Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Jew & A Part III, son of Jew & A

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On September 6, 2006
At 11:05 pm
Comments : 31

I have to be extra special careful with this Jew&A as several of my family members are reading and will be correcting my errors, I assure you.

Standard disclaimer: I am not a Rabbi, nor do I play one on the Internet. Ready? Play.

Barb asks:
I am really curious about how hard it must be to keep Kosher. I mean, just looking at the labels of the everyday foods I eat…well, I just don’t know how you do it, Becca. Is it as difficult as I imagine, or does it just seem hard because here in backwoods Eastern NC there are no options. The nearest Temple is about 50 miles away.

Well, for one thing, I was raised doing it so it seems easy to me because I always have. But you’ve hit on another thing, which is that I live in an area with more Jews than Israel has. I meant to take a picture of the huge Kosher sections in the various grocery stores around here, or even one of the markets that’s all Kosher, but, you know, I only had 2 weeks to prepare for this post. And there are a whole bunch of fun Kosher restaurants as well. Check it out!

But really, you just learn to do it. You look at the box or the can for the little Kosher symbol (Try it yourself! Here’s a whole slew of them.) and pretty soon, you already know that Twizzlers have the O-U symbol and you don’t really have to worry about it. Of course, these things do change, so you kind of should. Except the Twizzlers because I just had a bag last week and I promise you, they still have the symbol.

I mean, it’s not to say it’s easy. There are tons of rules, you can’t eat a burger at the local Wendy’s, and you live your entire life with people asking you “so you’ve never even tasted lobster?” But really, like anything, once you get the hang of it, it’s second nature. Even places without big Jewish communities have Kosher foods in the supermarket, like Cheerios and Morningstar burgers and all kinds of things you never knew were Kosher.

I bet Eastern NC is purty, for all it’s lack of Kosher Pizzerias.

SeaTern asks:
Are the seats in a synagogue called pews?
Stupid question I know but I’m curious.

Yes! And more importantly, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people. Luckily, you’re not among them.

Irshlas asks:
How does one go about becoming a Jew? Is there a process, or classes, or do ya just start going to temple? Also, how does the Jewish community feel about converts? Is there real acceptance or are you always an outsider? Don’t mean to sound so deep but was genuinely interested.

As I told Irshlas in an e-mail, I’ve answered this question a bit before, but since she thinks that DISINTEGRATION IS THE BEST ALBUM EVER, how could I resist answering it again?

There is indeed a process, and if you’ve seen Sex & the City, you may know what it is. This is a bit sensitive, as conversion is different for the 3 major movements of Judaism, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, so I’ll try to be as general as possible. I distilled the following from my own knowledge but mostly from A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice by Rabbi Isaac Klein, which is the general handbook of the Conservative movement, and is traditional in content.

Since Jews aren’t supposed to try to convert people, the Rabbi will actually turn you down several times. So the first step is to keep asking. That way, we know you’re really serious. And of course, he’ll probably ask you if you’re really serious. But not in that John McEnroe way. Then comes the part where you learn all about Judaism (many places do in fact have conversion classes) and start observing our fun rules. But don’t worry, for every commandment saying you can’t eat bread for a week, there’s another that tells you to get drunk on Purim. This can all take a bit of time depending on how much education you need. Then when you’re ready, if you’re a guy, you get circumcised. If you already have been, you just get a ceremonial prick of blood. If you don’t have that particular equipment, you head straight to Part B which is immersion in a mikva, or ritual bath. Despite a popular Jewish song, there are no sharks in the mikva. Blessings are said and when all is done, you get a Jewish name and you’re officially a member of the tribe. You will not immediately be funny, but it will come to you.

Experiences vary, I’m sure, but I’ve never in my life seen a convert treated any differently than a person born a Jew. Officially, people who join the Jewish people voluntarily are considered to be specially loved by God (that’s also from Rabbi Klein’s book, see, I don’t just give credit to other blogs).

Several people ask:
Why do Jews write God as G-d, and why don’t you?

