Monday, June 2, 2014

Have You, Reader, Ever Thought About Converting to Judaism? Working with Rabbi David Mark: an Introductory Essay

I try not to make it hard. I can't say how many people I've brought into the Tribe, but I prefer to meet with them, one-on-one. People who have attended classes and then meet with me personally prefer the personal approach, where I can tailor the lessons to their mindset and interests. I stress that this is an "Introduction to Judaism," and they have the rest of their lives, God willing, to emphasize whichever Jewish subject (and there are a lot, you know) they enjoy. I break it down to four basic areas: Jewish Holidays, LifeCycle, Bible, and History. My concern with the first two are that my Conversion Candidate, whom I counsel to begin thinking of themselves as a Jew as soon as possible, should know three reasons (at least) why we blow shofar, the five prohibitions of Yom Kippur, how old a boy baby is when he has his brit milah/ritual circumcision, and so on. I do not stress Bible and History as closely, except when there is a Bible book closely related to a particular holiday; e.g., Ruth, connected to Shavuote. The last two are the hardest, and impossible to cover completely, so I have a couple of texts that I recommend. My go-to Jewish History remains Chaim Potok's "Wanderings," which ends in 1978, but, because Potok was a novelist and wrote very well, it is far superior to the classic histories, which are dryasdust. Anyone wishing to continue this conversation, and possibly connect with me for private lessons, I refer to my email and/or website: email--, or http://deitychaser/, so you can start to see who I am, what my background is as a rabbi and English professor, and how and what I think and believe about this remarkable faith. It really is amazing and remarkable to be part of the Jewish people, faith, and culture, even when they do, speak, and act in aggravating ways, and, despite my studies in other faiths, could never see myself joining another. As for being or becoming an agnostic-- during all my crises of faith after leaving Orthodoxy, I never stopped believing in God. Someone, I believe, has got to be Running the Show; there is an Intelligence behind the Universe. Yes: I guess all those Orthodox rabbis did a good job, after all. Call or contact me; let's talk. --Rabbi David Mark, M.A., M.Phil.