How to Deal With Negative Jewish Attitudes About Converts

Despite a Jewish tradition of welcoming converts, Jews-by-choice may experience inappropriate attitudes that they should both understand and, if necessary, confront.

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Get Support

Make it clear to your partner that you will need extra emotional support and encouragement during the transition and for awhile afterward. If your partner doesn't know how to be supportive, teach him. Tell him you want him with you at key times. Have little home ceremonies (such as a wine toast, or in Judaism saying Shehecheyanu, the "special events" blessing) to celebrate steps in your process, such as telling your parents, completing your conversion course, going through the ceremony, joining your first community group, even telling off the first person who insults you.

In addition to whatever support you get from your partner, you need outside sources of support. Continue your relationship with your mentor and your "adoptive family."

Find a Support Group

Here, converts can commiserate about adjustment, swap ideas for dealing with parents, in-laws, spouse, and community, and learn religious skills together. In Judaism, the Reform movement has initiated a number of regional and synagogue-based "post-conversion havurot" (fellowships for study and worship). Some Conservative and Reconstructionist synagogues also have convert support groups, formed periodically at local initiative. It is well worth your trouble to find one or to start one if need be, at least in the first months after your conversion. One permanent support group is the Jewish Converts [& Interfaith] Network. Other ways of receeiving support as a new convert, or someone who is considering conversion include online resources like the Experience Project. Discussion groups on Yahoo might also be helpful.

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Judy Petsonk

Judy Petsonk is the author of Taking Judaism Personally: Creating a Meaningful Spiritual Life, which chronicles the spiritual searches of contemporary Jews, including feminists, mystics, participants in the havurah movement, and those returning to traditional Judaism. She is married, the mother of a son and a daughter, and lives in Highland Park, New Jersey.

Jim Remsen

Jim Remsen has given workshops throughout the United States for intermarried couples and parents of intermarried couples, as well as synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, and other Jewish organizations. He is currently Faith Life Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and lives in suburban Philadelphia.