Elizabeth Emerges Jewish
When I first started writing for GO Inside Magazine, I already had a long term life goal on my to-do list which could be summed up with two words: “get married.” A week from today, G-d willing, that is exactly what I am going to do.
I started watched Ally McBeal a couple of years after the show started and I really got into it. My best friend told me that the main character reminded him of a female version of me in that I was always talking about how I was going to find the right person and we were going to get married and have a fantastic life together.
Somehow, I was unlike most of my male friends, many of whom had no interest in getting married — or at least not at the age we were at the time, which was about twenty-two. My friends were certainly interested in dating but not for the purpose of finding a long term commitment that would ultimately lead to marriage. Rather, they had more carnal short term goals in mind, and were interested in staving off loneliness at the same time — until they could find someone else with whom they could spend their time.
I remember reading at the time about really religious Jews in Israel for whom it was thought to be a shame if they were not married by the age of twenty-two or so. As I sat there reading the article I felt humbled as I had just about passed the age and I was nowhere near being in a place where I could say that I was getting ready to get married. At the same time, I was not interested in being a really religious Jew — certainly not the kind of lifestyle that was being depicted in the article. I didn’t realize at the time that only a couple of years later, I too would join the ranks of the more religiously observant Jews — and yet at the same time not lose a sense of who I was as an individual as I thought I surely would have to do.
Israel and the Ay Nay Nays
After making the acquaintance of Rabbi Goodman in New Brunswick and starting a solid education in what it meant to be a religious Jew, I spent a few months living at a religious school in Israel where I ended up staying only three months due to increasing tension between Israel and the terrorist organizations determined to destroy it. In this short period of time, however, I attended a few engagement parties and when I wished a warm congratulations (or mazel tov) to the person who was getting married, they would say “Soon by you” to me — in other words, they were giving me the blessing that this wonderful thing should soon happen to me.
I started getting a little irritated, strangely enough, when I would attend these functions and the gentlemen would chant odd songs with “lyrics” like “Oh oh oh oh AY AY AY AY” and the like — as though it were impossible to hum a melody without syllabic expression. I also wasn’t thrilled when person after person would say “Soon by you!” and my response was a gentle “Amen!” but I couldn’t help but think, “How soon?”
When I moved to the Upper West Side of New York, I thought it was just going to be a matter of time before I met the right person and we got married. I really tried, but that was all wrong. Ever since 2002 I have not written about being in a relationship in case I got it wrong — or at the very least I have not specifically referred to the person I was dating by name. I certainly haven’t written a single article claiming that I have finally found the right person until now.
Six Years to Marry
I started dating my fiancé Elizabeth a little more than six years ago. We met purely by happenstance — we both are friends with a girl and all of us have our own personal blogs. While I was Monsey, I happened to come across her journal when I saw a comment that she left for our mutual friend — a comment that I found to be hilarious. I added her journal to my list of journals that I read and she eventually added me back, though she thought that I was a girl for a long time because my username apparently didn’t give it away.
When she finally realized I wasn’t a girl we started corresponding. This led to our talking by phone, at which point I realized that I wanted to meet up with her. I told her immediately that I couldn’t get involved with her because she wasn’t Jewish and she told me a wonderfully fascinating story about how she had always been intrigued by the Jewish religion. I took it upon myself to teach her about the religion as I saw it and was curious to see if she would still be as interested once she knew Judaism as I knew it.
It turns out that knowing what I knew got her even more interested in the religion. After spending time with her in person I found myself really interested in her but I insisted that we couldn’t date if she wasn’t Jewish. She said that prior to meeting me she was pursuing conversion as a possibility and that now that she knew more about it she definitely wanted to go ahead with it.
We only started dating because my roommate at the time and one of my best friends told me that so long as she had a sincere interest in conversion, dating should not be a problem. In late 2004, we moved to Seattle thinking that it would be just as easy for her to convert there as it would have been anywhere else and it turns out that we were fundamentally wrong — we spent nearly four years living there and she did not progress in her conversion one iota — but it wasn’t her fault or because of her not wanting to make it happen.
The Seattle community at the time was not that receptive to Jewish conversion because it had been stung too many times by people who claimed that they wanted to convert for sincere reasons and then turned their back on the religion soon after converting. This was especially problematic for when they converted women because any children the women would have would be considered Jewish by Jewish law, even if the person who converted renounced her conversion.
So, we moved back to the New York area in August of 2008 on the advice of our rabbi and, after one and a half years, Elizabeth went to the mikva and emerged just as Jewish as any other one born from a Jewish mother.
A couple of weeks after she converted, I formally proposed to Elizabeth and now we are actually going to get married — just one week from today. “What’s the rush?” some of my friends have said — some actually not joking. After six years, it is hardly a rush.