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March 27, 2008


Oooooh, that's very exciting!

I was reading through the beginning of the post and thinking Jewish Reconstructionist!!! Jewish Reconstructionist!
And then of course, brilliant girl that you are, you hit on it in the next paragraph. ;o)
And the nice thing about reconstructionists is that you will find some who are kosher and some who don't seem to follow many 'rules' at all -- which I think is cool. I have to admit, while I don't currently practice any of it, I have a real fascination with all the intricate mitzvot -- the not lighting a spark/no 'work' on Shabbat, the blessings ALL THE TIME (like when you see an attractive person, or when you go to the bathroom, or when you see the first blossom of Spring), the headcovering, the fact that any mitzvot is to be thrown out the window to save a life, and the mother's life is considered *over* the fetus -- I think that, practiced purposefully, it could really lead to living mindfully. I like Shiva, and the idea that it's assumed/encouraged that you would need to grieve after a death. And the concept of the 'fence around the law' -- that's very intuitive to me. I just fell in love with the religion -- it reflected back to me a lot of things that are dear to me, and then showed me all sorts of things I hadn't considered.
Books- My top four are:
-The Jew In The Lotus (buy this!)
-Living Judiasm by Wayne Dosick (buy this, too!)
-Life On The Fringes by Haviva ner David -an american jewish girl trying to become the first female orthodox rabbi in Israel, just a good story about appreciating the mitzvot (I can loan it to you.)
-How To Run A Traditional Jewish Household by Blu Greenberg - filled with a billion things we'll probably never do, I still found it very interesting in that it explains reasons to do these things, and how they can be used to make life mindful. I also like knowing what I'm rejecting, and the idea that I can walk into an Orthodox shul and know enough not to embarrass myself.(I can loan it to you.)

And I'll go through my books and look for all the eco-jewish ones I bought but never read, and pass them on to you . . .

And before you move, you have to go to P'nai Or on a Saturday morning. There's a branch in Princeton & one in Mt Airy. They have childcare! I haven't been in years, but you walk in and grab a prayer shawl and then sit on the floor for morning prayers -- I can't describe it properly, but I found it positively transcendental . . . My favorite prayer is Elohai Nashema: "Oh, lord, the soul you've placed within me is pure . . ."
So freaking refreshing compared to Original Sin, eh?

I'm Orthodox by observance, Reform by upbringing, a long story that involves a lot of random details, as I'm sure you can imagine. Here are some books you might find interesting/helpful:

to be a jew, to pray as a jew and anything else by Donin. Good basic info, covers tons of various observances/rituals

a guide to jewish religious practice by klein

the jewish way (various) by Greenberg

also, there are some great books for kids on Judaism, if that is also helpful

Dino on Shabbat and others
Sammy Spider and various holidays/events

also, pockets of learning make some fabulous cloth books, with stuff that you can velcro in and out, Jewish holidays is one that we have, which are really nice (and they replace pieces for free, cause they rock!)

I would also suggest going and talking to the Rabbi of a shul you are looking at, even if you can't make it on Saturday, find out if there are family events, youth events, Sisterhood stuff, just go and see if its a community you can dig, it doesn't have to be anything formal.


My husband (atheist Jew) and I (agnostic, recovering Catholic) belong to a humanistic Jewish congregation, Machar.

I'm pregnant with our first child and we've found the following books really helpful:
--God-Optional Judaism by Judith Seid
--To Be A Jew by Donin
--Parenting Beyond Belief, a collection of essays directed at atheist/agnostic/humanist parents.

We observe the major Jewish holidays (Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Purim, Passover) plus Tu B'Shavat (our congregation does something eco-friendly to observe) and Sukkot (we go to local farms to pick food and donate to food pantries). And Hanukah, for fun.

It is important for us to raise our daughter with an understanding of cultural traditions and an appreciation of her people's history. We've changed language in prayers to focus less on worship and more on acts of service (following with the humanistic trend). We also are careful to use egalitarian language rather than just "him" or "brother."

We have an excellent resource -- a Jewish cultural school -- that we'll enroll her in when she is old enough. I've found other parents to be great resources.

Hope this is helpful.

My husband grew up conservative, his father conservative, his mother secular. He's circumcised and bar mitzvahed, and grew up in a town so Jewish that they thought the catholics were exotic. But he's not a 'god' person, but would like to be a community person. I grew up methodist, and love me some Jello salad. We're considering a humanistic congregation when our kids finally show up.
One book I picked up in a book store that was funny and informative was:
You'll find out how much sex Sean is entitled to now that he has a new job (I kid you not).

I'm not sure if this counts, since it has been my life long religion, but I have found all those things you've described wanting in Unitarian Universalism. Maybe not so much the 'ancient', but all the other good things.

I grew up Reform/ barely culturally Jewish, which morphed into culturally involved Conservative, and am now Orthodox. Along the way, I converted twice, once Conservative and once Orthodox (my dad is Jewish, but my mom wasn't, and Judaism is passed on matrilineally (sp?)).

