Question: Do converts to Judaism with some Jewish background feel less discrimination?
Do converts to Judaism with some Jewish ancestry experience less discrimination?
Answer: Thank you for your letter. You write that you are interested in conversion to Judaism, but that you are concerned about the acceptance of converts in the Jewish community. You also wonder whether your Jewish ancestry would ease your acceptance in the Jewish community, and if a Reform community might be more accepting.
It would be futile for me to deny that there are Jewish individuals and communities that are less than fully welcoming to converts. As you point out, however, Jewish tradition and law demand that converts be treated with the same honor and respect as those born Jewish. There should be no "second class citizens" within the community of the Jewish people.
The Reform Movement has taken great strides in its outreach programs over the past decades and this has heightened the sensitivity of almost every Reform congregation in its welcoming of interfaith families and of those who have chosen Judaism through conversion.
However, it would be self-serving and inaccurate for me to claim that Reform Judaism is uniquely accepting of converts. All Jewish communities should strive to welcome those who have made the choice to become Jews. I would encourage you to talk with several rabbis and several congregations to find one where you feel comfortable. Conversion is a personal and challenging process, one that should be undertaken in an atmosphere of mutual trust and acceptance.
Are you more likely to be accepted because your father is Jewish? Maybe. It's hard to say what makes people welcoming or not welcoming. In my opinion, the poor treatment of converts that you describe is a kind of bigotry. There is no knowing or anticipating why or how people will display their irrational bias.
My advice to you is the same as for anyone searching for a Jewish community -- keep looking until you find a place where you feel comfortable and where your spiritual needs are met.
Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser