, and what I want for them to understand about the world, about the Divine, about other people, is not getting thru. Or won’t get thru. If I do it this way, if I send Jessie to an Orthodox day school, if I teach her to respect a religion that sometimes can be very anti-woman, am I also teaching her that she’s less than her brother? How am I honoring her when I do that? How am I teaching her that her mind is as valuable and as important as his, when the religion places so much more value on the woman as the center of the home, the washer of dishes and the changer of diapers, the keeper of all things domestic?
I don’t want her to think it’s her only option, I don’t want her to believe there’s only one definition of femininity, or for that matter, for Sam to grow up thinking that only women who dress modestly and don’t speak unless they’re spoken to are worthy. I want her to be opinionated and stubborn and to speak out. I want her to be whatever she wants, if that’s a stay at home mom who bakes challah, great. But if it’s a driven business woman who hates to cook, that’s just as good for me. I don’t want her to have to fit into a preconceived notion of what a woman should be, any more than I want Sam to feel as though being a man means following one path, and one path only.
I want them to believe that their lives are filled with wonder and magic. That each of them have been gifted with brilliant minds and caring hearts, and they have the responsibility to use their gifts. I want them to be responsible and considerate, but also confident and able to make their own decisions. I want them to feel as much kinship with my family as they do with Marc’s. I want, I want, I want… I don’t know what I want. Mostly, I want to feel better about this process that I’m going thru.