Meet the Rabbi

Finally, a couple of weeks ago I met the Rabbi to “formalize” my request to convert to Judaism, It all went smoothly, we talked about my background, my expectations, blah blah, it felt more like a therapy session at the psychologist, she would ask a simple question and I would answer for 20 mins, which is pretty weird considering how quiet I am.
I felt as if I knew her so she was really easy to talk to, I have watched many videos of her online so I knew about her mentality and background a bit so that was very helpful. The next step in the process will be to get involved in the synagogue life, which might be difficult for me studying full time and working part-time but I told her I will try my best, for now I am attending every Shabbat service whenever I am available, I would like to get more involved than just going to services and will try my best but man I need longer days in my life, summer is here and I know I will have a bit more time now that during the fall or winter which is a shame because the next Judaism class starts in the fall , so for now I will have to wait.

I told the rabbi about the books I have read, she asked me what else I wanted to read about, I said History, which I like, and she recommended me a book, which I haven’t start yet.
She explained to me all the process to follow in order to convert, the classes, circumcision, and at the end I will have to become a member of the temple, I didn’t even ask how much it was, I didn’t wanna get scared lol, she saw it in my face and told me I shouldn’t worry about that.

I told her I was planning on getting a Mezuzah, she said it is not necessary yet, to wear a Kippah (during service) is ok but to wear a Tallit is not recommended, I am not planning on wearing a Tallit but I can clearly see the difference that I talked before between the reform movement in USA in Canada, I read a lot of blogs of Jews by choice and most of the rabbis in the US would encourage these practices. I am fine with this, if anything if makes me more determined to study and work towards my conversion. In any case my J-friend (who btw is coming to services with me and keeps thanking me for bringing back to Judaism) is helping me to get the Mezuzah case and I will talk again with the Rabbi for the scroll.

For now I do not have another appointment with the rabbi, I guess after the class starts in the summer I will meet her again, but I am happy my shul is run by a strong woman, girl power, lol, and she is also homosexual which is a plus.

Addendum: some of us are readers some of us are writers, and I have so many things I would like to share in this blog, not about theology because like I said before there are a lot of those online but about the whole process and my feelings. I am a reader, I prefer spent my internet time reading about others experiences and learning about Judaism that writing about it, I was thinking that maybe I should stop the blog, (especially after seeing my stats lol) but I think I will continue, maybe not as frequent as in the beginning but whenever I feel like to. When I started the blog I felt pressure to write about everything that was happening now I am more careless (in a good sense) about the outcome of the blog which will give me more freedom to enjoy the summer and the wonderful journey I started.

Wiener and more.

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When I started this journey I did not imagined myself following rules, one of the things that attracted me the most about reform Judaism is the fact that we do not follow the 613 Mitzvot just because G-d told us to or because is written here and there but because we feel a connection with the ones that we practice/follow.

That being said, I knew circumcision was on the top of my list, I knew I didn’t wanna be part of the biker gang and not having the tattoo everyone else has :)
I also love (as many converts from what I can perceive) wearing a kippah, wearing one feels like a massage under the sun, drinking pina colada in a south pacific beach but still I decided to use it during services at the shul but I might extend that for when I pray at home.

When I first told my boyfriend I was converting some of his first questions were, are you gonna be wearing a kippah all the time and are you gonna stop eating pork? My answer was a firm NO to both, but oh boy, who would have thought, I did not have the intention to stop eating pork but as weeks passed by it starting tasting weird up until the point that I couldn’t bear to swallow it anymore, I do however still eat hot dogs, some other sausages, and never really ate bacon other than in Cesar’s salad, I do not think these habits will change but who knows, maybe in a few weeks I will be a declared enemy of hot dogs.

I keep asking myself the reason why, why did I start feeling like this? Why I cant eat pork anymore when I did not have the intention, scientifically speaking I like to think is some kind of psychological effect, kind of like placebos work but in the opposite sense, but I also like to think that my inner Jew, the one I am discovering inside my soul is coming out of the closet….again.

