Born Anew or Born a Jew?

Rabbi Dovid Schwartz

Over the past several years a number of special “dedicated” Shabosos have emerged on the frum Jewish scene. We have AJOP and Torah U’Mesorah conventions, various Kiruv Outfits running Seminar weekends, a Hatzolah appeal Shabbos, a consciousness-raising Shabbos Machsom L’fee for Shmiras Halashon awareness and, on the west coast, a Shabbos Chizuk.

There have been many great inspiring-role-model Geirim in Jewish History; Yisro, Tzipporah, Rus, Onkelos, the Khazar King, Count Valentine Potocki of Vilna and Warder Cresson just to name a few. Yet the “Granddaddies” of all Gerim and Giyorot are Avraham Ovinu and Sarah Imainu. So I’d like to propose that the week preceding Parshas Lech Lecha become Geirus Awareness Week. After all, this is the parsha of their own geirus as well as that of the many mysteriously disappearing nefesh asher osu b’charan. = the souls that they “made” in Haran.

Personal, social, cultural, Hashkafic and Halachic aspects of geirus are, arguably, more pressing and pertinent today than at any other time in Jewish History. To suggest how to celebrate and what to emphasize during Geirus Awareness Week on a broad communal level is beyond the scope of a blog post and would be overreaching on my part. But what I’d like the Beyond BT™ community to consider and comment on are some of the larger areas of congruence, confluence and conflict where the worlds of BTs and geirim interconnect.

How does the Psycho-spiritual dynamic of becoming a ger and being chozer B’Tshuva compare and contrast? What attracts geirim and BTs more; an abstract compelling belief system or a facts-on-the-ground attractive, wholesome society/culture? What can BTs learn from geirim and vice versa? In particular what special lessons can we all learn from the unique journeys of those who began their embrace of Torah Judaism presuming that they were Jews, only to discover at a later date that they would have to undergo Halachic giyur? What inspiration and insights in growth, Shalom Bayis and navigating our marital ships through the stormy reefs of immediate and extended families can we draw from couples in which one spouse was a Chozer(et) B’Tshuva while the other was a Ger/Giyores? What kind of grades does Jewish Society receive in the V’Ahavtem es HaGer (And thou shall love the righteous convert) department as something unique and distinct from the generic mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael? Does the very term righteous convert capture the meaning of the Lashon Kodseh term Ger Tzedek?

Please share your thoughts and have a great Parshas Lech Lecha.

69 comments on “Born Anew or Born a Jew?

  1. I know that it is not easy for geirim, especially for their little children (kids can be so cruel with their lack of diplomacy).

    A ger, hopefully- became a yid to be an active participant of KLAL YISRAEL.

    The cases where geirim are treated with racism or just plain meanly are unexcusable. but we are mean to each other as well. we are not angels, but regular people.

    so, a message to everyone, JFB, FFB, BT, JBC, etc- my message is- ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. ACT FRIENDLY TO EVERYONE, MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BEFRIEND THOSE WHO NEED IT, TEACH THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED, JUST DO IT!!!

    a geet gebentched yuhr to all of Klal Yisroel, shana tova u’metuka.

  2. I was raised as a Jew by a mother with a non halachic conversion. Thinking I was Jewish, I began a path toward more observance, but hit a roadblock when I discovered that the Torah I had come to cherish said it was not applicable to me.
    The little discussed, but huge and growing problem of children of “illegitimate conversions” is the subject of an article just published in Jewish Action Spring ’08. Rabbis placate demands of families to convert a woman so that the marriage will be acceptable, but what of the children who grow up thinking they are Jews? How is the orthodox world to deal with this in an honest an compassionate way?

    http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/38176/

    I would appreciate you comments.
    GD

  3. RDS (#57 and others) – I emphasized the this couple the fact that absolutely no one would know who they are – they can certainly use an alias, as many of us here chose to. After all, only the administrators even see the ISP and email address when we post, and they’re sure not going to “blab”.

    Perhaps impulsiveness is a trait I need to work on… but that’s a whole other topic.

    One of my favorite lines about the power and importance of the role of women in Orthodoxy came from a (different) Geriyos friend. We were talking about how only a Jewish woman can produce a Jewish child, and she added (with great humor) “except for 2 Rabbis and a Mikveh”.

  4. “Why would live events make a difference? If you wanted to comment but not let people know who you are, you could chose not to go to the live events.”

    Some folks want to have their cake and eat it to! ThoughI will admit that for the non-USA-northeasterners you make a very valid point.(That is, unless of course, someone comes up with a viable out-of-town venue.)

