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Dear G-d, would you please write me a recommendation letter?

11 Feb

I lost my job this week. It was stupid.

The reason I lost it, not my job.

Actually, my job was stupid, so don’t pity me. It was beneath me.

I’ve had a lot of problems with work over my life. I’m a talented guy, and I can really sink my teeth into work, but I never try going for the things I want. And I never entirely take responsibility for my life and family.

This year has brought a lot of changes. I’ve spent more time with my family, and I’ve joined two institutions that are all about becoming a better person, Freemasonry and Judaism (listed in no particular order for all you cynical types).

In the end though, I don’t know that I’ve got all the self improvement out of it that I’ve been looking for. I don’t blame the institutions, obviously. This is a me thing. You get out of these things what you put into them, and it’s obvious to me now that I haven’t put enough into them.

What also seems obvious is that there is a G-d (or at least a cosmic social worker assigned to my case) and they’re looking out for me. You see, I certainly don’t curse G-d for me losing my job. I had to leave. It was killing me. I knew I had to leave. I was even making half-hearted attempts to find new work, but as long as I had it and it was just barely good enough, and it was a known quantity, and it was safe, I wasn’t going to leave.

My wife cut back her hours and I wasn’t going to leave. My daughter needs to go to pre-school soon and I wasn’t going to leave. We are accumulating debt and I wasn’t going to leave.

And now, through no fault of my own, in a manner I could have never predicted, my safe job left me.

And I’m nervous. I don’t do well with change.

But I have so much going for me. So much support. So much potential. And now I need so much faith, in G-d and in myself, to know that He gave me everything I need to do what I need to do.

It’d be nice if G-d actually did write me a recommendation letter, but if I took some time to think about it, in so many ways He already has.

I should take the time out to read it.

Did you just call me a Jew or a “Jew”?

31 Jan

One of the problems I’ve been having in infiltrating adapting into Jewish culture is the word Jew.

I’m a bit of a retrosexual, and have never been much for political correctness, but I acknowledge that some words for some people are off limits. Obviously racial epithets are out of bounds, but a word that seems to walk the line for some is the word Jew.

I’ve never had an issue with the word personally, but then I’m not Jewish (not yet, anyway). And I see it used all the time on Jewish websites. And yet, there’s this fear among a lot of people that the word “Jew” is so offensive, you’re more likely to get this reaction:

 

WHAT THE EFF DID YOU JUST CALL ME?!

…Now, I don’t mean to offend.

I just want to know the rules.

Is it like the N word where you can say it to each other, but others can’t say it to you? Or is it really how you say it? Some haters spit the word out of their mouth and it’s just tinged with antisemitism. Obviously, they suck. But then they could say the word “toast” and it would be offensive, because they’re offensive schmucks.

Is it 100% about context, or are there certain denominations where it’s acceptable and some where it’s not? Or is it just one of those things that most Jewish people don’t care about, but some do, depending on their personal experience, and I shouldn’t sweat it?

I suspect Jews don’t take offense at being called  a Jew as long as it’s said nicely. The only ones I’ve ever seen horrified by it are horrified by a lot of things and words, and that makes me think they view the world as a horrible place with horrible people in it.

I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

Thou shalt not be an asshat.

18 Jan

Part of the process of my conversion is trying to be religious.

Like…at all.

That isn’t easy for me. I wasn’t raised to be a terrorist or anything. I had good parents. But there’s not much point to getting religion if you’re not going to hold yourself up to a higher standard.

One of my biggest vices is gossiping. I’m like an old woman. Really. I wouldn’t say I stab people in the back, but I can be a little two-faced. I’ve always liked gossip. I’m interested in personal things that are none of my business, and will gladly voice them to others, probably as a way of endearing myself to the person I’m talking to at the moment.

And when I write it out like that, clinical though my analysis may be, it sounds like a completely asshole thing to do. Over these last few months I’ve been trying to avoid this. I’ve had limited success. More success today. I’d tell you all about it, but that would completely defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

But know, there is progress, and I’m working on it.

The Torah actually mentions gossip. I can’t remember the passage, but it was very Biblical sounding as I recall. And I like that. I like that G-d takes the time to say that. It’s not all rules for rituals, and wars, and Jacob being kind of a jerkface. I like that it, in every way underlines the tenant What is abhorrent to you, do not do to someone else.

Yay, G-d!

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.

Amirite?

 

Latkes n’ Lefse? OY BETCHA!

11 Jan

A while back we wanted to start a blog talking about our conversion to Judaism. We don’t think it’ll break any new ground, or anything, but converts, or Jews by Choice as some like to be called, well… we’re a weird bunch. Most of us are doing it for religious reasons and so many Jews today are mainly secular.

Also it’s not exactly the easiest religion to shoehorn yourself into. Jewish communities are very welcoming, but they are, above all, communities. They’re tight-knit. And some are justifiably wary of the curious.

We can’t exactly sneak in, either. We’re about as Midwestern as you can get. I do all the Minnesota staples from downing hotdish, to staying at a comfortable 90 degree angle from anyone I’m talking to. And my wife is from the river valley in Wisconsin. She may as well have been born floating down the Mississippi on an inner tube raft with a Grain Belt in her hand.

I mean, seriously, our kids look like they fell out of an IKEA catalog. There’s no slipping in under the radar. We stick out. So hey, why not go with it, eh?

Minnesota may not be the Promised Land, but it’s our land, and it’s our home. And we’ll set our Shabbat table with the best lutefisk, wild rice soup, and challah we can make and raise a brew to the Frozen Chosen. Oy betcha!