American Vs Canadian Reform

Lucky are the ones who have options to choose from, as you already know, there is only 1 reform shul here, hopefully it will work out for me and if it doesn’t well too bad because I am determined to convert so I will make the best with what I have, you already saw the prices of my synagogue which I am pretty sure it is not expensive for the standards there, the place is located in the most affluent neighborhood in the city so I can only imagine their operation costs, I was surprised to see limos parked outside after the service.

Anyways, I want to talk about the difference between Canadian and American reform movement, before going to my first Shabbat service I read a lot about the reform movement (the American) and even watched some services online, and there is a big difference, let’s say the Canadian reform movement is more similar to the American conservative one. For starters Circumcision is not required in the American reform in other to convert, in my shul I was told it is, as a side note, 80% of Americans are circumcised while the practice is not that common in Canada; before finding out about this I had decided to do it even if it wasn’t gonna be required so I am ok with this.

Another difference is the Kippah, during my first service I only saw 1 man with no kippah, from what I have seen online many reforms in the US do not wear kippah, the third big difference is diversity, I was by FAR the darkest person at the shul, I have a middle eastern look and did not see anyone else with that look, if you have never been to Canada you might have the idea of Canadians being blond but from my experience in the US people are whiter and Canadians are more “mixed” but not at my synagogue and from what I have seen online and reading converts blogs there is a big diversity in the US temples.

Fun fact: 40% of Canadian Jews are orthodox, 40% conservative and only 6% are reform, I believe in the states 80% of Jews belong to the reform movement, that might explain a lot.

I wanna add that these are only impressions after one visit so that might change, in this article I found online you can read more about this subject http://reformjudaismmag.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=1510

My first service

shabbat-just-do-it

As I told you before I finally decided to go to a service after finding out my sister had cancer, I was sweating like a hurdler jumping on mined hurdles, I walked around the block 27 times, and finally decided to go in.

To my surprise I was 20 minutes early so I had to wait sitting in a couch, next to me was a 90 something years old man who told me he had been coming to this synagogue for 80 years, needless to explain all the thoughts that crossed my mind, specially when I started thinking what must have been like to be here during the WWII.

People started to come in and the average age was 95 years, maybe a little more, so I was already feeling out of place but I finally got the courage to talk to someone who looked like the Rabbi only to find out she was a gentile in the process on conversion :))))))

I was happy to meet her, she was super nice and she introduced me to another girl who is in the same process and who kindly sat with me during the service and explained me a bunch of protocol.

I also found out this was no regular service, it was packed and it was in honour of long time members of the temple which explained why everyone was really really old.

I was struggling with keeping up the pace of the service and overall I was not as a revealing or overwhelming as I thought it was going to be, on one side it felt very familiar on the other I felt as if I did not belong, I think it was all because there were too many people and the service was revolving around the long time members so there was a lot of naming and thanking.

I also wore a kippah for the first time and oh boy that felt weird in a good sense, it felt like a bucket of fresh water over my head on a hot steamy summer day, I dont know why but I felt really peaceful after putting the kippah on and entering the synagogue.

After the service there was the meal part ( dont know the name yet) but I decided it was enough for a day and left. This coming Friday I will return to the shul for a service, I will be attending with Shimon, my only Jewish friend who has been very supportive, he hasnt been in a shul for years much less in a reform temple so it should be fun.

There is a lot more details about the synagogue and its people but I think that deserves a different post.

The next morning my sister told me her cancer was in an early stage and there was no need for chemo, only a minor surgery so I was very happy about that :)))))))

Allo, can I please talk to Hashem?

Phonecall

Booking an appointment:

Before going to my first Shabbat service I called the temple, a woman answered and transferred me to the Rabbi’s office, another woman answer and started asking me questions in a not very enthusiastic tone as if it is part of the routine, as if many people call asking about conversion but get discouraged. Here is how the conversation went, I am omitting simple questions like my name, time and obvious questions:

Me: Hello, I wanna talk to a rabbi about the conversion process
Her: How long have you been thinking about conversion?
Me: 6 months.
Her: Have you attended a service?
Me: no
Her: is it for marriage purpose?
Me: No
Her: Are you circumcised?
Me: No
Her: Did you know you had to get circumcised?
Me: Yes, I know and I am ok with it
(In most reforms community it is not mandatory but like I said before Canadian and American reform movements are very different, this being one of those differences)
Her: (Explains the courses I have to take, and most importantly doesn’t stop repeating prices, Judaism 101 is $400 dollars, circumcision is $1000, Hebrew classes $$$, Mikvah inmersion $400 and more $$$$$$$ as if I was gonna get discouraged)
Me: That’s ok
Her: So you still wanna set up an appointment?
Me: Definitely
Her: (with a different tone of voice, more welcoming) Oh ok, perfect.

