In summer 2010, I began a journey to join the Jewish people. I blogged about my experience throughout the journey, and officially became a Jewish man in spring 2011. It was both the greatest change and greatest commitment I’ve ever made. In less than a year, I literally went from leading an almost totally secular lifestyle to being a religiously observant Reform Jew. During my conversion journey, I searched the Internet for first-person perspectives from other Jews-by-choice who had taken a similar path. There are a few good narratives out there (see especially here, here, here, and the website JewsByChoice.org.) But there aren’t many.

So I’m adding to the record by creating this page to group together my own narrative. It is my hope the posts I wrote during my conversion process will have meaning for others considering their own Jewish journeys. No one ends such a journey the way they began it. It’s a journey that changes you in ways you may expect–and in ways you might not imagine. I am not the same person I was in August 2010 when I first–and at long last–began to decipher my soul’s native adjective. I am better for the changes. To learn more about my life before and after conversion, I invite you to browse the featured categories and blog archives available in the sidebars throughout this site. For guidance on beginning your own Reform Jewish conversion journey, visit the Union for Reform Judaism’s Conversion resource page.

Finally, I am a Reform Jew and this is the story of my Reform Jewish conversion journey. I am largely traditionally observant within the teachings and ethics of Reform Judaism, and am informed by teachings from the Conservative and Orthodox branches of Judaism. However, I in no way defer to religious authorities beyond my own movement. As a result, the mileage of your Jewish journey may vary–in fact, it better. We all have our own unique paths to follow and spiritual adjectives to decipher, and the Jewish family is very capable of embracing us all. May HaShem grant you the bravery and guidance to start decoding your own inner grammar.

B’shalom,

Micha’el Ben-Ami
13 Iyar, 5771

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Turning and the Teruah of Time | 9/13/10
In the grand scheme of things, September 11th is just a day. Yet a day can capture eternity. The days since my 40th birthday have been among the most amazing of my life. I’m finally honoring the past to move forward. And I can’t think of a better time to mark the turning point in my journey.

Live and Let Live (But Only If You Live Like Me) | 9/17/10
Last week, I was concerned my friends wouldn’t be able to accept the idea of me as a Jew-in-Training. But it never occurred to me that some of them might not be able to accept the idea of me as religious at all.

The Deviled Ham’s in the Details | 9/27/10
I’ve been studying kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, but in Reform Judaism keeping kosher would be up to my conscience. I never expected my conscience to care. Yet as I begin my conversion journey, I can’t seem to make it past the supermarket checker anymore without taking several of my favorite food items out of my basket and leaving them behind.

Tikkun Olam in a Targeted Synagogue | 10/30/10
My synagogue was one of the Yemeni mail-bomb terror targets. It is impossible to write a sentence like that without feeling the worst of humanity well up inside your being. But sometimes it’s when you feel the most hateful of urges that healing the world has the best chance to begin.

 

Fourteen Christmases and a Chanukiyah | 11/19/10
Living Jewishly obviously means spending the period from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Eve with a different emphasis. This year, I’ll leave my well-known tree fetish behind. But as I ponder all the adult Christmases I’ve kept, I’m realizing I won’t miss that holiday’s sense of joy and wonder…because I’m increasingly finding those feelings to be an everyday part of my new journey.

I, Akeelah | 11/22/10
So. My blog–and I–have joyed out lately. Not to mention Jewed out, compassioned out, and otherwise jumped for happy. And the lesson for me in all of that? That I don’t need to apologize for one sickeningly lovely moment of what, as it turns out, is the time of my life.

Kippah Grip | 11/23/10
The beauty of Reform Judaism is the freedom to adopt traditional practices that speak to your heart. The beast of Reform Judaism is getting the fish eye from Jews who think that wearing a kippah full-time means that you’re not a liberal Jew. Problem is, tradition and ritual is just what many potential Reform Jewish converts–like me and my kippah-covered head–are attracted to.

“Yenta, please.” | 11/29/10
Saturday after temple in a north side Starbucks, I sat down with a Reform Jewish friend. I had my kippah on and my computer open. As we were walking out, an Orthodox woman sitting nearby turned to a stranger and told him I wasn’t going to be a good Jew. And as you may have guessed, I marched right back in.

The Miracle of the Smoldering Carpet | 12/02/10
Lessons from my first-ever first night of Chanukah: check wooden matches for cracks; don’t use the match box to put out the carpet; …and be prepared to feel six-years-old all over again.

Oy to the World | 1/10/11
When a well-meaning friend asked me on Christmas Eve, “Is being at temple tonight hard for you?” they were surprised I said, “No.” I wasn’t surprised at all.

“…But one of the worst is commercialism.” | 1/18/11
In this second of two after-the-fact Yuletide posts, I realize just how crass a secular Christmas can be, by spending my first one as an outsider looking in.

The Kippah of Conversation | 1/18/11
Yes, I’m becoming a religious Reform Jew. Yes, I wear a kippah full-time. Yes, my last name is Doyle. Uh, can we talk about the weather now?

Remembering Who (You Never Knew) You Were | 3/25/11
My rabbi asked for my conversion essay. Here it is. How many different ways are there to write that you’ve fallen in love with something you never knew that you’ve always been?

How We Make a Jew | 4/12/11
I’m ready. The date is set. Thirty days from today I’ll be a Jew. Here’s a look at the rituals I’ll undergo on May 12th to make my conversion journey to join the Jewish people official.

Passoverwrought | 4/26/11
Plan all the phoney matzah meals you want, or avoid it completely and subsist on permitted meats and quinoa. No amount of advance planning will take all the sting out of observing Passover. Nor should it.

Secular vs. | 5/06/11
Shifting from a secular life to a religiously observant one can definitely teach you who your friends are–and aren’t. My social circle looks very different at the end of my Jewish conversion journey than it did at the beginning of it. That’s OK.

Become a Jew in 28 Easy Books: My Conversion Reading List | 5/09/11
Study is a central part of every decision to join the Jewish people. How central? How about 7,000 pages? Here is a list of the 28 books I read during the nine months of my conversion journey to become a Reform Jew.

Perfect | 5/11/11
Could my biggest problem be thinking that there’s something wrong with everything not being perfect? Nine months of my Jewish conversion journey didn’t get me any closer to things being perfect–but got me a lot closer to things being right.

Unwritten | 5/11/11
There are very few times one is able to say that an event is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and not be exaggerating. Tomorrow morning will be the most important morning of my life. What are you supposed to feel the evening before you become a Jew?

Splashdown | 5/12/11
When I woke up this morning, Michael Doyle wasn’t a Jewish name. It is now. Today, I officially joined the Jewish people.

“Do you feel any different?”: My Mikveh Day Report | 5/16/11
My mikveh day was amazing and surprising in ways I’ll never forget. It changed me forever–but it took me all day to figure out just how. Here is my epic look at the day I officially joined the Jewish people.

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