The second meeting with the Beth Din came and went in late November, and was more or less similar to the first meeting. There was a greater focus on halachic knowledge, and the rabbis really got into the specifics of things like how one properly separates (or, more commonly, does not separate) items on Shabbat, or how one would go about reheating food on Shabbat. They asked me some interesting personal questions, such as whether there were elements of Jewish law that I disliked or did not understand (of course), whether I understood and believed in Maimonides’ principles of faith (some yes, some I’m still wrestling with), and I left the meeting feeling increasingly prepared for the end of the conversion.
The third meeting will likely be more of the same. I am concerned that my Hebrew seems to have hit something of a brick wall; I am still reading almost entirely phonetically, and only know a few words by sight. I experienced a similar problem when I was learning Spanish as well, which is to say that I would run up against a wall and be stuck there for several months before I could move past it. As with Spanish, I anticipate my Hebrew will skyrocket once I get into a country where I am actually hearing the language every day; but until then, I’m stuck slowly making my way through the prayer book every day.
Prior to the third meeting taking place, the Beth Din I work with requires candidates to have a psychological assessment. Initially, I thought this would be an interview with a psychologist in the room and the rabbi present, but it turned out to be a written assessment. There were all kinds of questions, ranging from “Complete this sentence,” to multiple choice, to longer essay-like questions. Many of the questions were interesting or surprising, and I got the sense that the intent of the assessment was to ensure that candidates aren’t converting compulsively, or expecting all their problems to be solved once the conversion was over. It took about an hour and a half, and the hardest part was my hand cramping up after that much writing.
The third interview will take place after Passover, sometime in April, and we are hoping, of course, that this is the last. I will be doing a lot of review of the halacha minutiae, and there are still a couple of prayers that I say every day but still can’t say from memory.
At this point, we are so close to the end that some of the anxiety from the wait has passed. I’ve overcome most of my own anxieties about getting out to Israel (January and February were really tough in that regard), and am now excited and eager to get going but in less of a hurry. I’m hoping to spend time with my family in May before I go, and Udi and I are hoping to be married sometime in the late summer. It’s wild to think that we will have been together for two years by that point!
Udi continues to be the menschiest mensch that ever mensched. He is my best friend, confidant, and the emotional rock that I throw myself against when I’m freaking out about anything. I don’t know what I would do without him.
Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about the differing branches of Judaism. It’s easy to come in as an outsider and criticize things that you haven’t been around all of your life, but there are some parts of Conservative, Reform, and especially Reconstructionist Judaism that genuinely do not make sense to me – in large part because they strike me as fundamentally not Jewish. I understand people wanting to modernize while still retaining something of their heritage, but I guess the things that people hang onto (mostly the name, it seems) aren’t the things that I would hang onto if the most essentially Jewish parts (like keeping any form of kosher, observing Shabbat in any way, or supporting Israel in any sense) are going to change.
On an unrelated note, if you are interested in conversion blogs, there is one that is much more frequently updated than mine and is substantially better written and more interesting. It is written by Nellie Bowles, called Chosen by Choice. You can read it here, and possibly see an upcoming guest essay by yours truly: https://chosenbychoice.substack.com.
Till next time!