I still don’t know where I am gonna get the money for all these but hopefully I can come up with a solution. This being the only reform synagogue in Montreal doesn’t give me much room to explore so I just hope I will feel welcome and confortable with the Rabbi when I meet her next week.

Coming out…. part 2

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I have so many ideas that I don’t even know which one to use for this post, I guess I will start by the coming out In the previous entry, I told you how I end up at the synagogue but before that happened I decided to tell my close ones about my intention to convert; weird how the path is different for everyone, you would think that you first considered the idea, then meet a rabbi and try to solidify your intentions and after that you tell your close ones. For me it was the opposite, I decided I wanted to convert, then I told my friends and family and after that I set up an appointment with a rabbi.

I have never been an insecure person, at least not from the outside, so before getting myself wet into Judaism I decided to tell my family and most of my friends, I wasn’t scared at all of the reaction from anyone but my boyfriend.
I told my close friends, they were a bit surprised and they all supported me, some of them think is just an idea that will pass by, as if I ever had that type of behaviour, some didn’t care and some others I haven’t had the opportunity to tell.

As far as my family is concerned, I told my sisters who were very supportive and ask me the regular questions, are you gonna wear a kippah the whole time (NO), are you gonna keep kosher? (NO), are you getting circumcised? (YES), are you moving to Israel? (WTF), are you gonna be orthodox? (hell no).
I explained to my sisters the ideas of reform Judaism and they were all happy for me, the religious/politically radical one told me she was happy for me but she wouldn’t agree with me supporting Israel which is an apartheid state, I told her, what type of Jew would I be not supporting Israel? I told her, I can make the difference between a government as its people, and I am aware of the atrocities committed by the Israel government as well as the ones committed by the Palestinian government but I did not have a solution for the conflict ( this paragraph is too long, I should have taken that composition class in college)., however I was in favor of the existence of Israel just as I am in favor of a Palestinian state or two in one, odd I guess, maybe impossible, who knows but I will never use religion, my religion to justify crimes against other human beings, my point is, I can be a Zionist, a pro Israel, a Jew but that doesn’t give me right to blindly trust the actions of a government just because we have ideas in common.

Anyways, then came my parents, my dad laughed at me, not making fun of me but more like a “aww you little crazy bastard, do whatever you want” , on the other side my mom was speechless but supportive (as usual), she told me “so you are gonna be like Judas” #akward , I said proudly YES, if by Judas you mean a jew who denies Jesus, and we moved on in the conversation.

One of the last persons I came out to was my boyfriend and that made me question our relationship a lot but at the end I concluded it was just because I care a lot about what he thinks and not because I don’t trust him.
I was really scared of his reaction, not because he was raised muslim but mostly because he is antireligion. The day came, I told him and it was wonderful, he showed me once more how much he loves me, he did not care AT ALL.

He told me, not to be blinded by religion, to continue to have my critical thinking and not go to extremes, he said he did not feel the need to belong to a religious community or to talk to God but he understands my need.

I thought he was gonna be acceptant but he is more than that, he asks me about holidays, Jewish points of views, when cooking he asked me if it was ok mixing milk and cheese (I am ok with that).
I knew I wanted to convert but I did not know how to start “doing Jew” but he definitely made it easy for me, he made it seem as if I was just changing my shirt and even suggested coloors for my shirt.

I feel blessed of having close friends and family that supports me, but I am still a bit scared of being judged maybe not by the close ones but the others, at work for instance, or at school, BTW, just like any many campuses in north America my university is big time anti Zionist, plus I am an engineering student and 80% (ok maybe 40%) of my classmates are very religious muslims, international students from Saudi Arabia and other arab countries. I do not think it will be an issue but it has crossed my mind.

