Leaping Faiths, Part 3
My conversion day involved much more than the much-joked about 'snip'--and I knew it was just the start of my Jewish journey.Judaism. Read the first and second parts.
It was just a couple of weeks before my conversion, and five minutes into my conversation with Tracy, the receptionist at the Gerim Institute, when the inevitable question came up: "And now I need to ask," she said, "will you be having a token or real circumcision?" We had exhausted all the other logistics of my upcoming conversion--time, date, place, Jewish name, rabbis--but this was the big one. Male Jews are required by law to be circumcised; like most American guys my age, I already was. But even converts who are already circumcised are required by Jewish law to undergo a token circumcision, a quick drawing of blood by a mohel, or ritual circumciser. "Token," I told Tracy with a laugh.
I had endured months of joking from friends and family about the imminent "snip." If it wasn't the first question everyone asked when I told them I was converting, it was certainly the second. "Are we invited to the bris?" my friends wanted to know. "Noah, I hope you can afford to lose an inch or so," many joked.
My token circumcision was performed at the mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath where I would convert. It was a minor operation, despite the hype. The mohel put on plastic gloves, matter-of-factly drew the required blood, and dabbed the blood on a swab, which he then presented as evidence to thebet din
, the court of three rabbis who would question me before my conversion.
After my circumcision, Sara and I went out to lunch with Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, the rabbi I had met with frequently to discuss the conversion process. We arrived back at the mikveh at quarter to one and stood around the lobby for a bit, waiting for my turn with the bet din. The mikveh, Mayyim Hayyim, is located in Newton, Mass., and just opened this past spring. It sits in a small, colonial-era house, renovated in a smart-looking modern design. In the back of the building, there are two ritual baths, separated by a sky-lit common area and each connected through a pipe to a pool of "living water" collected from rain outside the building. The baths were closed in and each had an adjoining bathroom/waiting room. Earthen stone tiles, hard wood, and comfortable, spacious bathrooms made it feel more like day spa than a religious center. By late June, the time of my appointment, roughly 150 people had visited the mikveh in its first few months of operation, 50 of them for conversion.