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July 28, 2010

Rabbi S and Rabbi M have agreed to meet me at the kosher pizza place on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem to talk about the recent controversial conversion bill in Israel, but only if I promise that I won’t use their full names in my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Converting to Judaism.

My book starts with the very first convert, the biblical Ruth who was the ancestor of King David, briefly mentions a few historical periods of philo-Semitism, then moves to other high-profile converts: Rabbi Akivah (his lineage is questionable), Sammy Davis Junior, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Back then, there weren’t so many people clamoring to be Jewish. Today, who knew, it’s become almost sexy to be Jewish, or at least to marry a Jew (90% of non-Jews don’t have a problem with marrying a Jew or with someone in their family marrying a Jew). But now that non-Jews want in, many Jews don’t want to let them in. I’m confused, which is why I’ve decided to meet with these two well-bearded ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

We order pizza and take our slices to a small, round table. Luckily, I have remembered to wear my turquoise Eilat-stone earrings which hide a small microphone, so I am able to record our off-the-record conversation. Glad I did, as it appears that even Benyamin Netanyahu and Elie Wiesel might truly be at risk. Here’s the conversion conversation:

Rabbi M: Not so many mushrooms. Usually, they give more mushrooms.

Rabbi S: The conversion bill, you asked about… How can I say? We have these Russians here in Israel, hundreds of thousands of them, nice people, very nice, nothing wrong with them.

Me: But they’re not Jewish?

Rabbi S: Not exactly. We can’t say. Who can say? We don’t know. Probably not.

Rabbi M: No. Definitely not. They are not born of a Jewish mother.

Rabbi S: Well, they serve in the army, they live here…

Rabbi M: The army, feh!

Me: You don’t think the army is important?

Rabbi M: Feh!

Rabbi S: And even the ones who say they converted here, what does that mean? You might convert, and then find out that the rabbi who converted you wasn’t kosher.

Me: What do you mean, he wasn’t kosher? He ate pork?

Rabbi M: (Laughs so hard he almost falls off the chair. Seriously.) No, oy gevalt, pork! No, he was just, let’s say, not so stringent. He wasn’t so careful about making sure the convert knew what he had to know or did what he had to do.

Me: (confused) The convert didn’t know Judaism?

Rabbi M: (impatient) No, no, he knew Judaism, he just wasn’t – you know. So Jewish.

Me: Not so observant?

Rabbi M: Yes, or maybe the rabbi was…

Rabbi S: (sternly) We’re not discussing the other rabbis…

Rabbi M: The rabbis, feh!

Me : Since you’re ultimately going to let those Russians convert, why not just do one mass conversion? I mean, the Khazars did it. I would bet that when the Khazar rulers and the people of the kingdom decided to convert to Judaism, they didn’t each individually have to undergo a conversion process. And at Mount Sinai, when the law was given, it was one mass conversion, right? It’s not like when the Muslims and Christians forced entire populations to convert. These Russians want to convert. Can it be that you don’t really want these people to become Jewish? Are you opposed to conversion in general?

Rabbi M: (suddenly erupting, as if the pizza has been lit on fire) You know, I see that all of these people want to be Jewish…

Rabbi S: Really? Who?

Me: Lindsay Lohan was wearing the Star of David, probably because of her Jewish girlfriend.

Rabbi M: (Sound of fist klopping against chest) Feh!

Me: Madonna.

(A heartfelt fist klopping and a louder “Feh!”)

Me: Demi Moore. Britney Spears, maybe. Ivanka Trump. There’s a rumor that Chelsea Clinton might, since she’s marrying a Jewish guy.

Rabbi S: Chelsea Clinton? First, her father and that Jewish Monica girl, now Chelsea…

Me: Why do either of you care if they become Jewish? Isn’t their personal faith their business?

Rabbi M: From where you get this idea that Judaism is about personal faith? Faith, feh!

Rabbi S: You can’t ‘feh’ faith, Moshe!

Rabbi M: I ‘feh’ faith if I want, and I ‘feh’ faith! Don’t get your titties in a twist!

Me: (shocked) What? His titties in a twist?

Rabbi S: Tzitzes, he said tzitzes, oy!

Me: (embarrassed): Oh, sorry.

Rabbi S: Why you think all of these people want to become Jewish?

Me: Faith, sometimes. Maybe they want to join a club that’s exclusive. It’s sexy.

Rabbi M: You don’t say? Jews are sexy?

Me: Not all Jews, but being Jewish is kinda sexy, yeah.

Rabbi M: I’m getting another slice, what about you?

Me: No, thanks.

Rabbi S: Tell them not to make it so hot this time. I burned the roof of my mouth.

Me (to Rabbi S): If you can say a rabbi was not really a legitimate rabbi and that therefore the conversion is illegitimate – then who’s to stop you from saying that a person who is born Jewish isn’t legitimately a Jew?

Rabbi S: (in a whisper) That’s the next step. Reb Moshe wants to publicly declare that some Jews who are Jews aren’t really Jews, you understand?

Me: (a bit confused) Like whom?

Rabbi S: (seeing Rabbi M. approach and speaking quickly) Rabbi Shmuely Boteach and his Kosher Sex nonsense. Netanyahu – he hates him. Elie Wiesel.

Me: (Shocked!) What?? He wants to strip Elie Wiesel of being Jewish?

Rabbi S: (quickly) Yes, it’s a plan of his, to determine and define who’s a real Jew. First, the converts, then the rest of – oh, good, that looks delicious.

(Silence as both rabbis snarf up their pizza)

Rabbi M: Not enough mushrooms, feh!

Rabbi S: Oy, stop feh’ing already! He loves to feh. Feh this, feh that.

Rabbi M: Very satisfying, feh’ing.

Me: (barely audible) Anyway, it’s easier.

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