Jews are not supposed to write the name of God because there’s a prohibition against erasing or defacing the name of God and you worry that if you write it, it could later get defaced. BUT, the name of God is not “God.” God is just an English word. The name of God is more closely associated with the English word Yahweh, but isn’t quite that either. And even with all that, typing on a computer is not considered a permanent form of writing, just a bunch of ones and zeroes on a chip. But, hey, if you like putting the dash in, knock yourself out! I’m not going to stop you. Like all things in Judaism, it’s open to interpretation and those who do it differently will refuse to let their children marry each other. But I digress.

DuJane asks:
What’s the next major holiday that will rob us of your presence for days on end? And why do you hate dogs?

It’s Rosh Hashanah! That’s the Jewish New Year, and believe me, as it gets closer I’ll talk a bit more about it. Suffice to say, Dick Clark and confetti are not involved. Luckily for my boss and my vacation day count, most of the slew of Jewish holidays that fall this time of year show up on weekends. And you know I rarely post then anyway. You won’t miss me a bit.

Because they hate me, silly.

Thank you Barb, SeaTern, Irshlas, DuJane, and several anonymous people! Here’s the Jewish concept of the month, straight from Proverbs: Charity will save you from death. You heard it here first! Well, no, Proverbs came first by a wee bit. Anyway, this is the last week to give to my friends running the Komen Race for Breast Cancer Research in Boston. And then I stop bugging you about it. Yay! By the way, when you race folks do find The Cure, give Robert Smith a big hug for me, would you? But if cancer research doesn’t float your boat, feel free to give somewhere else!*

*Sadly, this blog is not a charity.

The Cure – Faith


31 Comments for this post

  1. MsHurley says:

    Yay!!! I knew there was a reason I couldn’t sleep tonight, and had to get on the computer. Jew and A are my very favorite. Except the witty posts. But that’s all of them…maybe I should make MJ my homepage. Or is that almost like cyber-stalking? Hmmm, will have to think about that.

    Anyways, Yay!!!

  2. kay says:

    Jew&A is one of my favorite features, especially now that I am shedding tears over ROTM. You’ve got a great way of explaining things, Becca, that makes it interesting even for someone who already knew the answers! I mean, as much as any of us know the answers…. 😀

  3. Pious B says:

    Who’s the pious one now? I bow to you. But not in a worshiping idols kind of way.

  4. Sarpon says:

    My experience with those who convert to Judaism is that they seem to be a cut above those to-the-matzo-born. Similar to the difference between those millionaires who know the value of a dollar because they earned their own fortune as opposed to trust fund babies, converts worked for their admission ticket and hold it dear. My cousin Stu became engaged to a Catholic girl who converted, and even though their marriage went to shit and he left her for another woman she has remained steadfast in her faith and both of their sons made their bar mitzvah. Then you have my sisters and I, who between us gave my mother nine grandchildren, and not ONE has been to the bimah. You won’t hear a convert say “Yes, I’m Jewish but I’m not religious, you know what I mean.”

  5. Becca says:

    MsH, glad to oblige! Stalk away, I could use some spice in my life. Well, no, not really, but it’d be distracting.

    Kay, thanks! And I’m so sorry that you are ineligable for ROTM but you know, if you have a blog, you can publish your own wacky pictures! For those who are confused, please see here, where you can also see Culotte say she steals from me in the comments. I knew it! I knew it!

    Oh, Pi, no need to bow. You fed me with a panini bar, that’s really enough.

    Sarpon, I knew a guy who converted just to get married to a Jewish woman and he was exactly that way, though. “Yeah, I don’t care, it was just for show.” But most are not that way, I agree.

  6. Sarpon says:

    I’m sure you know way more Jews than I do, Becca, living in the world capital of Jewishness, and surrounded by Jewburbia. I live in North Central Florida, which is really South Central Georgia, so the JPA zoning restrictions (Jews per acre) doesn’t allow for many of us, as you’d imagine. So my sample is much smaller than yours. But I can’t think of any of the converts to Judaism that I do know who are cavalier about it. On the other hand, there aren’t many Jews around here who worry about needing to marry other Jews, because there are so few to choose from, so they marry goys instead of waiting for Mr. Wrightovitz or insisting on conversion.

  7. Celia says:

    You left out the bet din.

    Oh, and although there are no sharks in the mikveh, apparently there was an inflatable dinosaur in there when my husband converted.

  8. Alex says:

    Well done, Becca. I STILL love Jew & A.

