The Conversion Episode, 2020
Ep. 230: Our third annual Shavuot episode, featuring stories of individual journeys to Judaism, from prison to the oncology ward, and from Squirrel Hill to the sorority house
This week on Unorthodox, we’re proud to present our third annual conversion episode. On Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that starts tonight at sundown, we read the Book of Ruth, which tells the story of a Moabite woman who converts to Judaism and becomes the great-grandmother of King David. Shavuot is the perfect time to celebrate those who convert to Judaism, and on today’s episode you’ll hear a variety of stories featuring Jews by choice and their different journeys. (Listen to our 2019 episode here and our 2018 episode here.)
First, we hear from Lynn Hyde, a Pittsburgh resident who goes to temple in Squirrel Hill, who was living a Jewish-adjacent life but was moved to undergo conversion following the Tree of Life shooting in 2018.
Stephanie talks to two of her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters—her “little little” and her “little little little”—who are both in the process of converting. (One of them even sent Stephanie the mezuza that she mounted on her doorpost in a previous episode.)
David Ben-Moshe shares his complex journey to Judaism, exposing some of the injustices within the American criminal justice system as well as the Israeli rabbinate’s standards for who is a Jew.
We also hear from Rabbi Shira Stutman of Sixth and I in Washington, D.C., who has overseen more than 300 conversions in the D.C. area and for 10 years has led Jewish Welcome Workshop, a yearlong course designed for people in their 20s and 30s who want to learn more about Judaism and/or convert. She takes us behind the scenes on the other side of the conversion process, telling us about the different types of people she’s encountered, why they want to convert, and why the Jewish partners can sometimes be a real pain.
And finally, Alix Wall brings us the moving story of Vy Nguyen, who at 25 was diagnosed with an extremely rare soft-tissue cancer. She was raised Buddhist, but met with every chaplain at the hospital to see what their religion had to say about her predicament. Moved by the words of the hospital’s Jewish chaplain, Dr. Bruce Feldstein, she began an Orthodox conversion, a process that continued throughout many hospitalizations and surgeries, and finally took her to the mikvah and then the chuppah.
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