Menachem Mendel Bluming received this question this week:
I am angry. I was brought up Jewish, attended a Jewish school, and have only known Judaism as my religion. Now I am told I have to convert, because my mother never formally became Jewish. Isn’t it a little unfair that all my life I was more Jewish than my friends, was subjected to anti-Semitism, and then I am told I need to convert?!
Here’s a thought:
I completely understand your frustration. It can’t be easy to hear that you need to convert to your own religion. But please don’t take it personally. This is not a reflection on you. The entire Jewish nation went through exactly what you are going through now.
After leaving Egypt, where they suffered as slaves and were tormented for being Jewish, the Israelites reached Mount Sinai. There they were told they had to formally accept the Torah, and convert to Judaism by immersing in a mikvah.
They could’ve had the same complaint as yours. We’ve always been Jewish, we have even suffered for it, and now we’re told we need to become Jewish?!
Indeed they were already Jewish in the ethnic sense, they were born into the Jewish clan, but they had not yet committed to the Jewish mission. Only by sincerely accepting the Torah did they take on the complete Jewish identity in body and neshamah/soul.
The Israelites of old had a moment of truth. Am I ready to stand before G-d and commit myself to being Jewish? Not just for a day or a week or a yea but for generations. And they said yes.
That power of that moment still reverberates to this day. All Jews alive today are descended from a mother who converted to Judaism, who took that plunge, either at Mount Sinai or sometime since then.
Now you have your moment of truth. You can be culturally and ethnically Jewish, as you already are. Or you can stand at your own Sinai and say yes to G-d.
Put aside the frustration and take this decision seriously. If you don’t go ahead, you leave things hanging for your children and theirs. But if you do it, your commitment is forever, for all generations, once and for all.
Menachem Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org