  5. I think that it’s pretty typical and you can verify it by looking at the comments of other popular blogs and matching it against their traffic.

    Why would live events make a difference? If you wanted to comment but not let people know who you are, you could chose not to go to the live events.

    By the way, we are thinking about another live event. Please email us if you have any ideas or venue suggestions.

  6. This may be a stretch but is it at all possible that if BeyondBT did not feature live events that people would feel freer to speak out online?

  7. Wow. That’s even less than I would’ve guessed. Any way of checking if that’s typical for blogs of this type?

    (Actually, that’s an unfair question. IMO BeyondBT is one-of-a-kind. There’s nothing in the J-Blogosphere quite like it.)

  8. I’m trying to see what we are dealing with, through statistics the blog administrators may be able to develop. Let’s have facts and then we can offer opinions.

  9. Bob-

    You ask probing statistical questions. Still one would have thought that with the relative obscurity of a blog most of these concerns would be reduced. Can’t people use this site to unburden themselves of “secrets” that are weighing them down without losing face?

  10. Many BT’s may have similar concerns.

    David and/or Mark:

    How many Beyond BT readers have submitted articles or comments to this site?

    How does this compare to the number of people who have visited this site?

  11. Charnie-

    You were well-intended. As was I when originally submitting the post. However as Jacob Stein presciently wrote in the very first comment “about 90% of gerim would be embarrassed to have any special attention focused on them.”

    If this thread served no other purpose than sensitizing us to that statistic it may well have been worth it. As the old saw goes “the path to h**l is paved with good intentions”.

    I am sorry that I have served as a cause for that couples’ uneasiness and emotional hurt as well as many others who read my post and were threatened or offended by it.

  12. And then leave it to yours truly to managed to, in perhaps a state of impulsiveness, rub a Ger married to a BT the wrong way by sending them this link with a suggestion that perhaps they would post their feelings as to the differences & similarities they perceive about their two paths to Yiddishkeit. Apparently they were offended by my suggestion that they be part of a “case study”. Ouy vey.

  13. Why don’t people trim their nails on Rosh Chodesh (48) or, more pertinent to this thread, why don’t people do shiduchim with partners who bear their parents names(23)? Answer: Because it says not to in the Tzavo’ah/last will and testament of Rav Yehuda HaChosid.

    I found this entry in another work by the same author mildly unexpected but definitely awareness/consciousness- raising:

    Anyone possessing a good heart who takes a convert to Judaism as a wife who possesses a good heart, modesty, loving-kindness, and pleasantness in business affairs,[has married wisely. For] it is better to marry into such a family than to marry into a family of “the seed of Israel” who lack these midos/character traits. For the offspring from the convert will be just(Tzadikim) and good.”

    -Sefer Chasidim 377
    (bracketed words are my insertion for easier readability).

    I think that if JFBs would take this piece of Rav Yehuda HaChosid’s advice on shidduchim as seriously as his admonitions regarding names we’d create an ambiance in which Gerei Tzedek would not have to feel that they must remain closeted in order to survive/ever marry.

  14. Thank you JR.
    Unfortunately my son stay for Shabes in the yeshiva and I did not remember to ask anybody else. So I appreciate your links. Basically it is the same thing said twice but how.
    In topic of gerim. Motzei Shabes I have privilege to host for the first time a person who is Ger Tzedek over 40 years. Tremendous Talmid Chuchum, living in hareidishe community and counting third generation of descendents, tens of them.Autor of few Sfurim. Incredible story.

  15. Rabbi Schwartz – I looked up the pasuk, Rashi and Malbim and understand it differently than you. Maybe I’m misreading it. Rashi says that Avrohom was the “nediv lev ha’rishon” – the first generous-hearted person,

    “techila l’gerim” – at first, to converts

    “ata noda” – now we know he has the ability to be the shield for all who trust in him

    Malbim says that Avrohom was the “rosh l’gerim” – which I understand to mean “leader of the gerim (same for the Yalkut Tehilim)

    Yalkut Shimoni Shir Hashirim Remez 992 – it’s quite long, where???

    (Machzor Vitri siman 287 – don’t have it).

    “see also Bava Basra 15A that identifies Eisan HaEzrachi as Avraham Ovinu” – or Moshe, and so?

    but I agree:

    his Kedushas Yisroel was acquired VERY post-partum rather than in utero. This is characteristic of all gerei tsedek.

    Yet unlike all later converts whose conversion consists of committing to observing the 613 mitzvos, rabbinic laws etc., having the beis din determine their sincerity, circumcision, mikvah, Avrohom’s “conversion” didn’t resemble this at all!

