This post may be contraversial, but it’s time this story is told.
The conversion process in Perth, since the early beginnings of the Perth Jewish community has always been a contentious issue, racked with contraversy. You would think that these days in the community we have become, that the process would be appropriately formalised, and would match appropriate halacha.
Don’t get me wrong.
You can convert in Perth through the Sydney Beit Din Â and meet full halachic requirements. The process is long and hard – very challenging. You need to change everything about your daily life – career is effected, home life is effected, relationships with friends and family are effected. It can be a painful and difficult process, but ultimately a rewarding experience that develops you further as an individual, and strengthens you. This process takes years, and unfortunately, years later, some people never let it go. You get questioned in all areas of your life – you’re always different.
There is also another way to convert. One that no-one talks about and we try to pretend doesn’t happen. Now I’ll tell you a reason why we should talk, and do something.
The other day I was in the supermarket. Â As it often happens, service was slow, people were frustrated, and the lady in the line behind me started polite small talk. Then she noticed the Magen Dovid around my neck.
She then told me of a guy she once dated – a Jew who was so proud of his heritage that he had a Magen Dovid paved into his paving around his spa. Then she said but the relationship could not last, as she wasn’t Jewish. She explained that the culture was so different that they couldn’t be together, and “you can’t change culture”.
Feeling a little awkward at this point I tried to keep the conversation nice “oh that’s a pity”, whilst thinking that this guy really shouldn’t be dating her in the first place if he felt this way. I then realised we had an audience – other shoppers and supermarket staff had gone quiet and were listening as to what would happen next.
Then it became really awkward.Â
She spoke loudly, saying, “well I could have converted, but you either have to have a lot a lot of this (gesturing a “cash” hand signal) or do it that hard way!”
Â I then tried to minimise all of that but walked away embarrassed, but secretly in agreeance. I thought this was “our problem” – something that went on and we tried to ignore, but something the broader community didn’t know.
Well, they do know. And this just makes Jews look money hungry.
When I say I know – I can think of examples.
I put it out there. If you want to convert into a large Perth family, one that has been here for generations, and whose membership fees bring in large revenue for a shule, one who holds political sawy – well the door is open. Don’t worry about all those rules -Â just pretend until you’re through, and then do what you like. Or make a large donation to the shule and surprise surprise you loved one converts quickly, despite lack of knowledge or compliance with halacha.
IÂ couldÂ give specific examples. But that would be lashon hara. Maybe this is too, but I am only speaking to raise the issue as something that needs action now.
IÂ also want to point out that there are a lot of cases where Rabbi’s are lied to by speople that seem to learn, can answer halachic questions, seem to be keeping halacha, and once their through, change again, immediately. In these cases the Rabbi’s and the community feel betrayed and are deeply hurt.
We need to make the process harder. We need to be stricter on those thatÂ are converting to be married. The answer should be no, or you can’t marry forÂ years or something that only the sincere would go through with. I don’t know what the solution could be.
But we need to be stricter.Â We need to protect our reputation, and keep our religion for the sincere where we can.