    Irshlas, Becca and I have different experience of the “turning you away 3 times” thing. She knows rabbis who do that. I don’t. I think it has a lot to with whether the rabbis you know are more traditional (Becca’s rabbis) or more liberal (mine).

    Sarpon, I think most converts (including me) tend to have a little religious fanatic in us to begin with. Otherwise, we wouldn’t go to the considerable inconvenience (not to mention family upheaval) of converting. After all, it’s much easier NOT to.

    Also, Sarpon, I totally laughed at “Jewburbia,” and I intend to appropriate it for my own use. I’ll try to give you credit some times, but no promises.

  9. Alex says:

    Celia, it was a stegosaurus, to be precise.

  10. Becca says:

    Whereas I cracked up at “Mr. Wrightovitz.”

    Celia & Alex, the “3 times” thing wasn’t mentioned in Rabbi Klein’s book but in other sources I used and with someone I know. It’s my understanding that the Rabbi is supposed to try to “vigorously dissuade” you. On the other hand, other sources mentioned the Beit Din but Rabbi Klein’s book did not, so I left it out.

  11. culotte says:

    ~hoping that I’ll be invited to Guest Blog during Rosh Hashanah~

    Great post, J-Ball!

  12. Jan says:

    Jewburbia, JPA and Mr. Wrightovitz RUINED me.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m one of the people who asked Becca, in a somewhat aghast tone, “So you’ve never had lobster before??”

  13. Becca says:

    Thanks, Culotte. I don’t think I’ll need one this time around and others do deserve a turn as well. But you’re as always in the queue.

    Jan, I don’t remember that but I pretty much assume everyone non-Kosher has said it to me at one point or another.

  14. culotte says:

    “and others do deserve a turn as well.”

    You’re so fair and balanced. And dreamy. 🙂

    Hey, I’m not Jewish and I hear “YOU MEAN YOU DON’T EAT LOBSTER?!” on a regular basis. (Because I just don’t eat lobster).

  15. kay says:

    That is weird–I swear, the lobster question is probably the most asked of all of them.

  16. Becca says:

    Wait! Now it’s my turn.


  17. Soxy says:

    I’m so happy Jew & A is back. (I’m not a fan of the tennis)

  18. KP says:

    This blog entry has it, wit, food and The Cure. I love it!

  19. Alex says:

    But do you eat SWORDFISH? That’s the question.

  20. Becca says:

    Thanks, Soxy! Thanks, KP! Thanks, Robert Smith!

    Alex, we’re not opening that can of worms. Thanks for your understanding.

  21. Alex says:

    Good, ’cause I’m pretty sure worms aren’t kosher.

  22. Becca says:


  23. Sarpon says:

    Oh, good. Now a google search for “Are worms kosher?” will lead right here.

  24. Celia says:

    But oddly enough, when I googled “Is Estee Lauder Jewish?” it did not take me here…yet.

    Gotta branch out some.

  25. Alex says:

    Have you tried, “Does Estee Lauder eat lobster?”

  26. Becca says:

    Does she play tennis or baseball? Or guitar?

  27. Jan says:

    Actually, good point, Culotte. I say the same thing to people who just don’t like lobster.

    Phew, I feel like less of an anti-Semite now.

  28. Cathy (suby) says:

    Where’s the tennis?

    No transition? Would it have killed you to do a “Jewish Tennis Greats of the 20th Century” post before yanking us back to Jew and A?

  29. Paige says:

    Hey Becca, I’m late to the much loved Q and A but I have a question. How exactly might the rabbi turn one down? Does it go something like “Sorry, not Jew material.” I mean, what might be a typical response to “Hey, I’m here to get Jewish”?

    Note this t-shirt:

  30. Becca says:

    I’m sorry, Cathy. But I think I was losing 45 readers a day. Just kidding! I don’t have 45 readers!

    Paige, re: t-shirt, ha! If you go by Sex & the City the Rabbi slams the door in your face. But actually, I think it’s more like, “maybe you should think some more about it.”

  31. RN says:

    Kosher Amish symbol? At least that’s what one of those kosher symbols appeared to me as.

    And that’s cool ’cause the Amish make great pies.

Comments are closed.