“Practicing” Judaism: Conversion and Jewish Weddings

Background: I converted to Judaism 9 years ago. I still feel like it’s something I practice at and am no expert on, although I learned a LOT during the conversion process (not to mention a Jewish wedding and a Jewish divorce!).

I wrote a blog post about what it feels like to be a converted Jew a while back, and an acquaintance of mine contacted me after reading it because she had recently gotten engaged and her fiance was Jewish. She was considering converting and I was all too happy to share my own experience – not to sway her in any direction, just to talk about what it was like for me so she could see what she might be signing up for.

We had some long email and phone conversations, and she did decide to convert. I was glad to be able to be an ear and hear out her concerns – it really made me feel like I was putting my experience to good use!

She ended up inviting me to the wedding, which was flattering in itself, and then she asked me to actually sign the ketubah, which is really an honor because it’s the jewish wedding contract and only one male and one female witness sign it, and people get really beautifully decorated ketubahs these days and frame them. Not only were all those things exciting, but also the wedding was at the Levy chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, which was incredibly beautiful. The ceremony was lovely and I became a bit of an unlikely ambassador of Jewish culture at the reception, because there was a notable lack of Jewish representation. I practically dragged a circle of people around the bride and groom during the hora! (“KEEP DANCING!”)

weddingI did have a facepalm moment during the ketubah signing… the rabbi asked me to sit down and sign, with the families crowding around, and he said, “Here’s where you sign in Hebrew…” and I looked at him with saucer eyes. I had never actually written my Hebrew name, and I didn’t even remember what the full name was, because when you’re born Jewish your Hebrew name translates to “first name, child of mother’s name and father’s name” but if you convert, your Hebrew name is “name you chose, child of …[?? major biblical character / Abraham or Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah].” He said we’d figure it out later, and I had to track him down during the reception so he could write it down for me and then ask the bride to get the ketubah from the car so I could write my Hebrew name. He was also a little confused – he asked Sherpa what his Jewish name was. He couldn’t quite compute why I had converted if my “spouse” was not Jewish. I told him he hadn’t picked his yet.

I did have a nice moment with the bride when we got the ketubah out again – I was able to thank her, and she told me one of the reasons she’d asked me to sign the ketubah was that she remembered me saying I had missed out on some Jewish traditions because I didn’t grow up with it.

I’m touched and really grateful. And we’re “family” now!


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