Conversational exchange with a Rabbi….because I specialize in Awkward
The picture above — that was the waiting area at Temple Beth Am where I casually waited to meet with the Rabbi. One of the final requirements for conversion is to become a member at a synagogue and get approval from the sponsoring Rabbi. Notice the Exit Sign by the stairwell. It caught my eye while I was sitting there on the sofa and I wondered if maybe it was a “sign.” Maybe this whole conversion idea had been one big mistake and this was my big chance to escape, just acknowledge the error of my ways and be done with it before anything else goes wrong. Well, just as I was about to run, the Rabbi appeared. It was too late.
Here are snippets of conversation that I highly regret:
Rabbi: So you’re Polish?
Rabbi: I’m Polish too.
Me: Oh really. Whenever I meet a Jewish person who mentions they’re from Poland it usually means they’re like a Holocaust survivor. It’s so random for me.
Rabbi: How does that make you feel?
Me: Awkward, I guess. I didn’t really realize the Holocaust happened till I was 24 when I interviewed a Rabbi on a military base. Catholics don’t really talk about it.
I guess the only thing that could’ve made this worse, was if I was German.
At this stage, I’m thinking, Die! Die! Die! I WANT TO DIE! Where is the eject button? I’m an idiot. I have no skill in conversing with a Rabbi.
Then we’re sitting in his office and he asks me why I want to convert. This is why you should never overthink your answers ahead of time and always take the vague route. Vague generic answer. The end. Not I, says I.
Me: So I was going through this existential crisis…blah, blah,
Rabbi: Tell me more about this existential crisis…
ME in my head: Fuck! Why did I say that?! Well you see Rabbi I was trying to drink myself to death because well, what is an existential crisis? An inability to find reason for your existence on this shitty planet, so you test the boundaries. But turns out my alcohol tolerance level was amazing, so I never even as so little accomplished alcohol poisoning, but I did go to work hungover a lot. Turns out, copywriting isn’t that hard, even if your brain is only functioning at 3 percent.
ME (actual answer): Oh you know. Just searching for a spiritual foundation. Life doesn’t always pan out and it’s important to have a spiritual base to keep you grounded.
Then I said the dumbest thing ever!!!!
ME: I don’t want to be perceived as a shiksa fast tracking it to the altar. In fact, even though my boyfriend is Jewish, we’re not even engaged. I’m doing this for me.
Oh, another one of my favorites, towards the end of the meeting.
Rabbi: What do you do (as in professionally)?
Me: Oh you know, get abused (as in within the literary arts field, but I didn’t even mention the literary part). Pretty much, just abuse.
Real Answer: Just the Judaism stuff. That’s my life now. I don’t do anything, aside from this. What kind of question is that Rabbi? I’ve always been a straight A student. Ok, more like B grade. I have a type B personality, I’m all about the B.
What was I supposed to say? I walk dogs. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I used to work as a military journalist, I was published by Harvard once, but now I walk dogs. Because turns out my existential crisis is not over. The economy sucks, Hollywood is sexist and unless I go to synagogue and focus on God, I’m in danger of reliving some of my anger issues of the past. Put it this way, God is my only option right now. This is the only road to sanity that I have available to me.
Geez. I just want to be Jewish already. It’s better to be something than nothing and Judaism makes sense to me. Kinda like that quote, “If you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for everything.” I like Judaism. It’s logical. The teachings, all that = logic. I get to challenge God in this religion, I’m permitted to have a dialogue with the source and Judaism permits me to do my favorite thing on Saturday/Shabbat: ABSOLUTELY F’N NOTHING!
So there you have it. Can I just be Jewish already?