Community – What Online Conversion Lacks

Community – What Online Conversion Lacks January 30, 2014

There seems to be a proliferation of “convert to Judaism” online websites lately. I’m not sure why this is, although it does seem fueled by demand. Judaism is attractive to a lot of people and the internet helps would-be converts find resources and Rabbis. It’s a cool thing, really. That should say a lot about the power of Judaism to bring people to the faith without actually proselytizing.

Here are just some sites where you can convert online, at least up to the Beit Din and Mikveh part:

Online Convert to Judaism Program / http://www.convertjudaism.org/

Karaite Jewish University

 PunkTorah

ConvertingToJudaism.com

These resources are very useful and do change lives. But it’s not the same as living in a Jewish community.

Every week I go to erev Shabbat or Torah study or meet with my Rabbi refreshes me. Everyone is so nice. I meet people in my congregation and make connections. I learn from others – what to say, what to do. I learn my community’s unique mini-culture. I can belong. That doesn’t happen so easily online. It’s not very easy to be your own community.

I actually very strongly agree with Rabbi Ruth Adar’s thoughts on online conversion: “Can I Convert to Judaism Online?”

IT TAKES A JEWISH COMMUNITY TO MAKE A JEW.

IT TAKES JEWISH EXPERIENCES TO MAKE A JEW.

IT TAKES TIME TO MAKE A JEW.

Every other Friday I rush from work to grab my kids, schlep back into the city, and go to erev shabbat services. I pray that they enjoy their time, that they behave a bit better than last week, and that I don’t cause too much trouble for anyone. But always, everyone is nice. They ask how I am. They offer help with my children. They give me some of the oneg to take home. (Aren’t they awesome??) Everyone is so nice and welcoming. No one points me out as the convert-in-process. No one stares at me with judgment. It’s amazing. I feel at home when I go to shul. I love being with the community. It brings me a sense of rhythm and family and blessing.

That’s what the internet, even if I connect to a thousand online, will never replace. Real live human warmth.

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