Them, Them Them, and Us

12 Jan

“So we’re sort of converting to Judaism…

He kept driving, not saying anything at first.

“You’ll never actually be one of them, you know.” he said.

…Thanks Dad.


Changing religions is hard.

You alienate all sorts of people. This is understandable. If you’re converting away from Christianity then in the eyes of some of your friends and family, you’re damning yourself to Hell, or at the very least depriving yourself of Jesus.

I’ve never held it against my proselytizing Christian friends for trying to save my soul. It’s complimentary, really. I really do understand it. They have a harder time with it, though. They’re happy I’m into G-d, but why isn’t Christianity good enough for him? And really, he’s just being a smartass who has to be different and do things the hard way, amirite?

Finding religion from nothing is also a hard.

You alienate all sorts of people. This isn’t understandable. I get that secular friends would fear me becoming a Bible-thumper (or Torah-thumper, I suppose). No one likes annoying people. But I get this weird feeling of betrayal, like I converted to being a horse or something.

Oh mah gawds! Religious people! Run fo' yo' lives!

Honestly, I get more understanding from Atheists than from my typically agnostic, secular, oh-so-open-minded friends. I guess it’s because good hard Atheists believe something, and do it with a capital A. They’ve thought about it, and respect other people who think about it. But my secular friends and family seem betrayed. Maybe because I’m becoming one of them. The other side. The side that consults religious books instead of text books to figure out why things work the way they do. And worse than that. I can’t just pick a generic everyday religion. I’m the them of thems. Why isn’t science and sociology good enough for him? And to become a Jew? He’s just being a smartass who has to be different and do things the hard way, amirite?


Changing religion to Judaism is hard… for some Jews.

This is just weird. You get a lot of funny looks that say “Why on Earth would you ever want to possibly convert to Judaism?” It’s a strange question to me, because I think the reasons are self-evident. And if a Jewish person needs to ask that question, I kind of wonder why they’re not converting to something else.

I think it comes down to this concept that Jews are this strange, ambiguous tribe. They pretty much kickstarted all of Western civilization, but are so entirely separate from it. They are a them. They are the poster boy people of them.

To Christians my wife, who was never really Christian, is becoming a them.

To my secular family and friends I’m becoming a them them.

And to some Jews I’m becoming the weirdest thing of all: an us.

Becoming a them (or them them) is easy. I’ve already done it. I did something out of the norm. But will I ever become an us? Or is my dad right? Will I never actually be Jewish, no matter what I say, how I pray, or what kind of funny hats I wear?

I don’t know.

I grew up a fat, bespectacled Star Trek nerd, and I’ve never felt more out of place than walking through Fishman’s Deli on a Friday afternoon. How I’ll be accepted will come down to who I meet, I guess. I assume most of Judaism will be just fine with me becoming one of the Frozen Chosen.

As for the rest, what can I say? I’m a smartass. I have to be different and do things the hard way.




One Response to “Them, Them Them, and Us”

  1. Jenn B January 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    You’ll be an “us”, believe me. A few months ago I was chatting with a friend from temple about all the people we know who we are stunned to find out are converts. “Russ? Really?” Ten plus years past conversion you don’t look much like a convert anymore except for that pesky non-Jewish family. 🙂 I converted 8 years ago and it’s not a big deal anymore.

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