I’ve been toying with the idea of going Kosher for a year. As my readers know, I’m converting to Judaism. I was supposed to have a meeting with a Rabbi at a temple in NYC last month but a few hours before our meeting her secretary called to let me know that we’d need to reschedule. Since then, one of my DOBC friends, who’s also Jewish, told me that she attends the LGBT Shabbat services from time-to-time and thought maybe I’d like to attend there. And to complicate things more I walked into a Jewish coffee shop and one of the ladies there asked if I wanted to meet with their Rabbi. Ideally, I’m going to meet with all three and figure out which one I feel the most connection with.
Rabbi A I’m most interested in because the way that she likes to do conversions is on a one-on-one basis. She told me that there will be many difficult questions and difficult times for both of us and that honesty can only come if we’re sitting in a room together. I like that. When I visited this temple for Shabbat services it was nice to see not only other LGBT folks in attendance but I saw 2 black attendants as well.
Rabbi B I’ve not talked to, only her secretary and only via e-mail. This conversion is in a class setting complete with an open house that I’m attending in mid-August. The draw here is that within a class I can converse with other converts and therefore carve out a little “family” with others who are in the same position as I. Not only would I get the chance to talk to the Rabbi but sort of talk through things with folks just like me. The fact that it’s NYC’s only and oldest LGBT Temple doesn’t hurt either.
Rabbi C I know very little about and is sort of just an option in case I’d like to get a different perspective.
I’ve done lots of reading. I’m in the middle of reading a book called The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel and just started The Five Books of Miriam by Ellen Frankel, PhD as well as re-reading the Tanakh, or Bible. Reading a book “backwards” has been fun and while I’ve read the Bible several times via Catholic schooling, Baptist and Methodist church on Sundays with my parents throughout childhood and the year I tried really hard to be a good Episcopalian I’ve been quite moved by the reading that I’ve been doing and even had a dream about a bible passage I read before falling asleep last night.
So at Anthropologie, one of my favorite associates was in on a conversation I was having with one of the girls who’d been raised Orthodox and therefore lived a Kosher childhood. This associate suggested that I try to be Kosher for a year if I was really serious about conversion. As far as I know, neither Rabbi A or B would suggest this for me. Rabbi A is the spiritual leader for a Reform Temple but told me she was a Conservative Rabbi and Rabbi B’s temple does not identify under any denomination; Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. It is my understanding that Reform and Conservative movements do not strictly adhere to Kosher Laws and this would not be a part of the conversion process. Still, she argued that I should consider it, just for a year, and I’ve been thinking about it on and off since that conversation.
My main concerns are pretty frivolous because I am lucky enough to live in NYC which may as well be called Little Judaica. You can’t walk more than three blocks in most Brooklyn neighborhoods without seeing Hebrew so my options for Kosher groceries, more importantly Kosher meat products won’t be hard. I’m wrestling with giving up pork because I love bacon, pork chops, steamed pork buns, pork loins, sausage patties and links, ribs…the list goes on and on. The shell fish clause is also in the forefront of my mind. Mirs and I have a mussels date almost once every month. I’m also concerned about how Kosher I can really make my teeny, tiny kitchen. Two of everything? Meat and non-meat? Can I really call myself Kosher if I do this (follow dietary laws) and not that (forgo separate utensils, dinner ware, etc.) and that (wait 1-6 hours between eating dairy and meat. The Kashrut answer would be No, of course. One of my favorite websites that I’ve been going back to for over a year is Judaism 101, written by a lay Orthodox man. http://www.jewfaq.org/index.htm and it’s been very helpful to get an Orthodox perspective.
On the other hand when I look past all of the restrictions there is the ethical treatment of animals that goes into the slaughter of Kosher (and Halal) meat. (Ohhh, can I eat Halal?) that speaks to the way I shop for meat products any way. Kosher animals live a good life, they’re prayed over and thanked before slaughter and the actual slaughter is done to be as pain free (as humanely possible) so that the animal dies instantly. Yes, Veggies, the animal dies but I’d rather that then some of the footage I’ve seen in videos of animal “farmers.” I’ve been pouring over Kosher and Jewish cook books at Barnes and Noble, especially those with a more Middle Eastern and African emphasis (because Jews did come from the continent of Africa) and am excited to start cooking in this new, healthier, shall I say more holy way? It’s still a decision I’m wrestling with but we shall see.