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Moving to Dallas... to become not Jewish (again!)

The blame for this next step up in observance lays squarely on my wife's shoulders (hi, honey!). One small step in education, one giant leap in hashkafa (outlook).

When my oldest daughter was about to start 2nd grade, my job moved us to Dallas, Texas. I was working on the Superconducting Super Collider (RIP) project, and it had finally been decided to locate the lab south of Dallas. It just so happened (yeah, right...) that my wife mentioned the impending move to Dallas at a Sisterhood function and one of the lady's there just happened to have a sister in Dallas who just happened to be visiting for Thanksgiving. That sister called my wife to tell her about the Dallas Jewish community and to invite us for a Shabbos when we came down to look for a house. It came up that there was a Jewish day school in Dallas; then and there my wife decided we needed to take our children out of public school and take advantage of having a Jewish day school for them. Her decision was largely motivated by the fact that our daughter was already feeling some pressures because of eating only kosher snacks and not not being able to participate in functions (like birthday parties) that were on Saturdays. Being in a Jewish school, she reasoned, would solve those problems; and so it was decided.

We went to Dallas on our house hunting trip in December. We immediately became close friends with that family in Dallas (and, in fact, are close to this day) and enjoyed their shul, even though it was Orthodox. We had been leaning toward right-wing conservative anyway, so going to Orthodox with such a warm congregation did not seem so bad (despite the obvious problems, such as separate seating). We were very happy and went that Sunday to register our children in the day school. The headmaster gave us the forms and I noticed that there was a request for conversion papers if either parent had not been born Jewish. I first confirmed that since my wife was born Jewish, the children were 100% Jewish. Then I told him that I didn't have papers, but I had a conversion in Salt Lake City; that wouldn't be a problem would it? He then made an absolutely brilliant move. "Oh, I see your are going to Rabbi Rodin's shul. You should probably talk with him." I pressed, "But it is not a problem is it?" He persisted, "Oh, you should probably just talk with Rabbi Rodin." He sounded very laid back about it, and I interpreted that as a confirmation that there may be some technical/administrative issues, but that really there was no problem.

We went back to Chicago happy that we had new friends, a place to live, a shul to attend, and a school for our children. During my next trip to Dallas (a week or two later), I called Rabbi Rodin and told him there were a few things I would like to discuss with him. He said he was leaving town the next day and wondered if it could wait. "No problem", I said, "I just wanted to ask you about making our house strictly kosher so people in the neighborhood can all eat there." "That is wonderful! I am happy to help you with that when you move in." "Oh, and I also want to talk to you about upgrading my conversion. I had a conservative sort of conversion and the school said I should talk to you about it." "I can see you tonight; how is 9:00?" I noticed a slight shift in his tone. Still friendly (Rabbi Rodin is *always* friendly); but now some seriousness.

So I drove up to the north side of Dallas to see about upgrading my conversion. I couldn't imagine what the problem would be; turns out I had a pretty weak imagination. We started talking about my history and he started saying things such as, "It is really amazing that we can do conversions at all." and "I've done a few; some I am happy with others not." and "Maybe I could work with you as a candidate for conversion." To make a long and rather uncomfortable conversation short; I walked in as a Jew looking for an upgrade and walked out a goy who might might have potential.

I called my wife when I got back to my apartment and she asked how it went. I told here and said, "So there are three things he wants me to do to start this." "Yes?" "He wants me to keep strictly kosher. Not just reading labels, but really strict." "Ok, we talked about that anyway." "And he wants me to keep Shabbos 100% orthodox; not even use the phone." "Ok; I am not thrilled, but as long as I can still use the phone, I guess we can manage." "And one more thing." "Yes?" "He wants us to observe taharas hamishpacha. You know, mikveh."

Ever hear of the shot heard 'round the world? That was the silence heard 'cross the country.


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