    By the way, all the Jews at Mattan Torah were “gerim” and we learn the laws of conversion from them (and we read the story of Rus the convert on Shavuos).

    Back to your article and a “geirus awareness week” – the halacha is that we may not make reference to a convert (or baal teshuva)’s past, unless of course they don’t mind. So I’m wondering what sort of “awareness” you have in mind.

  16. Rabbi Schwartz: Tova Mordechai was born a Jew. Her mother was Jewish, her father a non-Jew. Tova Mordechai married a convert.

    Gavriel Sanders is a convert on the lecture circuit as is Chasida Flanders.

  17. Rabbi Schwartz commented (#38) on the many fascinating Gerim whom many of us have been privileged to hear. Awhile back I was seeking a speaker for a woman’s league event we were planning for our shul. I’d heard that there was a Giyores who lived in a nearby community who’d spoken at other events, so I contacted a cousin who lives in the same community to find out if she was a good speaker. My cousin’s reaction was quite surprising.. she said that she’s “tired of all these Gerim telling their stories, that she’s an FFB and she has plenty of stories of her own”. So I asked her if she’d like to speak. Ultimately, we ended up getting a different, well known Giyores, Ahuva Grey (http://www.mysisterthejew.com).

    Fern, (#29), I raised a related question in a previous post.

  18. Rabbi Shwartz,

    No worries. It’s a legitimate alterate transliteration of the Hebrew.

    Thanks for your comment. I haven’t thought of my handle in that way before, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind from now on!

    a gut shabbos

  19. Thanks, Rabbi Schwartz! I have often guided discussions into strange new directions, but I didn’t this time.

  20. Bob I apologize. I got confused and ascribed JR’s asking for sources to you. Also Tzura, sorry for misspelling your name.

  21. RDS,

    Regarding #38 and #44, I’m puzzled as to what statement of mine these are supposed to relate to. My #35, for example, was just a reaction to #34.

  22. Hi, JR
    To make it short.
    On this: I find it silly. The Torah wasn’t given yet so what is meant by Moshe being a baal teshuva and Tzipora being a giyores?
    Before the Torah was given, none of this was relevant
    I will answer you with this: Noach who kept the Torah
    On this: Since Avrohom and Sarah were the first Jews from whom the Jewish people descend, all the people at that time were simply Bnei Noach.
    I will answer with this: Shem was the son of the tzadik Noach.
    Please don’t feel offended by way of my response we all have such moment of …..
    This remained me particular hasidishe joke. Rebbe asks the class “Who was the father of Jehoyshia ben Nun? And the answer is …silent. I herd from few rebbes, friends of main, that this is not only joke.
    Regarding more references I would like to refer to my rebbi but I’m afraid that’s not enough for you. Other wise I’m very sorry but I’m not such Talmid Chuchum due to lack of 15 to 20 years of Yeshiva education. My son is coming from yeshiva for Shabes so I will ask him I-H and try to post after Shabes.
    All the best.

  23. JR-

    See my comments to Bob in # 38. How about we steer this thing back towards a discussion of contemporary Gerus and BT issues instead of historical ones?

  24. #33: Slicha no. 70 pusik gimel it says: “Gayr Tzeidek hurishon, lchol haneduvim. Bein shloishu hikirchu…” The first of Converts, among all the nobles, He was three years old when he recognize You”.

    thanks for that reference

    I wonder whether, aside from selichos, there is any Torah source (Gemara, Medrash) that refers to Avrohom as a ger.

    As for Moishe Rabayni was Baal Tshuva and His wife was Geyoyra (fact).

    I find it silly. The Torah wasn’t given yet so what is meant by Moshe being a baal teshuva and Tzipora being a giyores?

    Before the Torah was given, none of this was relevant.

    Wife of Elazar HaCoen was Tzipoyre’s sister

    Got a source for that? When did they marry?

    And yes Shem ve Ayver were goim as well as all the people which Avraham and Sura “made in Haran”.

    Since Avrohom and Sarah were the first Jews from whom the Jewish people descend, all the people at that time were simply Bnei Noach. And no, Shem and Ever were not like everybody else. Shem was the son of the tzadik Noach who kept the Torah. Shem and Ever transmitted the teachings they received from Noach.

  25. The last sentence of my previous comment was cut off. It should read

    Forget about Jew to Jew for a moment, on a purely human being to human being level why would we want to subject people to this kind of hatred and persecution if they free to opt out of it?

  26. that view stems from a time when Jews were severely persecuted and not from the original view of Judaism and conversion.

