Dear Alin Levy,
There’s something I want to say to you: Don’t convert to Judaism. Don’t apply to convert.
Keep your distance from the rabbinate, from its rabbis, its judges, its clerks, its kashrut inspectors. Wait for the day when the iron bars that have been placed on the State of Israel, in the form of the religious establishment that controls marriage, kashrut and burial, will be removed. And rest assured that they will be removed, because Judaism, as an all-embracing name for a realm of identity, does not lie in the offices of the Israeli rabbinate or Naftali Bennett. Don’t convert – you’re too good for that.
Because you, a young Israeli woman, a Jew by choice, secular, an actor, daughter of a mother who tried to convert but was rejected, who has lived in Israel since immigrating at the age of three, don’t have to make yourself liked by the mezuzah kissers. You applied to them and your conversion was halted because of your occupation. Because you are not “modest” in their eyes.
If you have an ID card and citizenship which can’t be taken from you, you don’t necessarily have to learn about halakha [Jewish religious law] through the rabbinate. Because one day, and it’s not far off, an American girl named Alin Levy will immigrate to Israel – not from Ukraine but from a country in which Israel’s Orthodox Jews cannot deny its Jews a wide range of observance, strengthening of identity and Jewish awareness among them.
And then they, and certainly the State of Israel, will no longer be able to declare that the Orthodox rabbinate is the only body authorized to allow people to enter the congregation of Jewry. It will no longer be possible to disavow Reform conversions. Certainly it will no longer be possible to make citizenship and civil rights conditional on one’s being a Jew.
You do not have to meet the conditions of the chief rabbi of Israel, nor do you have to curry favor with people who eat kosher, who don’t understand that there is no real reason to throw a tenth of agricultural produce into the garbage only because there is no kohen in the Temple to give it to. That member of the priestly class, if he existed, would undoubtedly pass on the tithe to those in need of food. But one way or the other, the rabbinate no longer understands the difference between the symbolic and the concrete.
Don’t convert. Don’t set your sights on those who operate networks of inspectors, who ascertain that chickens are slaughtered in a particular way instead of allowing food to be sold freely in Israel, with those who want kosher food being able to buy it separately.
Alin Levy, you are free, young and secular. Wait patiently, for you will not be at their mercy forever. Do you really want to obtain their affirmation? Those whose wild weeds grow in the rabbis’ courtyards, which serve as arenas for the business of belief, like that of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, for witch doctors and huge deals made from the donations of upright, naïve people who covet rabbinical blessings and reinforcements?
Keep away from their rabbis, who are attached to the state as Moliere’s Tartuffe leeched himself to the Orgon household. What do you have in common with them? If you want to marry someone you love, do it in a civil ceremony. If you want to study Judaism, turn to the Jewish Studies department of a university or to a secular yeshiva. Be whatever type of Jew you want to be. Even if the State of Israel accepts the rabbinical version, and it alone.
You might ask yourself how it will be possible for a state that is caught in the grip of a primitive vise – which on one hand rests on its power to provide a livelihood for many, and on the other is driven by inferiority feelings, self doubts and a type of spirituality that denies doubt and thought – to shed all that and become free. The answer is that the world’s Jews will no longer be able to bear it. Even now they are not Jewish enough for the state.
So, Alin Levy, don’t convert. You are a Jew, an Israeli, a Hebrew. A lot more so than when immersing yourself ritually under the supervision of a mikveh attendant. Don’t convert through them. Don’t be afraid.