Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Fascinating Exchange on Non/Jews Gerut
..began here and continued here, both from linked from the blogroll of an OTD blog I follow. I spent some 10 years in a community with lots of Gerim, and too much time at a shul noteworthy for hosting them and leading them into "normalcy" (and sometimes families of them) - though the shul itself was far from mainstream, for all its pretense, though now it is much more blackhat than it had been. Having been exposed to these people, I think more than capacity/ability to actually believe what they're being taught to believe, or understand what they are or will be doing/becoming - a good number who convert apart from marriage have overwhelming, demanding psychological needs that neither they nor the beitei din register the strength and influence of; a sense of identity beyond themselves, a spiritual sense wed to peoplehood, a need for community - and essentially unconditional acceptance. There are some ways they're similar to BTs, but not many; a BT affirms a fundamental aspect of themself, no matter how uninformed - a Ger fundamentally officially renounces and denies personal idenitity with a fundamental aspect of who they "are".

SO these gerim have often been from philosophy to philosophy, religion to religion, political stances, etc, transitioning often by way of books and internet chatting, often on the fringes of actual communities since it's so hard to commit, to trust - they want to be “part of something bigger than themselves” - a community that wants them - or even better! - needs them (note how many put themselves into voluntary roles in the community to indicate sincerity, to make others depend on them, etc).

An illustration of how unconscious and powerful these drives can be, I’ll give an example from my own experience in a small, vastly-assimilated community with an "orthodox" rabbi and a mother with strong Jewish sentiments and tolerance for a doxy and praxy-minded intellectual "seeker" son. I remember early on dabbling with how I could accept the great amount of aspects of Biblical Criticism, and current Orthodox belief AND Chassidic practice and politics (I actually cooresponded for a time with members of "Friends of Jerusalem" - Neturei Karta in America) – and possibly martyrdom for being a Jew; a combination that entails PROFOUND ignorance of BibCrit, Orthodox belief AND any Orthodox practice!
Now with someone who is a stam goy, imagine such attitudes and ignorances - under the influence of deep, unconscious drives - being wrapped up with such a pathological sincerity and almost possessed drive to the point of honestly saying they would die for it! - but their gerut would likely be possul in any functioning COMMUNAL capacity! - aside from those authorities who are adamant that a gerut made by deception is still valid (actually NOT the consensus of most poskim of recent years). Setting aside of the course their inward, treasured PERSONAL identity as a Jew...and Jewish is supposed to be a people!? And people are persons and personal is just the matter, bzman hazeh; so much is a matter of personal choice, of individual association and affiliation, and these completely valid, almost-universal psychological needs become narrowed down to personal Jewish wants that drive these individuals - wants that act and influence like NEEDS that they are not, personally speaking; and that is where I think there is something trying to be what it is not. There is truly a need for them to be part of something bigger than themselves, etc - but there is no need for them to be Jews to do it, that is a want. You need food, clothing and shelter- you might want a gourmet meal, a space suit and a log cabin in Tennessee (many a Charedi would immediately think "a cheeseburger, an Armani suit and a Chateau in the Alps", or some other combination of "the best" things - as that is how they view being jewish; not as incomparable, but as "the best" of all possible choices; see r. Feinstein below).

On the receiving end, from the Jewish communal side, the only real reasons I can imagein Charedi Jews are so willing to even deal with Goyim who want to be Jews is because of what it tells them about themselves; we've made this personal decision to become/stay religious, and here come these goyim! - that affirms we've made the right decision", and also I think because it's "always better to be a Jew" really! This is a halacha from R. Moshe Feinstein! (n.19)...They believe this leaving unstated why they might be so self-conscious that they think it's so great; to me, it sounds like they're saying "No matter how distant from Judaism, no matter how non-Jewish one may be....there's always something right with being a Jew - and there's always something wrong with being a Goy"...either way, you just have to pick and poke and scratch long and hard enough and you'll discover the praiseworthy/loathsome trait you're looking for!....

What strikes me is even R. Broyde considers this a more "liberal" view, simply becauase on the surface it is so inclusive - in a contemporary, Protestant American sense I guess this would be 'liberal' - if imperialism and hegemony are liberal traits. just under the surface, I think it is astoundingly biggoted - and can only be comfortably stated if you think everyone shares such a view of personal identity - which is simply not the case! Any sociological assessment of identity would indicate (every conceivable group is not 'missionary', does not believe it harbors a discreet worldview nor is literally as identity-centric as so many Orthodox Judaisms are, viewing every facet of the universe as conceived and executed for Jews, along with Hashgacha Pratit and Jews, etc). That may be the case with fundamentalist Evanglical christians and muslims who want to convert the world - but I'd be suprised if Charedi Jews weren't suprised at how it sounds when you play such a recorded message back to them.

Back to my point; with people married to Jews or irredeemably embroiled in a relationship with a Jew such that marriage is impending – I think there is a familial and communal need for conversion – particularly if there is also individual WANT on the part of both spouses.


At 9/13/2010 6:32 PM, Blogger kisarita said...

As long as someone can choose not to be a Jew, they aren't really Jewish.
I think converts aren't really Jewish until they have children who were born Jewish.

(I consider children of converts, even of two converts, Jewish in a way their parents are not. I don't think they can choose not to be Jewish)


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