    I’m not sure if there is anything to correct but I do want to comment. As the Rabbi and Bob have mentioned in this post and thread confusion reigns in trying to understand the “original view of Judaism and conversion” and what ever became of the mysteriously disappearing nefesh asher osu b’charan. = the souls that they “made” in Haran. But I do know that Rashi says that a cognizance of anti-Semitism and a willing acceptance of being its possible target/victim is a prerequisite of the conversion process. The halakha is that we didn’t accept converts during the reign of King Solomon and will not accept converts in the Messianic era. In both cases the reason is precisely because Jews were then/ will be riding high. I think that you are maybe being overly optimistic to speak about Jewish persecution as if it were a thing of the past. Personally I stand in awe of Gerei Tsedek not only for adopting such a demanding lifestyle but for taking citizenship in a nation that is constantly at the bottom of the barrel in geopolitics. Forget about Jew to Jew for a moment, on a purely human being to human being level why would we want to subject people to this kind of hatred and persecution if they are

  27. it seems to me that we as a nation are shooting ourselves in the foot by not trying to convert the children who have a Jewish parent but aren’t halachicly Jewish.

    Fern please don’t misread me. I’m not trying to be callous to your family’s predicament/ anguish. But on a communal level I think that we run the risk of shooting ourselves in the foot even worse when there is even the slightest “pressure” to encourage conversion. The track record for converts whose gerus was a reaction to familial, romantic or immigration stimuli and entanglements is mostly abysmal and engenders more and more human tragedies. Any Gerus not motivated by conscience and strong, stable, mature conviction is playing with fire.

  28. Ora(23)

    I think that your ideas are very good! But I will add a few of my own.

    There are many popular Gerim on the lecture circuit (Rabbi Asher Wade, Tova Mordechai, The Prince of Swaziland et al) right now. Think about bringing one to your community as a guest speaker or Scholar-in–Residence. Basking in the afterglow of one of these speakers’ presentations the local gerim may feel less intimidated about going public with their own life-stories and would create a ripple effect of stereotype-exploding and increased respect and acceptance among the JFBs.

    I’m sure that the vast majority of frum Jews, even those who may be prejudiced against geirim, have read the Torah verses telling us to love the ger. Therefore, repeating those verses may not do much.

    I don’t think that awareness of the many exhortations to love Gerei Tsedek, on its own, makes the JFB community sensitized to this Mitzvah any more than the awareness of the many prohibitions against Chilul Shabbos and Loshon Harah makes us perfect in those departments. There are many shiurim and seminars devoted to broadening and deepening the understanding of both the Halakhos and Hashkofos surrounding Shmiras HaLoshon and Shabbos. I’m not trying to triage or reorder priorities but IMO there are enough time and resources for similar shiurim and seminars dedicated to mitzvahs, halachos and hashkofos pertaining to Gerim and Gerus issues. The presenters at such symposia need not be limited to Gerim.

    Over the years I’ve observed one other (ostensibly) positive step, but only in Chasidic communities. When a Ger/Giyores get married in their communities placards go up all over the neighborhood inviting everyone to participate as an opportunity to fulfill and grow in the Mitzvah of loving the ger tsedek. These weddings then become community wide celebrations. Whether this remains a once-in-a-lifetime shot in the arm for the bride and groom or if it becomes a kind of inauguration ceremony that eases their integration into the community for a lifetime… I don’t know. Perhaps someone from those communities reading these lines could fill us in? In any event I don’t know if this is an exportable idea. It presupposes the ger’s being comfortable with being “outed”. The facts on the ground are that Chasidic society places a much greater emphasis on Yichus (family pedigree) and Yiddish fluency and proper inflection than do other Orthodox Jews. As such, a convert attaching themselves to a Chasidic community will have a much more (if not impossible) time “passing” than one entering other types of Orthodoxy.

    If your looking for e-inspiration try some of these links
    http://www.jewish-history.com/Cresson/warderc.html

    http://www.gorgiaspress.com/bookshop/pc-311-2-prouser-j-noble-soul-the-life-legend-of-the-vilna-ger-tzedek-count-walenty-potocki.aspx

    Bob-
    Here are some Torah Sources for Avraham Ovinu being the pioneer Ger.

    He is described as Tkheela L’Gerim the beginner for converts in: Tehilim 47:10 Rashi D”H Am & Malbim D”H Am; Yalkut Shimoni Tehilim Remez 754; Yalkut Shimoni Shir Hashirim Remez 992 and Machzor Vitri siman 287. See also Bava Basra 15A that identifies Eisan HaEzrachi as Avraham Ovinu.

