As a convert, I have always had an different experience with Jewish politics than some people who are born Jewish. I am late coming to the game and feel as if I am always trying to play catch up. Much like a child who has missed an important lesson and is trying to become even with their peers, I too have to strive to catch up. Many people who are born Jewish have an idea of Israel and Jewish politics that has been formed early on and is influenced perhaps by the politics they grew up with.

As a convert, I have to intentionally seek out opportunities to learn more about key Jewish political issues. I have to make time for those few times when a class is offered or a lecture booked. I have to discover which newspapers have which slant and where I fall on the spectrum of liberal and conservative. Becoming Jewish was not just about joining the religious side of Judaism, but it was also about joining into a culture. From my first steps coming into Judaism, Israel has always played a huge part of my Jewish education. Alongside my religious studies, I had to find a way to join the conversation. When my conversion was complete, many times the first question Jews and non-Jews asked me was what I thought about Israel. At first, I was baffled and unsure. I was afraid of the conversation. I was afraid of stepping on toes and afraid of insulting others. I was afraid that ig I learned more, that I might have a different opinion than those around me.

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What I came to realize is what is really important to me. First, education. There needs to be more opportunities within the Jewish community for people to learn more about these important topics. Classes or lectures are a good start, but there needs to be more effort made. Discussion panels and informative opposing viewpoints are important. New Jews and those who were born Jewish should have equal access to more knowledge about topics that are important to the broad Jewish community. Current events should not be as hard to decipher as astrophysics.


Secondly, I think it is important to explore these topics from a religious perspective. How does my current view point line up with my Jewish beliefs and ethics? Do they match? Is their any conflict. For me, I am all about peace. I will not pretend to understand or have made a way bring about peace but I want that to be my motivating factor, the thing I never lose sight of. In Judaism, there is such importance placed on peace and how we treat and deal with others. We cannot call Israel a Jewish State and then ignore what makes it Jewish. A lot of my criticism of the current government in Israel is the treatment of refugees. 

In the broader sense, I have to find my place as an American Jew. Being a Jew in the Diaspora involves maintaining a relationship with Israel and looking out for Israel. I might not or I may agree with how my government in America deals with Israel but it is important to recognize that being a Jew in America is much different than being a Jew in Israel. As a convert that was something I had to learn, I just assumed being a Jew was being a Jew. There are so many different levels of observance and than you add politics and nationality to the mix and it can be confusing for someone who is new to the discussion.

The most important advice I would give to a new Jew is to seek out ways to be educated in Jewish politics and have a voice. Your voice is important! The Pirkei Avot says to find yourself a teacher. Find a rabbi or someone you trust to help you learn more about the important topics. 


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