On 12 Elul 5775 (August 27 2015), I will officially cross the line.
Once I cross that line, I will no longer be a “convert” or a “ger.” In the eyes of my fellow Jews, I will be a Jew, and will have always been a Jew.
That’s ten days from today. Ten more days of being a Gentile, and then never again.
When I read Michael Benami Doyle’s account of the day of his conversion, I was stunned by the wonder in his words. He woke up thinking “This is the last day I’m going to wake up as a Gentile.” But I don’t think that’s going to be my experience. I already identify as a Jew, and I have for more than a year now. I haven’t really identified as a Gentile (or a non-Jew) since I started working with my current rabbi more than a year ago.
However, as I’ve said in recent posts, the day of my beit din and mikveh is not the finish line. It’s more like the starting line. I’ve made it to a certain point, but it’s like a b’nei mitzvah point. The journey doesn’t end here. I will have much more to learn, to do, and to be after this point.
Part of my mind is yammering on about all the little ticky things that go with the conversion process: how do I get my toenails that clean? Will I be able to remove my earrings, which have been in for six years and never removed because they’re captive bead rings and I have never figured out how to remove them? What about afterwards – will I be able to get them back IN? (I honestly don’t know, and those earrings are important to me – I got them at a time in my life when I was missing my father more than I can say.) Will I remember all three of the blessings at the mikveh? (Would you believe how often I’ve muttered “vetzivanu al ha-tevilah” under my breath in the last six weeks?) What will the beit din ask me? Am I really prepared for this? Will I faint? What if there’s too much traffic between here and the mikveh? Will I remember to bring the Mogen David kippah that I got for this occasion? Will I remember my tallit clips that my friend gave me more than a year ago, to go with the tallit she bought me and will bring on the day of? What if I’m allergic to the soaps at the mikveh?
And part of my mind is standing back amused and saying “All of that will be handled. You worry too much.”
Yes. I do worry too much. It’s part of what makes me who I am. (I joke that that neuroticism is part of why I’m going to be such a good Jew, too.)
So what happens between now and then? Well…
I plan to purchase our first mezuzah on the actual day, either at our synagogue or at AJU. It’s one of the few pieces of Judaica we don’t have yet. The other one is a challah platter, but I’ve already picked out the one I want that goes with our other Judaica. I will probably have my friend help me remove my earrings the night before (it will take two people) and pack a small bag to take with me – nothing like a mikveh kit, but my own shampoo, and a comb, and my tallit clips and my new kippah that is for this occasion.
And I’m going to make sure to have something more than coffee before I go to the beit din at 8:30 AM.
What happens after it’s done? Well…
I acquired a new blog follower recently who worried in her own post about the blogs she follows that I was going to stop posting once my conversion was done. I’m not sure what the status of this blog will be eleven days from now. I may still post, but it probably won’t be so much about conversion anymore. I’ve gone through the holidays as a Jew, starting with Pesach two years ago. I’ve celebrated all of them in one form or another. I may still write about these things being relatively new, but it won’t be from the point of view of a convert, I don’t think. It will be from the point of view of a Jew.
Will I stop identifying as “a convert?” As those words? Yes, probably, unless I have to explain why I don’t have a recipe for my grandmother’s matzo ball soup or rugelach (she wasn’t a Jew), or why my Judaica is all so new and shiny and modern (I bought it myself). But I will always identify as a JBC, or Jew by Choice. That doesn’t necessarily mean someone who converted, either. Many people who were raised secularly as Jews and became religious later – the baalei teshuvot – also identify as Jews by Choice. I became Jewish. The mikveh will not erase my past; it will add on to my present and my future. It will place a new layer on top of the person I still am and still will be.
Counting down to my beit din/mikveh date (I don’t want to say “conversion date,” because conversion is an ongoing process, not a single point in time) feels like my own little counting of the Omer. I know it’s not, but it feels that way. So today I say:
Today is the 2nd of Elul, which is ten days from the day I become a full-fledged Member of the Tribe.