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The item in the bombastic journalist’s biography that sticks with me is conversion to Catholicism. The story illustrates a general rule I articulated in Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. While non-Jews who convert to Judaism often come from seriously religious Christian backgrounds, Jews who adopt Christianity nowadays almost without exception are people who never connected with Judaism educationally and/or emotionally. They convert from ignorance, from innocence. This wasn’t always true — it used to be that Jewishly educated Jews not infrequently converted whether from fear or ambition. But today, in the absence of such motives, it almost never happens.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): As the hard-bitten, often acerbic columnist traces his spiritual growth. He was raised by loving Jewish parents in a modest home in Joliet, Illinois.??
NOVAK: The family was not very observant. My father had never been Bar Mitzvahed and his father was not a very good Jew but I was Bar Mitzvahed.??
WOODRUFF: Novak calls the event his last association with Judaism. He says he never really connected with the faith.??So, the years passed and the little boy grew up, left for college, moved to Washington, became a fixture on the political scene, got married, had children and grandchildren, a full life, yet something was lacking.??
NOVAK: I was kind of feeling a spiritual need all those years. My wife Geraldine and I went to an Episcopalian Church for a while. Oh, it just seemed very political to me that a guy so liberal was talking about opposing the war in Vietnam and I didn’t want to hear that when I went to church. I wanted something spiritual.
WOODRUFF: Then in the early ’90s, the Novak’s discovered St. Patrick’s Catholic parish. They started attending services every Sunday.??
NOVAK: I liked them very much because they were about God and redemption and we’re all sinners but there is forgiveness and there was almost never anything political.??
WOODRUFF: But conversion was something he never contemplated until the late ’90s. He was in Syracuse giving a speech and he met a young woman and they got to talking about religion.??
NOVAK: And she said “Are you going to convert?” And, I said “No, we have no such plans.” And, she said “Well, Mr. Novak” she said, “Life is temporary but faith is eternal.”??
WOODRUFF: So one brief conversation with someone was enough to turn the key???
NOVAK: Well, it was the Holy Spirit talking to me. It was telling me that it was time to go. I had that feeling.
It’s a heartbreaking exchange and an indictment of the way Judaism has been presented to Jews, going back decades.