I recently finished “The Jewish Phenomenon” by Steven Silbiger. As a Protestant I found the book very informative. How is it that conversion is allowed, at all, to Judaism?
Silibger says that “what makes Jews Jewish is a specific religious culture and historical experience that have helped shape their values and strongly influenced how they view the world.”
He is more specific by later defining, as clearly as he can, what a Jew is: “Jews can best be understood as members of a tribe. A cohesive ancestral group with particular customs, traditions and values. Those values can be religious and the customs linguistic.”
So if this is the case, it seems impossible then, to be a Jewish convert. How can the statements above describing a Jew be reconciled with someone converting “into” the tribe? It seems impossible. To allow conversion would cause a rabbi to ignore the “specific historical experience, and cohesive ancestry” that is foundational or fundamental to being a Jew.
Furthermore, in a later chapter, Silbiger discusses the Jew’s affinity toward their minority status. Realizing your full potential, focusing on education, and having something to prove, despite being historically segregated and disparaged are all part of the hurdles in life that drive Jews to succeed and do good in this world. As such, the author cites the increasing number of marriages to non-Jews as cause for the rapid deterioration of these uniquely Jewish characteristics. On the subject, Jews have even gone as far as to say, “Where anti-Semitism failed, assimilation is succeeding.” If simply marrying a non-Jew is seen as degenerative, how (same question as above) could conversion possibly be allowed?
Conversion seems impossible. Yet it is rationalized and allowed every day.