I am also scared of having to justify myself to people I am not close too, I even told my boyfriend I might just lie and say “my dad family is jewish but they don’t practice” so I don’t have to explain my process to every single person I encounter. I guess I will discuss this with the Rabbi when I meet her this coming week,

BTW, I forgot to mention the rabbi was also one of the final pushes towards Judaism, I saw her on a video, she is a lesbian with 2 kids which makes me very confortable.

Ok, this is getting to long so I guess I will stop here and will tell my first Shabbat service experience on the next post.

On how I found Judaism

                                                     what-is-your-religion

 Like I said before, for some unknown reason I always felt some weird attraction towards Judaism, back in Colombia never met a Jewish person but I read a bit about it and when watching world war II movies nobody in the rooms cried more than me, after moving to Canada I met one of my good friends who was raised Ludavitch and calls himself a secular traditionalist, but my mind/heart started to stir in 2011. That was the year Jack Layton died, a famous social democratic Canadian politician, I admired him a lot and the night of his funeral ( it was televised) I was crying on my couch watching the celebration of his life when the priest started talking and he was telling the story about his husband; I was like: wait what? Rewind, did he just said husband? Rewind, and yes he did.

See, to me it was inconceivable to have a member of an organized religion, more so Christianity speak in national television about his husband

When the funeral was over, I ran to my PC to Google Jack Laytons religion, and I found out he was member of the United Church of Canada, after reading about that church, I was happy that place existed for people who needed it but I knew it was not for me; I have always been interested in religion, even though I considered myself an atheist at the time. So I my search and in some kind of religion shopping, I began investigating the position of different religion towards homosexuality.

 At the same time, little by little I felt the need to go to a temple, I wanted so bad to go to a church not to pray but to meditate, to find silence ( or I told myself that was the reason why), but I never did went back to a catholic church, I didn’t wanna feel judged and I didn’t wanna see the statues, by the way, I did went to many churches every year when in Europe and even visited the Vatican but all that felt more like museum visits, and I never prayed.

A couple of years after one of my sisters and my 4 year old niece moved in with me and my boyfriend, we became really attached to my niece and during Christmas time we set up a tree and celebrated (without praying), my boyfriend and I decided to go to Colombia and my sister, who is not religious at all went to Ottawa to visit my other sister ( the religious one), when we came back my niece started talking about Jesus, Mary , heaven and asking me a lot of questions, THE HORROR, I did not know what to tell her, I know silly but I was scared to answer those questions.

I analyzed the situation and realized that as much as my sister tried to raised a secular child, having religious family members was always gonna be a challenge so I told myself, if I ever have a child I don’t want him/her to look for answers elsewhere, I want him/her to have some foundation and later he/she can decide if what I told him/her is good or not for him/her and I wasn’t gonna be able to achieve that by raising a atheist child who is going to play with Christian cousins who would get gifts from Jesus and would be protected by saints, I want my child to have a confident, a best friend, and almighty that he can talk to and not be afraid of.

So I started reading about Judaism, and my feelings and attraction grew, I decided I wanted to talk to a Rabbi and set up an appointment with the only reform shul in Montreal, so I will meet the Rabbi on May 27th. I did not have any intention to visit the synagogue before that because I was scared pretified to go there by myself, but things changed when my sister ( the non religious) told me she had cervical cancer, see, in the prime of my atheism I used to say “I dont believe in G-d but I will start praying to him if any of us gets cancer”

Needless to say, I felt guilty, as if it was my fault so I armoured myself with courage and shaking and sweating made it to the synagogue last Friday night (kissed a guy but I forgot, pardon me), but that part of the story deserves another entry

So, to the point: Being gay, and super comfortable with it, I wouldn’t and can not imaging practicing a religion where homosexuality is condemned so I kept my research and that’s how I found reform Judaism.

Ps: I am sorry if my ideas are all over the place, I am able to sit and write a blog but I am not able to go back and read what I wrote to correct it, I preffer to think of it as if was talking to someone.