    Much of Rav Hutner’s z”l oeuvre was devoted to explaining the role of the Avos in developing Kedushas Yisroel. He coined a pithy aphorism that encapsulated a lot of his Torah on the topic that went: Avrohom der ershter Gevorener, Yitzchok der ershter Geborener, Yaakov der ershter Farfalener= Avraham the first “made” Jew; Yitzchok the first “born” Jew, Yaakov the first “stuck” Jew.

    We can argue about what the status of the Avos, Shvotim and the rest of humanity was relative to Odom, Noach and one another prior to Matan Torah (see sefer P’roshas Derochim by the Mishneh L’Melelech) but there is one point which is irrefutable. Avraham was the trailblazing Ger Tsedek inasmuch as his Kedushas Yisroel was acquired VERY post-partum rather than in utero. This is characteristic of all gerei tsedek.

    Tsura- I am an avid reader of this blog and have been thinking about points raised in the recent My Name is Not Neil post. So I hope you don’t mind me saying so but I think that you have chosen an absolutely exquisite Jewish name. It perfectly captures the gerus dynamic as one is poshet Tsura V’Lovesh Tsura= Divesting an old form to acquire a new one. May we all, JFB and JBC (Jew by choice) alike, be zocheh to an infusion of Tsurah and an ennobling of Khomer(matter/materialism)!

  29. Chaim G–I know the prevailing wisdom in the Orthodox world is (or at least seems to be) that it is better for goyim to learn and follow the Noahide Laws than it is to convert. I personally don’t hold that view. I’m not a scholar of Jewish history and Jewish Law, so forgive me (and feel free to correct me) if I’m wrong, but I think that view stems from a time when Jews were severely persecuted and not from the original view of Judaism and conversion. I think Judaism has something to offer people beyond just teaching the Noahide Laws to non-Jews. Especially since if someone isn’t going to be Jewish in America, they are likely to pick Christianity, which, from what I understand, many Rabbis feel does not comport with the Jewish understanding of “belief in one G-d.”

    When it comes to children, the Noahide Laws aren’t really enough to teach a child about G-d and morality. It’s one thing when a child is being raised with another religion and then the Noahide Laws are taught in order to supplement that religion, but how can you use the Noahide Laws to teach all the values that children should be instilled with?

    I doubt my brother-in-law will remarry any time soon, he seems too busy with working and trying to raise his daughter to have time to date. So in the meantime his daughter’s only moral code should be the Noahide Laws? And even if that were enough of a religious education, where should my brother-in-law go to teach his daughter those laws? What community can they join that would help enforce those laws? What about my brother-in-law? How is he supposed to make teshuva and nurture his commitment to Torah in a community that really isn’t interested in embracing his daughter as well?

    I know it’s a touchy subject that requires someone much more knowledgeable than I am to figure out, but it seems to me that we as a nation are shooting ourselves in the foot by not trying to convert the children who have a Jewish parent but aren’t halachicly Jewish.

  30. Unfortunately, Bob, what people call today Jewish, is not based on the Jewish law, which have its origins in heaven but on …what? :(

  31. I knew a secular Jewish family where the daughter (halachically Jewish) married a non-Jew and had a child, and the son (also halachically Jewish) married a non-Jew and had a child. The daughter’s child and the son’s child (first cousins) both became interested in Orthodox Judaism. Yet they were completely put off that the daughter’s child would be considered a BT and the son’s child a ger when they had the exact same Jewish blood flowing through their veins. They thought it was silly, and went Reconstructionist instead. Can’t say that I blame them.

  32. JR.
    I can’t recall better place for now but in Slicha no. 70 pusik gimel it says: “Gayr Tzeidek hurishon, lchol haneduvim. Bein shloishu hikirchu…” The first of Converts, among all the nobles, He was three years old when he recognize You”.
    The fact that Avraham uvini (avinu) was the first ger tzedek is commonly known so I wonder little beat because seams to me that you know her and there.
    Before Yomim Toivim we distributed open letter in Yiddish and English where I suggested that Moishe Rabayni was Baal Tshuva and His wife was Geyoyra (fact). First morning after that, some one call with the big scream how I dare to call our Teacher – Baal Tshuva and his wife goite. This was one of the answers from Yiddish speaking environment. Burich H-shem only one reaction like this. But in case that someone else is bothered by this fact small remainder that: Wife of Elazar HaCoen was Tzipoyre’s sister, so she was born gentile. Happened that she was mother of one of the baggiest heroes of Chumash, Pinches ben Elazar. If so than according to many Midrashim She was mother of Eliahu Hanuvi. This is not the “worst”. Wife of the second leader of our nation, which was Jehoyshia ben Nun (Joshua) was Ruchov, as it says in the sefer; “Ishu zoinu”.
    And yes Shem ve Ayver were goim as well as all the people which Avraham and Sura “made in Haran”.
    Regards to all.

