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We’ve been going out-of-town every weekend to visit with our sponsoring Rabbi and to attend at least one of his classes. This past Shabbat we were able to spend Erev Shabbat with him and his family and attend services on Shabbat at his shul; Shacharit through Havdalah. My wife has started attending Hebrew classes (she’s pretty advanced already) taught by the Rabbanit and we both are attending the shiur for the weekly parshah. We feel at home there and we have met very warm and supportive people.

The more we visit that community the less I feel attached to my former life. It is hard to return to Austin and step back into what seems to be someone else’s existence. So I try to stay busy with all the preparations–I’m applying for jobs and we’re exploring our options for living arrangements. I’m studying the books on the required reading list for the Rabbinical Council of America (those which I haven’t already read yet) and attending classes during the week at an Orthodox shul here in Austin.

All of this is not to say that when we’re there it is not also difficult. The circumstance presents challenges of its own. The community is mainly a Hebrew speaking, Israeli-based community so the members are naturally a little guarded around us right now. Our son is having to adjust to the constant travel and changes in the environment in addition to his awareness that soon he’ll be having a baby sister, b’ezrat Hashem. Which of course means my wife has to deal with all the natural feelings of making a big change with pregnancy hormones to top it off! I think converting, which is really a short word for such an enormous experience, is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and I’m really trying hard to avoid hyperbole here. On the other hand, it feels like the right thing to do. My soul yearns each week to return to the community, to see the friends I’ve met and to talk with my Rabbi. He and his family are amazing and feel like the perfect fit for us. I hope we are accepted and that we can relocate soon.

The shul we hope to join

It’s one thing to behave kindly towards people of other religions, especially for a Jew living in galut (exile). It’s quite another to befriend them and engage in “healthy” dialogues in an apologetical way either in public or private debates and conversations.  To do this is perhaps a modesty issue; private matters such as one’s devotion to G-d or how one personally relates to Him within a larger religious group should remain within the social confines of that group. Is it really a Christian’s business what Jews think of Jesus? Rav Soloveitchik wrote the following in a letter to the Rabbinical Council of America in November 1964:

…We are, therefore, opposed to any public debate, dialogue or symposium concerning the doctrinal, dogmatic or ritual aspects of our faith vis a vis “similar” aspects of another faith community. We believe in and are committed to our Maker in a specific manner and we will not question, defend, offer apologies, analyze or rationalize our faith in dialogues centered about these “private” topics which express our personal relationship to the G-d of Israel. We assume that members of other faith communities will feel similarly about their individual religious commitment.

One of the topics Rav Soloveitchik mentioned specifically in his book Community, Covenant and Commitment was the Jewish attitude on Jesus. Read More

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