Conversion Classes Update

Our first class was on the 29th of May 2018, and it’s now the 31st of October 2018. Five months in to the official part of this process, and it’s been quite a ride! A couple of months ago I was talking with a friend who, when I explained what was involved over the next year (thankfully we have a very good idea of what religious life involves, so we are mentally prepared for what’s coming!), she likened it to a University degree! In some ways it is, as there’s a big mental shift, and also a big lifestyle change. 

I am still as excited as ever, and even though the process is not without growing pains, I am often surprised at how quickly we get ourselves into a new rhythm – taking on board the new things we need to do and practice. So here’s what we’re up to:

We’ve just finished learning about Kashrut, and are in a stage of practicing this. Our kitchen isn’t totally kosher – we’re in a practice phase. So if we (or our kids!) make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world – it’s just something to learn from. We had to do quite a bit of rearranging of our kitchen to accomodate a second set of… everything (!), and buckets to dirty dishes and washing up in to keep meat and dairy seperate. 

One of the things I didn’t fully anticipate in the conversion process was the cost involved. Not just in things like buying second dishes and kitchen tools (which I had anticipated), but in buying mezuzahs, tallit katan, various books etc. This isn’t a big thing, but we have had to save up for a bunch of stuff, so while we’ve already done the theory and on mezuzah, and tallit katan, we have to save for a few weeks before we can purchase these things. I guess it’s just about priorities, as in, we prioritised the kitchen stuff over these other things for now. All will get done in the next month or so, but for now we wait!

We’ve also been learning Hebrew. Our Rabbi took us through quite a few weeks of intense Hebrew lessons, and we practiced regularly (I’m not a linguist, so new languages are a bit of a challenge to me!), but we got trough that and now we’re just practicing in our own time. Time is ticking though, because we’ll be working our way through the siddur and praying soon, and we will need to be more or less fluent by then to make that process easier. I’ve been doing Hebrew on duolingo daily (okay, 4 times a week – but I TRY to do it daily!!) to practice reading Hebrew and hearing it, and spelling it, and interpreting it etc. And I also try to read parts of things in Hebrew when possible. For example, when I get lost in the Siddur at Shule on Shabbat I sometimes just choose something like the Amidah and just read through as much in Hebrew as I can. I should probably try and find my place, but I am in and out of the service so much with the kids that it’s a real difficulty.

We’ve been learning many prayers off by heart including the Modeh Ani, and the brachas before meals and benching. I really enjoy these because they all of a sudden make Judaism a very real and very tangible part of everyday life. The only problem is feeling a little self conscious when doing these around friends or family. People often don’t know what to do/say, and it can be a little awkward, but I suppose that’s just part of this stage of life. The children are very good at remembering the brachas, and also remembering to say them (not always so good at knowing which one to say – but they try hard, and they are getting better).

Speaking of the kids, that is another layer to this process – interpreting everything we’re learning and then translating that to the kids. I try to be pretty up front with them and treat them like the intelligent, spiritual people that they are, and that works well. We follow this process:

  1. Explain what we’ve been taught, and best practice, as in, how we ideally want to practice it.
  2. Talk about how they feel about taking this mitzvah on, and answer any questions they have about it.
  3. Work out the practicalities with them. If we choose to start at a lower level of observance and work up to something more observant later then we also talk about a time frame.

As an example of this, we have just talked to the kids about wearing tallit katan and kippot. So we explained what we ultimately want to do, and what Daddy will be doing. Lior expressed some hesitation about wearing these things at school, while Eli was happy to do it all the time, straight away. So we talked through Lior’s concerns and answered their questions like do they have to wear them swimming, doing sports, sleeping etc. All those regular questions kids might have (any even adults!). Then we worked out what level of observance they would be happy to do at this stage (for us that ended up being wearing them tucked in under their clothes so they can’t be seen, which is what was recommended to us anyone as people going through conversion and not yet Jewish), and getting ready to implement that once we have the tallit katan they need.

So I think that’s all I need to include in this update… I’m sure there’s other things I haven’t covered, but I can’t remember what I wrote in the last update (I did do another update, didn’t I?!). Ha! Oh well! We’re enjoying this journey, and I am so pleased with how well we are all going and how enthusiastic everyone is to take on these mitzvahs and get involved! I’m particularly thankful to Luke who is a real team mate in this process, especially with kashrut, as I would not want to be solely responsible for that!

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