I found that meditating on what I felt was the right place and practice for me was more helpful than all the reading I did, but then I had some background for each conversion. That said, Meira and Abby's recommendations are good. Also, more than a rabbi you like, I suggest finding a family/ friend that you can hang out with and pester with questions, whose practices you are drawn to.

Friday night is also the Sabbath, and there's often nice singing, so Sophia might enjoy that. Also, the practice of blessing your children on Friday night before the meal is really sweet.

(About what Sarah said: actually, it's how much sex Sean owes you based on his job, not the other way around! It's even grounds for divorce if he doesn't keep up his, uh, end of the bargain.)

My favorite aspects of Orthodox Judaism is how it gets families to spend time together, and encourages learning and personal change.

You can email me if you want to hear more about the conversion or various Jewish practices.

I have to say, I've never had a really good tsimmes. Challah and matzah balls, I can help you with, but not tsimmes, sorry!

You might like reading Joan Nathan's cookbooks for the stories about Jewish life behind each dish.

I am thisclose to make the leap and start attending our local Unitarian Universalist church, for much of the same reasons. Hey, have you read Karen Armstrong? If not, I've got something for you.

Yeah, somebody in Sean's family made an amazing tzimmis but due to family re-divisions (you know, people have kids, start spending holidays with different sides of the family) it has been lacking in recent years. It involved carrots, brisket, prunes, and about a pound and a half of white sugar.

Oh man so good.

I was going to suggest the Unitarian church, but I see a couple of people have mentioned it already.

I was raised in a Congrational church and that might be worth a look. It's a very accepting place, certainly comfortable for an agnostic, though maybe not if you're leaning toward atheist.

Long time lurker here:

My husband was raised UU, I was raised Methodist. I am not closest to Deist, but miss the community of the church I grew up in.

We're expecting our first and will start attending the local UU church to gain that community with a group of like minded folks.

UU churches come in all varieties, so if you're interested, it's worth it to look into all the congregations in your area.

I meant "now" closest to Deist.

I've been thinking about this too! (Love your new website by the way. Snazzy!) I was just going to do all the Jewish things without going the whole route and I don't even do those things...but...I don't know how strict they are about the personal beliefs of their converts.

Anyway, for now I am shooting for a seder. Eventually? This year, I think we will just go to mother in law's house.

Keep us updated on this exciting development. I will be interested to see where it goes.

I am not Jewish, (I grew up kind of going to Episcopal church until I was 11 and then nothing) but my maternal grandfather was and I have a whole slew of Jewish relatives. I love the cultural traditions, but found the religion itself still too "judeo-christian" for my liking. I, like many others above, found what you described yourself as looking for in the Unitarian Church. However, I don't know anything about the Jewish Reconstructionist movement, so maybe it's very similar to UU. In any case, when I finally found the UU church, I felt "converted"--I had finally found what I had not even consciously known I needed, and it slaked my thirst. A group of like-minded people,with a multitude of belief systems, but a common goal toward working to making the world we are all a part of better.

I was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism as an adult. I met my husband in my senior year of college. I knew that I didn't want to raise my (future) kids Catholic because of the effect the Church had on my mom when I was a kid. So I was looking for something different when I met Brian. After a few months I went to services with his family on Rosh HaShanah. I decided after about a year that I was going to convert to Judaism even if I didn't marry Brian. My conversion took about a year and a half!

I enjoy Rabbi Telushkin's book Jewish Literacy...sort of an encyclopedia of Jewish events and traditions.

Oh babe, I can help with all Jewish recipes.

We're part of the Conservative movement with Judaism, though I spent a long time in the Orthodox world (even with my old dreadlocks) and Josh grew up Reform. So we've had a mishmash of things happening here.

But we love the traditions. We bake a challah every Friday and the kids can say most of the prayers. The one thing we added was the whole family painted a wish jar together and everyone gets to place a wish in the jar before we light the candles on Shabbat. We keep kosher.

I think the weekly stuff is the most meaningful because it provides this frame.

But we also have left it up to them to decide if they want to continue it when they're older. We're giving them a frame, though who knows if they'll take it or leave it.

Still, my challah recipe is so easy to make that my 3-year-olds can recite it. And they love to eat it.

There is sort of no question too bizarre or intrusive you could pose so if you ever have a Jewish question, I'm happy to provide an answer.

"Here's what I long for, in addition to a belief system that lines up with mine: tradition. Ritual. A group of like-minded people to engage in same with. A sense of belonging to something ancient yet thoroughly alive."

That's what I wish I had too. My problem is I tend towards atheism. Buddhism has many aspects which appeal to me but I've never imagined it as a fellowship-and-belonging kind of a thing, like say, Christian church can be at its best. I could be wrong though.