  33. Fern-

    Presuming that your brother-in-law chooses to remain single or remarries out again (especially if it’s a blended family and their will be a presence of other non-Jewish siblings) what favor is he doing the child by having her be megayer? Where is he failing as a father if he educates her to the Noahide Mitzvahs? For your brother-in-law not having Jewish kids compounds the heartbreak/tragedy of his intermarriage, but is becoming Jewish really objectively better for the kid herself?

  34. An issue which I wish was more widely adressed is conversion for the children of Jewish men who married a non-Jew. I personally know of quite a few children who have a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother but who are being raised as nothing. I know people involved in kiruv have plenty of work on their hands just reaching the Jews who have gone astray. But my heart breaks for children who are often closely connected to the Jewish community but who aren’t being taught about G-d or given any moral guidance whatsoever.

    My brother-in-law married a non-Jew who turned out to be a drug addict (among other things). He divorced her and he has full custody of their daughter. Well, my husband’s family are sort of culural Jews and since the neice in question isn’t technically Jewish, they’re not providing her with any religious upbringing at all. It seems to me that the best thing for my neice (and for other children in similar situations) is for them to be given a Jewish education and home-life and then to encourage them to convert when they become bar mitzvah age. But there really isn’t any group that I can direct my brother-in-law towards. No one seems to want to help a Jewish dad create a Jewish home for his non-Jewish daughter. The result of it all is that my brother-in-law isn’t observing any mitzvot and my neice is being raised in a home that doesn’t talk about G-d or morality at all.

  35. “How does the Psycho-spiritual dynamic of becoming a ger and being chozer B’Tshuva compare and contrast?”

    I think it’s often very similar. Whenever I read kiruv material (e.g. material from Aish, Isralight, and others), I’m struck at how Jewish life and philosophy is presented in a way that could be appealing to a very general audience. Many ideas, like a direct relationship with an omnipotent yet caring G-d, veiwing the Torah and halachos as the “instruction book for life”, or shabbat as a separate time for family and spiritual contemplation, can easily be appreciated by non-Jews. This kind of presentation is, perhaps, a result of the fact that the Jews we are trying to reach out for kiruv are very distanced from their tradition and roots.

    One theme in kiruv meterials that *is* very “Jew-specific” is the concept of being a part of a continuous chain of tradition from Sinai (with the practical corollary being “how can you even consider intermarriage?!?”).

  36. A very interesting idea! I’ve been intrigued by Avraham Avinu, the ‘granddaddy’ of all geyorim and geyorot, as Rabbi Schwartz calls him, from an early age, most probably because my father’s (z’l) name was Abraham. (His yartzeit now falls during the reading of Lech L’cha or Vayera.)

    So, last Cheshvan I was reading these parshiot thinking, among other things, how did it feel to be Avraham Avinu? To be on his own, leaving his country and his home…. So, I wrote a song. And since I didn’t grow up listening to Belzer nigunim (although my father always did ask me to play ‘Mein Shtetle Belz’ on my accordian), I chose the music of most famous Rock n’Roll song for a song about the most famous Hebrew (l’havdil) of all time.

    If you’d like you can check it out at my website http://www.kernersongs.com – its called ‘To the Land You’d be Shown’.

    And, thanks for this great website!

  37. Of course Avraham and Sarah were converts. They were the first Jews. Their parents were idol worshippers.

    Yes, they were the first Jews. Yes, their parents were idol worshippers. Yet … can you give me a source that refers to them as converts?

    Do you mean to say that when Yaakov studied in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, he was studying under a rosh yeshiva a goy!? :)

    After all, Chanoch, Noach the tzadik, Shem, Ever, Malkitzedek were not Jews …

  38. The original post posed the question:
    What kind of grades does Jewish Society receive in the V’Ahavtem es HaGer?

    Based on the general tone of concealment=self-preservation emerging on this thread,the early returns seem to indicate somewhere between D- and F+.

    Or do they? Is willingness to be meshadech the single litmus test for ahavas yisroel? If a JFB of chasidisha orientation is unwilling to hear a shidduch with a JFB of MO or Yeshivish orientation,or vice versa, does this make them Anti-Semites, or does it indicate the sober consideration of a variety of cultural, in-law and religious factors(none having to do with biology)that may make the succesful conclusion of the shidduch an exercise in futility and it’s long term viability a long shot? In the real world any Jew/ess of any stripe has, with rare exceptions, a well-defined and finite pool of people with whom to set up a Bayis Ne’eman.

