On the 5th day of Elul in the year 5773 I became a Jew. That's August 11th, 2013 for you kids still on the Gregorian Calendar. For a refresher on the event check out what happened here.
I gave up Jesus. I stayed with the same G-d that I was used to over that the Catholic Church. Downsized my reading by 50%. Took on some new holidays. And separated myself even further from those around me. Don't get me wrong. My family and friends have been more supportive than I could have ever asked for. But every once in awhile (let's be honest, around the holidays) I realize that my choice made my life a little more lonely.
Please don't take that as a plea for sympathy. It took me many years to come to the conclusion that I am a Jew. And it took many years after that to make it real. I knew going into it that I would be giving up some things. But I also knew in exchange I was bringing myself closer to who I am on the inside.
One thing I did not take into account was the novelty of conversion for some and how it would come into play in my day to day. If/when I am asked about my religion I say, "I am Jewish". If, and only if, it comes up do I speak to my former life as a friend of Jesus. More often than not it is my friends who out me as a convert. And it is those moments that the Jewish side of me becomes less than. An anecdote at the bar. I look around the table and wonder who now thinks I am some zealot out for blood?
On more than one occasion in the past 6 months I have been outed like this.
"Oh! He's a convert!", with an extra beat on the 'con' to make it feel even more scandalous. I know it isn't malicious. And the people doing it are more often or not my most supportive friends.
Recently I was picking up some cannolis in a strip mall with one of my four Jewish friends (a Jew by birth). I told her of my recent experiences of being outed by others. She reminded me that once converted, I am a Jew. I am not a convert, I am a Jew. No questions asked. I never told her but that statement meant as much to me as the moment Rabbi Zimmerman welcomed me to the tribe on that summer day in 5773.
I don't wear my yarmulka all the time. I haven't been to Temple in over a year because I feel awkward going by myself. I don't ask for Jewish holidays off at work because I am one of two Jews in a sea of Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans, and Adventists. Everyone who I want to see this Passover is either in New England or Seattle. So instead of unleavened bread and bitter herbs this upcoming Passover I am making french toast from some homemade bread and chasing it with a four pack of Cadbury Creme Eggs.
As I said earlier I am not looking for sympathy. I knew taking this on people would have questions. And I am very happy to answer and discuss. I like to think that I am Jew with training wheels. Slowly adjusting to the terrain around me. With hopes that someday I am simply described as "that cranky old Jewish man who lives next door. If you're nice to him he gives you Cadbury Creme Eggs."
Happy Just Another Weekend In April.
Classic White Bread
(as used in french toast above)
Recipe from Betty Crocker Cookbook
6 to 7 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 packages regular active yeast or fast acting dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 1/4 cups very warm water (120-130 degrees F)
2 tablespoons butter, melted, if desired
1. In large bowl, stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, softened butter and yeast until well mixed. Add warm water. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle.
2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Kneed about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with butter, shortening, or pan spray. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
3. Grease bottoms and sides of 2 (8x4- or 9x5-inch) loaf pans with shortening or cooking spray.
4. Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half with hands or rolling pin into 18x9-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 9-inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch edges of dough into roll to seal. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place loaves seams side down in pans. Brush loaves lightly with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35-50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
5. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in the center of oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake 25-30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to cooling rack. Brush loaves with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter; cool.