This week we finished our conversion and, in the words of my friend L (who I won't bother linking because girl never blogs anymore) became "bright and shiny Jews."
It has taken us a long time to get to this stage, even though we have considered ourselves to be Jewish for a long time, the whole process has taken a couple of years. Most of that work was internal, if you were raised in a Christian home it just takes time to decompress and figure out if this is really what you want to do. It's a new paradigm of thinking and there are a lot of things that have to change about your life.
That being said, we knew that this is what we wanted for ourselves and for our family and I am due in six weeks so it was time to get cracking. I feel very fortunate that since our rabbi left a rabbi from another temple was so kind to help us. We felt so welcome in their community that the full court press we got about joining their synagogue didn't feel too much at all.
I was nervous. This shocks no one who knows me well because I get nervous about any situation that I cannot control ( or predict) and it's only gotten worse since I have a horrible case of the pregnancy anxiety jangles. I am nervous to do anything, even oh so complicated things like get up in the morning right now, and it's just part of the hormone shift.
All we had left to do was our mikvah immersion and we were all set. I'd never been to a mikvah before and had only a elementary understanding of them. Mikveh are Jewish ritual baths, created out of "living water" (in this case rain water is collected and filtered and heated) and used for purificated. The only mikvah in this area is associated with an Orthodox temple but also utilized by a number of communities and they are wonderful enough to allow it's use for conversions for Reform Jews (which a lot of communities do not allow). Having a mikvah immersion as part of our conversion allows it to be seen as kosher by a much wider scope of Jewish communities. It also allows us to be eligible for the Law of Return to Israel. I've read and been told that the mikvah can been very emotional and spiritually moving. Since I am just not that kind of person that made me all the more nervous, that I would be expected to feel something that I am just not hardwired to feel.
They had never done this sort of double conversion before (which makes sense, it is unusually to have two partners convert) and I think the rabbis enjoyed the novelty. The second rabbi was alarmed when he saw me since I know he was told I was pregnant but was not expecting me to be so large and alarming (I have become very accustomed to scaring people now). I have to admit I did have a moment where I was like WHAT IF MY WATER BREAKS IN THE MIKVAH? Since both rabbis and our third witness were men, I missed part of what they were talking about because I was in the women's section. They did let me into the men's section so they could explain what to do to both of us at once and also so they could show me that while they would be in the room with J during his immersion that the would just stand by the door for mine and wouldn't be able to see me. I do understand that people are modest and of course keeping men out of the women's section is very important in that community but I did think it was pretty funny how worried they were that I would think that they were going to peep at me. No one wants to see me naked at this point I am pretty certain.
J went first and I sat waiting. It was interesting to hear since both of our Hebrew is HORRIBLE. When it was my turn all four of them were crowded outside the door (they decided J should be nearby in case I fell that way they had some one to deal with the large naked lady) fretting like old ladies about the stairs into the tub. It was set up nicely for me though, with small stairs and a handrail (older ladies use it too so I imagine this is a good feature for them). And the water was fantastic for my back--not a spiritual note at all but man I could have stayed in their all day.
I had been talking to the third witness (who also worked for our temple but isn't a rabbi) who is also a convert before it was my turn. They were all curious about why we hadn't finished our conversion last winter like we planned. And I explained about the miscarriage and how it just stoppped our lives for a while. He said that a lot of people use the mikvah to recover from events like that--that he used it when he got a divorce and also when he came out a few years later. That the mikvah can help open new life stages.
I wasn't thinking about the miscarriage in there though. I was glad to be doing it pregnant, like we were all converting as a family together (though she will not be a convert which was the point of doing this before she is born). A weird note, your center of gravity while pregnant is different even in the water so I tipped over and splashed loud enough that the nervous Nellies almost sent in the Calvary.
The conversion didn't change anything for me (or for J judging from our conversations). Which to me means that we were definitely ready.
And I am unduly amused that J's Hebrew name ends in a sound that is very similar to yahoo.