5 Things ‘The Walking Dead’ Can Teach You About Converting to Judaism

Converting to true Judaism is a maze of information and choice-points. You ask for advice but not allRabbis agree with each other. Communities may not warmly open up to conversion candidates because Messianics and other insincere Gentiles may have spoiled the community’s opinion of true gerim. Then factor in your own personality and preferences. Are you drawn to Sephardic or Ashkenaz minhagim? Are you going Modern or Ultra-Orthodox? Which eruv best meets your criteria for living?

In the Zombie-genre movies, the strongest people usually survive. Becoming a Jew is much more than changing your religion. It is an apocalypse of identity.

“There is no cure.”

Conversion is probably one of the most difficult processes a person can voluntarily put himself through. Yet no matter what the obstacle you just keep moving ahead. Why? Because you have too. Because imagining life without Shabbat, Torah, and the mitzvot feels like a crushing weight pinning you down to the ground by the chest. When you go through the hard times (and you will) lean in to your support network. Talk to other converts. Call up your Jewish friends and seek out encouragement. Sometimes the work is simply putting one foot in front of the other. Trust that wherever you are in the process, Hashem is in charge.

“The pain doesn’t go away. You just make room for it.”

Practical but not so comforting advice for people fighting to stay alive in a world given over to zombies. It applies to conversion candidates too. Until you become a Jew, nothing will feel right or in place. You will hunger for the fullness of a Jewish identity until you come out of the mikvah. But if you can tap the pain and use it for motivation for when the process is temporarily stymied, it will at least become productive pain. Journal, write poetry, find your creative outlet and express yourself wholeheartedly. Having a record of your thoughts and feelings at a later date will no doubt be valuable.

“No crying in the boat. It scares the fish.”

The minutia of conversion can make you lose sight of your goal. You want to be Jewish. You want to please Borei Olam as a Jew. You want to belong to the Chosen People. Just like in The Walking Dead, learning from your mistakes and staying alert keeps people alive. Remember that the halachah is there to protect everyone–you and the Jewish people. The Rabbis are super cautious but they know best. There will be doubt. There will be highs and lows. But don’t whine and keep moving forward. Keep telling yourself that Hashem loves you and already accepts you either as a Noachide or as a Jew, be’ezrat Hashem.

“We are surviving here. We are day to day.”

If you let your mind wander too far into the unknown future you’ll for sure become unmotivated and discouraged. There are some details you can work out in the present: keep an updated resume; gather info on career choices near the eruv, study halachah; network, etc. But some things just have to happen in their time. Your sponsoring Rabbi needs time to get to know you. The Beit Din has procedures it has to go through. People in the community are going to want to vet you. All of that is a very organic process that cannot be rushed and is largely out of your control.

“You pull the trigger, you have to mean it. Always remember that.”

Honesty and sincerity are two of the most important virtues you need to have when converting. It will not serve you or anyone else to withhold information from your Rabbi and Beit Din. Transparency will help the process along and feels a lot better than trying to hold in any embarrassing details. Follow through on phone calls and appointments with your Rabbi and with the Beit DIn. If you are told to do something, do it. If you say you will do something, do it. Act with alacrity and be intentional. This will be easier as you get to know yourself and the community but it is essential to make your words match your behavior from the beginning.

While there is nothing in the world like converting to Orthodox Judaism, there are people who have gone before you and have succeeded. There are also many Rabbis who have a special affinity for converts. These are resources. Check this site often for updated information about conversion resources.

4 comments
  1. kol hakavod! well said. not that conversion is an easy process or anything, but some people just dont know how much more difficult they make the process for themselves

    • Thanks for reading and for the compliment.

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