A discussion developed in the comments of the Daas Torah blog about how members of the Orthodox community treat gerim poorly. Another gyoress and I were invited to write a guest post about this treatment. The other girl declined. I would first like to qualify the scope of this writing as only dealing with the negative experiences that I and some of my friends and acquaintances have encountered. I have had positive experiences, as well. Unfortunately, though, I've had far more negative experiences than positive ones.
One of the community’s favorite places to go after a gyoress is the Shabbos table. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been at a meal and someone has just ransacked me with questions and comments that were wholly out of line. The converts and conversion candidates themselves are just as guilty as the others. I had a convert tell me at a meal that the host had told her I was a convert and she was too. She would like to hear my story. I told her I would be happy to remember her Email address and send it to her later. She declined. What was the purpose of announcing to the other guests at the meal that I was a gyoress in such a manner? In the incident with a conversion candidate, she asked me, “what’s your background?” I said, “what’s yours?” She said she was Catholic her whole life. I didn’t feel like arguing and dealing with such a thing.
One of my favorite insulting actions that members of the community do, is they start trying to talking me out of converting-except AFTER I’ve converted. So, I tell them this. They continue with comments about how I don’t need to keep the mitzvos because I’m not Jewish. I tell them very strongly, “I have already converted. You are telling a Jew to go off the derech.” They keep on with it.
Another jem is how they treat me when it comes to shidduchim. At the beginning of last semester, I was at the shul of a rabbi who I had used for a shidduch reference. He totally caught me off guard and embarrassed me profusely. He nonchalantly asks me, “You’re dating a rabbi, right?” “no…” with a really perplexed look on my face. He continues, “Well, they called me for a shidduch reference and I gave them a good one.” “I went out with one once.” “Why didn’t you go out a second time?” “Yeah, well, these guys don’t want to marry a gyoress. They think it’s a big joke to go out with one and try to prove I didn’t deserve to be converted by grilling me on Talmud and seeing if they can find something I don’t know.” The rabbi says to me, “Well, if you don’t get married, you won’t stay observant.” I’m thinking, but not saying, “Thanks for tell ME what I’M going to do.” He continued, with statements like: you have to get married, you didn’t like anything about the FIVE guys you went out with? (You’d think I had said 500) This continued on as I tried to defend myself. I was told, “women know what to do to get a man to marry her.” If I didn’t know, I should, “Read a book and learn!” I said, “I don’t have time.” Maybe that was too nice. Maybe, “I refuse to study manipulation tactics out of a book,” would have been a better statement.
Since shadchanim aren’t so nice to anyone, you can imagine what they do to me. I was offered a guy who doesn’t keep Shabbos. He has a “job problem,” you see. Another shadchanit started telling me about a 44-year old Yeshivish man, but something gave me a clue to inquire if he was for me. She said, “oh, no! I thought you could find someone for him for me.” Then she told me he was shorter than me. I’m 5-4. It seemed odd to me that she didn’t tell me this when she was telling me about him, if I was really supposed to set him up. Also, I was offered a blind guy at one point. The woman who Emailed this to me said it was someone else’s idea and wouldn’t tell me who.
Moving from set ups, to dates themselves and the feedback. I went out with a guy who asked me on a date various questions. One of them was, “do you know what bishul akum is?” Unless a girl went to seminary, do you think she would know it by name? Of course if I knew the principle as the “gentile can’t light the flame thingy,” does it matter if I don’t know the term “bishul akum”? It turned out I am friends with his cousin who informed me that I’m not on his level. If he wanted a seminary girl, he shouldn’t have accepted a date with me. He admitted it was just nosy curiosity about a gyoress.
Some miscellaneous insults from the community include strangers just asking point blank, “are you a gyoress?” One girl started asking me, “Do you have a blue skirt? Do you own a brown skirt? Do you own any gray skirts?” I think she was trying to see if I had enough skirts for a frum wardrobe. Not at a Shabbos table but at someone’s house on Shabbos, their guest grilled me as to why I wasn’t at a parent or other relative’s house-surely there must be someone…
After so many incidents like this, I stay home by myself on Shabbos. I don’t want to be around anyone anymore. I’ve come to hate people enough. I just don’t have the energy to constantly defend myself on a day when I, as a Jewish woman, am entitled to rest. I think, though, they feel it doesn’t apply to me. In the minds of some, I will never be Jewish.