For context I am a patrilineal Jew. My father was raised Orthodox but became quite the hippy and then married my mother who was a-religious. My parents raised us Jewish because it was important to my father and my mother never formally converted but she made enough of an effort that I didn’t know she wasn’t at least half Jewish until I was a teen. My father, however, bailed when I was 11. I was very pious to I got myself to shul for about a year after he bailed, but my mother denounced religion altogether, and I gave up before my bat mitzva.
Anyways, after a family tragedy surrounding my 7yo daughter I returned to shul to find community. I felt like, since she had lost her father, finding our Jewish identity would give her something to hold on to. I found a great Reform synagogue with a great youth group and she’s thriving. I love it but I have so many questions.
- I wasn’t raised Reform, I was raised loosely Orthodox. Some of the things rabbi says have taken me aback including saying that a lot of our congregation don’t believe in god and that’s fine. On one hand I appreciate the openness, on the other hand I get a sense of yikes, hahaha. Are all Reform synagogue like this? I feel like they are more focused on cultural heritage than worship.
- There are often “tea time with rabbi” events and stuff like that where you get to hang out with the rabbi. I was a child last time I belonged to a synagogue so I guess I’m out of the loop. I didn’t realize this was a thing and I have no idea what the protocol to hanging with the rabbi is like or what I’m supposed to do or not do.
- On shabbat we don’t use electricity or drive and we’ve been breaking that to drive to service and/or stream the service on facebook. This seems to be the common practice in their congregation but I find it counterintuitive. I’m sure no one would judge me for not engaging, but I feel like I’m being an outsider or something. Is this a common practice in Reform synagogues?
- And most importantly conversion. Part of me thinks I should formally convert because I want the certification so to speak, hahaha. I want my kosher stamp. Most Jews don’t consider me a Jew because I am patrilineal and if I converted they would have to at least pretend to accept me. However, at the Reform synagogue they already consider me a Jew so they don’t offer a conversion program. I can have my bat mitzvah now but if I want to do a formal conversion I would have to go to a different rabbi and bat mitzvah does feel like jumping the gun since I’ve returned to shul after nearly 30 years and am more or less clueless as to what I’m doing. Shoud I just stay in the Reform synagogue because they accept me as is even if I don’t always vibe with all their practices? I mean, I do really like the members and my daughter has been making friends in the youth group. Or should I stick to my guns and go through the Chabad house to formally convert even though I’m already considered Jewish enough by Reform standards?
- If I am bat mitzvah’ed as is, without conversion, at the Reform synagogue is this considered a joke to Jews?
- Ok, this might sound bad but I’m genuinely starting to wonder: why does it feel like Jews in Israel kind of hate Jews in diaspora? Like, I understand there are cultural differences there, but it seems like they just don’t really like that we exist. I have family in Tel Aviv and I plan on taking my daughter there, potentially to live. I am afraid that we will not be accepted culturally speaking.
- What’s the weird vibe around Chabad? Any time I bring up that I also attend the local Chabad house I get a weird vibe. I once mentioned that the rabbis wife is very friendly and I was met with a resounding “I’m SURE she is.” and it didn’t feel genuine. When Chabad gets brought up I get the sense that everyone thinks I’m buying into some kind of scam but they don’t want to tell me. What gives?
- Mezuzahs. I have one that I inherited from my father but never put up. I want to put it up but I did some research and realized I need to order a new scroll for it. Then I realized without my bat mitzvah I might be out of line putting it up. Then I realized if I get a bat mitzvah before conversion I might be out of line. And then I realize I’m spiraling and I don’t really know what I’m doing.
- I feel so awkward about learning all the prayers. What are some of the most important ones that I should memorize. I’m good at memorizing things especially in other languages and I have been studying up on my Hebrew to refresh myself, but I’d really like a list of the most important ones to memorize so I can knock them out and I just feel way too awkward to ask.
Thank you! Sorry for the question-palooza