I have been going to Shul every week for 2.5 years and I started my conversion studies about a year ago. I should be finished in a couple months. So I thought I would offer a few insights on Judaism from a former outsider.
- Judaism is the most Indie religion out there. Judaism does not care about being cool or changing to be more popular with people. In a way, that is why it is so cool. It is the fact that it is extremely resistant to change is the reason why it has lasted for so long while other religions have come and gone. Judaism is not trendy and will not change itself at a whim, in contrast to other religions that will say anything and make changes at the drop of a hat to accelerate it’s growth. Change comes slowly to Judaism and if it only takes decades then it is moving too fast. If you don’t believe me ask any Orthodox Female Rabbi. Oh wait…there aren’t any.
- You don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the faith or culture that you like or don’t like. Don’t try to make the religion and customs into something that they are not, but please feel free to ignore the parts that really get to you. Just about every Jewish adult out there will have a different level of observance and will find a way to justify their particular execution of the rules and lifestyle. I am constantly amazed at the theological knowledge required to explain the logistical and logical leaps that can be used to justify just about anything mandated or ignored. Often Jewish folks will note that something is forbidden or required and they will make a note of it and go about their business and feel either a little personal shame that they didn’t follow it but be comforted in the knowledge they knew about it. Does God really hate you if you microwave leftovers on Shabbat after noon and turn on a light switch? Meh who knows but as long as you keep up appearances and don’t lie about your level of observance no one is going to put you on the spot because they have their own things that they don’t want you to put them on the spot for. It is a constant game of poker, where you don’t exactly lie but you don’t volunteer information that could be used against you. No one is going to hit you in the knees with a Bible unless you are blatant about it.
- Little old ladies run Judaism. They volunteer for everything at the synagogue and they are the keeper of tradition and knowledge since they live decades long after all the men folk have kicked the bucket. I think one of the greatest wins is that the sisterhood of a synagogue convinced the men of the Shul that the men are the ones in charge when it is really the ladies that run the home and make sure that the Jews stay Jewish.
- Unless you go to a larger synagogue don’t expect to meet girls. Also don’t be the creepy guy that hits on all the ladies. However if they are interested in you they will let you know. In a way converts are the best of both worlds since you go to Shul but you are sort of forbidden fruit. Also Jewish ladies of all generation LOVE BEARDS. This goes back to the days of Adam and Eve. Even if it is a short goatee or a full on biblical kosher beard Jewish ladies have equated beards with manly men.
- Yeah I know how much bacon rules…that is why it is tempting and rewarding to stay away from it, since you know how tasty it is. It’s one of God’s great ironies, God loves the Jewish people and yet forbids them to eat the tastiest meat in all of creation. Learn to love smoked salmon…it is the bacon of the sea.
Don’t let extremists define religion for you. You are going to encounter two kinds of evangelical extremism. One is going to try to push their hardcore interpretations of Judaism on you and the other are evangelical Christians that are going to be personally offended that you are not one of them and they will try to push their hardcore interpretations of their religion on you. I say nuts to both of them and focus on the ways that the faith is personally meaningful to you. Try to be in for the long haul, if you get taken too far to one extreme you are going to get burnt out and fall “Off the derech”. But then again I doubt they would be reading HipsterJew.com
- J (I don’t want to include my full name since the Rabbis on my Beit Din know how to use Google)