Ian, my fiancé of just over three months, is in the early stages of converting to Judaism. He is choosing to be Chosen, and while I did not coerce him into converting in any way, for some reason people always assume I did. He has actually been taking part in the traditions of Judaism since the early stages of our relationship. He has gone to High Holy Day services with me at Temple Emanuel since the beginning. We hosted our first Seder together in his apartment. Ian is already living a “Jewish” life; he just wants to make it official.
We begin classes in the next few weeks, which is both exciting and nerve-racking. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) likes the partner of the convert to also attend the classes, so I am along for the ride! It is both a personal process for him, but also a collective one for the two of us. Doing the suggested summer readings, I am becoming aware of all the things I forgot from Hebrew, Jewish Day, and Sunday School. I am viewing these classes as a way to become reacquainted with my Judaism as an adult.
Last friday night, we went to Saviv’s (Temple Emanuel’s 20’s and 30’s group) rooftop shabbat service with our friend Alissa. The three of us had already been to one of these Saviv services together at the beginning of summer. At the last service, only the post service cocktail hour was on the roof; this time it was the whole thing which was super fun and different. They also gave us sangria to drink during the service which felt a bit too “cool Jews.” The service was shockingly peaceful despite taking place on a rooftop in the middle of the upper east side. Going to services again reminds me how much I like the reset of shabbat at the end of a week, especially one as rough as last week’s. It feels like a reminder that we come from this long interconnected web of Judaism. It’s really exciting for me that Ian is choosing to be part of it.
My dad is a convert. He, much like Ian, chose to convert before getting married. He converted at Temple Emanuel as well. My dad, in a lot of ways, believes in the customs of Judaism more than my mom. I think it may be because for him he had to make this active choice. His Jewishness is not something he always possessed the way my mom, my sisters, and I have. To us it is a natural part of our beings. My dad was an altar boy growing up and he went to Catholic schools starting in Kinder all the way through his first year in college. It’s weird to imagine he had this whole other religious life because Judaism to me just seems like a natural part of him. Ian doesn’t come from any big religious tradition so it isn’t like he is leaving part of what his life was before. I think it’s harder to convert when you were raised with some strong religious background. I think even if you are converting one hundred percent by choice you are still leaving something you once had.
Ian and I have been living together for the past two years, but now we are moving into the realm of making real adult decisions about our wedding and marriage. We have to decide what traditions we want to add to our lives and form what Judaism means to us. I hope through his process of conversion we can answer some of these questions that I know we will spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out.
Alexandra Pucciarelli is an editorial intern at Tablet.