Sunday, April 29, 2012

Popular Blogger (and Patrilineal Jew) David Wilensky Explains His Decision to Do a Conversion

A lot of debate was stirred up earlier this month when popular blogger and patrilineal Jew David Wilensky* wrote an article for Forward entitled "What Would You Call Me: Patrilineal Jew Laments Need for 'Conversion'.  Wilensky did actually get a conversion, and, what's more, he defends his action as the right choice for someone in his situation: a Reform Jew whose commitment to Jewish life enables him to participate at a high level in synagogue (i.e. aliyot, leading davening) but whose patrilineal descent paradoxically places him outside the pale of halakhic Jewish identity for the Conservative synagogue he is currently attending.  A quote:
Bette reichman,
My conversion was at once both absurd and a practical necessity: absurd because I know that I have always been a Jew, and a necessity because of my increasing disinterest in the corners of religious Jewry where my Jewishness goes unquestioned. I wanted to participate fully in the ritual life of the synagogue I happen to attend. To do so honestly, I had to take the plunge.
From Wilensky' followup blog post (cross-posted to Jewschool), it seems that his decision is making quite a stir in some circles.

I'm personally not at all surprised by this turn of events.  The Reform movement's decision to recognize patrilineal descent occurred in 1983, and Wilensky is part of the first generation of Jews to grow up after that decision.  (For this reason I--and many others--find his decision to be a notable development.)  A growing post-denominationalism among our generation of Jews--combined with a strong sense of personal identification with and connection to klal Israel across denominational lines--set the context for Wilensky's decision (and also explain why I empathize with him).

* formerly of The Reform Shuckle; now at well as editor at New Voices

1 comment:

Dan Benzvi said...

it is astounding that no one under the UMJC wings (which also goes against Halacha on this)ever commented. I guess they are busy whipping the eggs off their faces.......