  39. DK–Not really, because I find that most geirim are culturally very Jewish. Their connection is with Am Israel as well as Torat Israel. Hence the whole discussion of “going public”–if the average ger doesn’t choose to tell you about his or her past, you’d most likely never know.

    Also, your average child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother has very assimilated Jewish relatives (hence the intermarriage), and so their upbringing is more “secular American(/whatever country they’re being raised in)” than Jewish. I’m sure that most get a bit more Jewish culture than the average non-Jew, but it’s not enough to make a big difference between them and other converts.

  40. Chaim G.–You are right, and there is no easy solution. It’s another problem that I think is faced by both geirim and BTs–choosing whether or not to “go public,” when going public might help others in the same situation (new/potential BTs or geirim who can’t hide their status) and/or create a kiddush Hashem, but keeping your background secret is just so much easier, and pretty much guarantees acceptance. It is a tough situation :/.

    As RDS points out, “going public” wasn’t supposed to be the main issue. But I think that the two issues (going public and promoting acceptance of geirim) are very much connected. I’m sure that the vast majority of frum Jews, even those who may be prejudiced against geirim, have read the Torah verses telling us to love the ger. Therefore, repeating those verses may not do much. The best way to increase acceptance of geirim would be to publicize the phenomena. For example, if people learned that their neighbor/ teacher/ friend is a ger, it might change many minds for the better. Tell stories of various geirim, so that people can hear about the positive impact that they have on Jewish communities. I don’t see how we can promote acceptance without going public, RDS do you have ideas? Maybe as Bob Miller says, whoever wants to go public can, and they’d be doing a big service.

  41. Or did I misunderstand?

    I think I did. Sorry.

    By “granddaddies” you mean that a ger’s “yichus” is associated with Avrohom/Sarah?

  42. Yet the “Granddaddies” of all Gerim and Giyorot are Avraham Ovinu and Sarah Imainu.

    Avrohom and Sarah were converts? Got a Torah source for that?

  43. Ger.
    Don’t get crazy because some people are plain amhuretzim. Don’t let them to dictate you personal behavior. With all respect to the people that are different, and I believe that BT look much better in this matter, Rav Hirsh is saying that unfortunately klal Isruel did not understood its mission. That was 150 years ego. It is better now? Contact me if you like by e-mail.
    Matys Weiser ger

  44. Ger,

    I stand in awe of you. Once a BT becomes “aware” of his yiddishkeit he really no longer has a choice as to which path to take. But a ger, even with the realization of the oneness of G-d, has merely to keep 7 mitzvos and he’s golden. It takes an incredible person to voluntarily join this persecuted people and take on yoke of heanven and all that implies.

    I know there are many small-minded people among us and undertand your desire for privacy because of them. But know also that many (hopefull most) feel as I do. This is going to sound like a “line”, but it’s not. Some of my best friends are geirim. At times when I need some real inspiration it’s them that I look to.

  45. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, most gerim like myself prefer to keep our pasts secret in order to avoid being characterized a certain way (most born Jews find us to be flakes or insincere converts) or because we’d like to not be blacklisted by the shadchan.

    Personally I would rather keep my past secret and not have to die unmarried and alone due to the sin of being a ger.

    The problems people discuss about the acceptance of BTs is amplified 10 fold when it comes to gerim.

  46. There is and there always was a problem on the line of relation between gerim and rest of klal Isruel. Beginning of this we may see already in case of Moishe Rabaini’s Shver – Yisro. According to Rashi, FFB (not really in this case), accused Yisro that His motives were not 100% sincere. Than famous statement of Chazal that they are Tzuras to Klal Isruel (happened that writing this post know few nice interpretations of this Gemurah).
    The fact is that many of gerim, who could, are trying to hide their background. The question is “why”. Why there is this atmosphere that many of them have this feeling of shame? It could go long bat this is post and longer I writhing more I butchering you language. I’m double ger (ger = immigrant?). From not long ago, we have an organization called Bnai Avraham. It is not only organization for or by gerim but also BT. We will have Hanukah event I-H coming Yom Tov. I don’t know if this is proper thing to use this place for advertising, but if any body is interested there is phone number to call. (718) 851 4020.

  47. RDS, no need to feel chastened. Your approach meets the needs of some geirim but not others. Whoever wants to go public can.

  48. I am chastened. “Geirus Awareness Week in the blogosphere” seems to be an idea whose time has not yet come or whose time has come and long since gone.

