Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Convert To Judaism Asks Orthodox Rabbis: "What Do You Mean I’m Not A Jew?"

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 1997

Orthodox rabbis who reject the legitimacy of conversions to Judaism performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis are sharply criticized in an article in The Washington Post (April 20, 1997) by Gabrielle Glaser, author of the forthcoming book Strangers To The Tribe.  

"I was raised on an Oregon farm as a Protestant, but I was never a believer," writes Glaser. "Two years ago, at the age of 31, I converted to Judaism; it was the faith of my great-grandparents as far as I can tell . . . Unlike my ancestors, who left Judaism behind in Europe, I feel rooted in it. For the first time in my life, I say prayers that make sense to me, and I have a religious community to which I feel I belong. But now some Jews, both here and in Israel, are telling me that I don’t."  

She points to the legislation being considered in the Israeli Knesset which would make conversions performed in Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis invalid and the declaration by a group of Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. declaring that every stream of Judaism other than Orthodoxy "is not Judaism at all, but another religion."  

"In the eyes of these Orthodox who believe only they uphold the standards of Jewish law," writes Glaser, "my conversion, performed by a Reform rabbi, is null and void. That will not affect the way I practice Judaism, but it’s left me feeling angry and excluded. And I’m not the only one: about 90 percent of the affiliated Jews in America belong to the more liberal Reform, Reconstructionist or Conservative branches of Judaism."  

Glaser declares that, "Like many other converts, I’ve gone out of my way to make our household unambiguously Jewish . . . At a meeting the other day, the rabbi asked about Jewish writers we had grown up reading. Most of us had no answer: four out of the five were Jews by choice, as the parlance goes, and had come to the literature eagerly as adults, not automatically as children. ‘I wish all Jews had to convert,’ he said. He understands that we converted because we wanted to make a commitment to Judaism. And that the commitment of converts goes beyond that of born Jews . . . It is particularly painful to me that many Orthodox rabbis both here and in Israel don’t understand that. Am I a ‘real’ Jew? Am I authentic? I think I know and suspect God does too."  

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.