A Shared Spiritual Journey | A Friend’s Perspective On Jewish Conversion (Guest Post)

This post about conversion was written from the perspective of my non-Jewish friend, Crístina. When I began exploring spirituality, I attended regular church services with her and her family and we’d often engage in deep conversations about the world as we know it, and of course the possible existence or non-existence of G-d.
The opinions and recollection of events stated here are her own and don’t necessarily reflect mine, but it has been edited to fit the format of my blog.

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Simone and I have been friends for quite awhile and it has been one of the most enriching and fulfilling friendships, because we are both supportive of each other in all aspects of our lives. We bond/ed over shared challenges and a need for something more spiritually, which I have not experienced with any other person.

When Simone told me she wanted to convert to Judaism, I was thrilled for her as she had found her place – a community of people that she felt comfortable and at home with. In fact I was slightly envious because I was/am still conflicted over where I belong, and converting to another religion would, in many ways, contradict my culture – an issue which is all to complex to get into here. 

My jealously stemmed from holding Judaism in a special place in my heart; It is a religion, that although I am not apart of, I have so much appreciation and love for – It’s insight and wisdom provide me with a safe haven.

Judaism is a religion that has made me ponder on things and taught me so much, and I was jealous that Simone would get to completely immerse herself in it’s practices and rituals; However, I was also reminded that I too would get to experience these observances with Simone, which was an exciting thought.

Easter church service together, 2015.

It was somewhat disappointing that she would not be attending church services with me anymore as we bonded and had so much fun at these together. We grew in our convictions and hopefulness learning about our creed together, which was a wonderful experience; but I continue to understand that she supports me on my personal spiritual path, just like I do for her.

It is enriching to have a friend who willingly seeks a deeper purpose in life just like I do. Everyone deserves a friendship filled with wonder and searching.

Despite my initial disappointment, I was much more excited to learn more and experience Judaism first hand, as it is something that I have always wanted to do but never had the chance to, and I knew that this would not cause our friendship to deteriorate in any way because we are accepting of one another and are both keen to learn by intriguing and different beliefs.

I did have a few concerns.

I knew Simone planned to convert to Orthodox Judaism, which has stricter rules and traditions, involving all aspects of life – including dress. I feared that this would conflict with Simone’s pre-60s-style, which she uses as an expression of identity and creativity (Not that she dresses provocatively but this stream prefers knees, elbows and clavicle to be covered, which can conflict with some vintage-styled clothing).

I also knew how taxing conversion was, and naturally didn’t want Simone to be hurt or conflicted in anyway; However, this of course, is how a person grows.

I didn’t thinks she was getting into anything she couldn’t handle because I know she is a strong and independent woman who has come to handle challenges better than most people I know, so I knew that she could find comprise for things and would also stay true to herself if certain things challenged her.
I know of a lot of people who thought she was “going through a phase”  because she had previously explored various branches of Christianity; But I knew these were never phases, rather apart of a journey – searching for the right place, the beliefs that matched hers, a religion or faith system that she felt comfortable with, and a community that brought out the best in her and provided her with spiritual support.
Spirituality isn’t a phase but rather, a process.
People who do think it’s a phase usually have not embarked on spiritual journeys themselves, and do not understand this. It is not something that can be done over night, it takes time, discernment and  patience.

Judaism, as I have mentioned before, has a special place in my heart and my life, it feels like a sanctuary to me, and it will always be like that.

I think that it is a fascinating religion that attempts to unravel the complexities of life. It is beautiful and full of traditions, which is definitely something I love and appreciate. I am so excited and feel so blessed to be able to experience Judaism with Simone, to begin further learning and to understand.

Simone has already taught me so much about Judaism and shown me some of the traditions – including mitpachat (“tichel” in Yiddish, meaning “headscarf”), even doing one for me, which was one brought something out of me, mystically, I’ve never experienced before – I barely have the words to describe.

Crístina wearing a mishpachat, Nov 2017

I look forward to learning and experiencing more, particularly as I have so much more time to do these things this new year, finally having finished school.

My advice to those of you who have friends who are converting, is to be open minded and supportive. You will learn so much from your “Jew-in-training” friends if you allow yourself to be apart of the journey, and you will have some of the most wonderful experiences – ones that will not be topped.

You will also have a friendship that is one of the strongest you will ever experience. If you are walking this path, it’s helpful to have a supportive friend on a similar journey.

I also want to remind those who may have concerns or disagree with their friends choice of religion, that just because your friend has decided to be apart of a particular religion doesn’t mean you have to, too. It isn’t your life and as long as it is not harmful to anyone, you should accept the choice of your friends – you don’t have to be apart of it – and if it really bothers you, discussing their choice and your concerns with them will be immensely beneficial. 

If it continues to bother you, it’s a good idea to keep the discussion of religion off the table, so no one imposes on the others’ beliefs. Respect goes both ways. 

To those on this “derech,  I wish you the best. This is an experience that is so fulfilling but can also be extremely conflicting. I remind you not to lose yourself, and that you don’t have to agree with absolutely everything a religion promotes. I also ask everyone to be respectful of one another and remind you all that religions can co-exist, it is what makes the world so interesting and diverse!

Sincerely yours,

Crístina

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