  49. Ora you wrote:

    most geirim, who would rather be treated like any other Jew than to get “special attention focused,” even if it’s positive.

    Understood. But does this make full allowance for weaknesses in human nature that tends to discriminate against “new kids on the block”? What of the gerim whose ethnic differences make it hard if not impossible to just blend in? Does the Torah repeat the command of loving the ger so often to help JFBs (Jews from birth) overcome their natural prejudices and just achieve an attitude of equal treatment or is it a call to create a higher standard for loving gerim than JFBs?

  50. DK

    The “feeling” may stems from the divergence between halakha and Biology. Biologically (and adding nurture into the mix presumably culturally as well) the person is 1/2 Jewish. Halkhically they aren’t. Are their any demographic statistics showing more contemporary gerey tzedek (RE: through recognized Orthodox gerus) from Jewish Fathers compared to non-Jewish fathers or vice versa?

  51. “What inspiration and insights in growth…can we draw from couples in which one spouse was a Chozer(et) B’Tshuva while the other was a Ger/Giyores?”

    I think this point is particularly important. Although the possibility of gerus is well known in the Jewish community, I’ve come across Jews every now and then who are under the mistaken impression that if a convert was married or romantically involved with a Jew prior to gerus, they categorically cannot, under any circumstances, marry or stay married even after conversion (because of the posibility of ulterior motives and incomplete sincerity in accepting ol malcht shamayim).

  52. Just curious, does anyone else feel that in some ways, gerim with a Jewish father seem in many ways in between gerim and BTs? I mean, I know they are still gerim, but culturally it often feels like they are in between.

  53. I think there is often a cycle of suppression when it comes to the awareness of geirim in Jewish communities (same for BT’s btw). If, in a given community, being a ger is seem as a highly unusual thing, then the ger will more likely hide his status. This decision, in turn, keeps the community from being aware about gerim who become successfully integrated into the community, and the cycle continues.

    I think any effort to normalize the ger status, both by the gerim themselves and the community at large, is a positive development.

    Since I am a ger who, because of my ethnic backgroud, can’t “fool” people about my origins, I get a lot of satifaction out knowing that just being being a good, Torah observant Jew day in and day out, I’m demonstrating that geirim are a normal, positive component of the Jewish community.

  54. Being a ger in a small BT community, I feel like I have much in common with BTs. Both converts and BTs have to learn, unlearn and grow in yiddishkeit. I think we respect each other very much for leaving our previous lives and choosing the Torah path. We both know what it is like not to have Torah and to choose it. It’s a common bond.

    I’ve only received positive input to my conversion and I’m not embarrassed to talk about it. I’m proud of the choice I made and love to share my story. :)

  55. I agree with everything that’s been said so far. I know a lot of geirim here, and the whole issue of having special attention is very similar to what BTs face. So, for example, I’m glad that ffbs are taught the whole “those who return in teshuva stand where tzadikim cannot” line, but I hate it when well-meaning people actually quote that at me. I appreciate it much more when I’m just treated like anyone else. Same for most geirim, who would rather be treated like any other Jew than to get “special attention focused,” even if it’s positive.

    I didn’t even know that many of my friends were geirim until several months into our friendship–many just prefer not to tell, and thus to guarantee equal treatment. Similarly, I don’t usually tell just anyone about my past. You get all kinds of personal questions (“why did you decide to be religious” “what do your parents think” etc), which in the right circumstances I may choose to answer (usually when addressing non-religious Jews, because who knows, maybe it’ll help remove some stereotypes), but which in general I don’t like talking about (mostly because I’m just not very eloquent and always feel that my answers are boring/ poorly explained).

    Anyway. The point is, it’s good for ffbs to learn about issues facing BTs, and it’s good for born Jews to learn about issues facing geirim, but the goal should be for everyone to be treated like “just Jews,” and not to have to face any special treatment which often just feels like nosiness or condescension (although I’m sure it’s not usually meant as such).

  56. OK Bob I hear that aspect but A) Is the current state of affairs/status quo fine or is there room for improvement? B) The post suggested “starting small” here on the blog. No one is being forced to divulge anything uncomfortable, they were just invited to share and help others gain a little insight.

  57. I am a born Jew so I may lack sensitivity and I hope that through this thread I can gain more insight and sensitivity.

    I can understand being uncomfortable with having “special attention focused” but isn’t it possible that heightened consciousness may result in more affection being lavished and not just neutral/negative attention being focused?

  58. I am a ger and I personally think that Gerim Awareness Week would be a wonderful idea. I have a feeling however that about 90% of gerim would be embarrassed to have any special attention focused on them.

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