The book is called "Essential Judaism". It is huge as it goes into all of the practices and beliefs. Dh and I own it and it is a valuable resource book. For us, it is more of a historical resource as we are Christians (largely Orthodox w/ a strong dose of Emergent. Practicing Presbyterians). I cant speak for my husband, but I did not walk into my church and feel transformed; for me, it was the other way around. I was already a strongly believing Chrisitan and chose my church b/c I loved it. Dh and I purposely bought a house two streets away from it and many of our fellow worshipers also live w/in walking distance. We have a great church community and we have many different styles of members, from the tattooed and pierced (me! and hubby!) to the older gents who wear suits every week. The sad part is, often times we are considered an anomaly in the Presbyterian denomination b/c a lot of our fellow churches are not as, well, I dont know the right word, but I guess Ill have to go w/ Emergent, as ours. As friendly. As non-damning. As comfortable. We tell people about our church and they say Wow, I wish my church was like that. SO, in summation, keep looking. I, of course, am biased b/c I am a follower of Jesus, but I also think it's important for ppl to know that not all churches are preachers of Original Sin. We all desire and seek community and it's important for you to find a place. Good luck on your search and in your research!

ps, as a plug, b/c I CANNOT resist (see above bias!), check out the works of Anne Lamott and Rob Bell (esp his videos if you get a chance). Also Brian Mclaren. The Emergent Church, Im tellin ya, is on to something..

Who'd a thunk it? I have been poking around with the idea of judaism as well - it's about the only religion Steve would consider raising a child in - and I feel some immediacy in choosing for my children. thanks for asking the questions - i'm checking the library!
yor norfolk friend, mhm

Funny this should come up. I'm converting to Judaism - reform of course. I've been drawn to it for most of my life, regardless of being brought up in the first hellfire and brimstone, and then Six Flags Over Jesus churches. Should be interesting to see what you are doing compared to me in The Ta - doing the same thing. Not many Jews in Wichitucky, no? I think I've dated all three of them. The rabbi was already married. Ha.

Wow. This is so right about where I am. I'm dealing with infertility and the hope of starting IVF within the year and have been considering converting to Judaism (Reformed).

My husband's family is Orthodox and my family is Presbyterian. I grew up in a small town and in a family peppered with the wailing-thank-you-Jesus types that scared the crap out of me. I wouldn't call myself an atheist, but I've never had a sense of belonging with respect to religion. God always "spoke" to everyone else in my family (especially the Born-Agains) but never to me. Why didn't I hear anything? What was wrong with me?

When I married my husband, a gradual sense of belonging started to develop, and I didn't really notice it at first. If you had told me that I would consider converting when we first met, I would have told you that it could never happen. Now it feels right, and that has been a total surprise.

I'm feeling that Judaism is the path I want to walk, but I can't exactly articulate why. I think the idea of children becoming a possiblity in the near future has been the trigger to examining what I really want for myself and our family. I'm not sure what the next step should be, and if I'm honest, I'm a bit intimidated to meet with a Rabbi, as if he'll put me "to the test" and I'll fail miserably. Sounds stupid, right?

Your post really struck a (positive) nerve with me, and I'm so glad I found it (completely by chance).
All these comments make me believe I'm not unique in my feelings and re-inspire me to get back to actively pursuing the idea of conversion. Thanks so much! I'd love to know how things progress for you, so I'll keep checking back.

I'll also add a book suggestion to the growing list:

"Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends" by Anita Diamant, author of "The Red Tent".

The author is married to a convert herself and provides great answers (in good down-to-earth language) to the many questions raised by potential converts. I felt a connection with this book from the very first chapter.

I never heard of brisket in tsimmes, and I grew up as (and am more or less still currently) an Orthodox Jew. It is often served with brisket, but not in it.

I don't like recipes, but I make tsimmes that tastes mighty fine by putting chunks of: sweet potatoes, carrots, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and if you like 'em, prunes, into a big rectangular pan and squeezing some honey onto the top and sprinkling it with cinnamon. You can put nutmeg into it, too. And raisins. Then I cover it with foil and bake it at 350 until the sweet potatoes are soft (the carrots and other stuff will probably be done before that, but it doesn't hurt them to be in there longer). Mix it all up before you serve it.

It's delicious. Sweet, but still wholesome. Tons of fiber. The cranberries and dried apricots give it a nice tartness.

Also, I can probably answer most any question you have about Judaism. I agree with others that Reconstructionist Judaism sounds good for you, within the spectrum of Judaism. I think it provides meaning without being too straighjackety theologically. If I wasn't Orthodox, I would probably be Reconstructionist.

Sounds like you're a UU! (Fourthing or fifthing the suggestion that you try the Unitarian Universalist church, where you can be a Jewish athiest lesbian practicing Buddhism and still belong.)

We have nice traditions/rituals at our church - along with celebrating pretty much every holiday every invented. Like the Flower Communion, and the Ingathering, and Child Dedications. And the RE (religious education) programs are FABULOUS - the sex-ed program (OWL: Our Whole Lives) alone is worth the price of admission.

Sounds like you're a UU! (Fourthing or fifthing the suggestion that you try the Unitarian Universalist church, where you can be a Jewish athiest lesbian practicing Buddhism and still belong.)

We have nice traditions/rituals at our church - along with celebrating pretty much every holiday every invented. Like the Flower Communion, and the Ingathering, and Child Dedications. And the RE (religious education) programs are FABULOUS - the sex-ed program (OWL: Our Whole Lives) alone is worth the price of admission.

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