When I Almost Converted to Judaism

Remember when I said that there would be more interjection-type, non-chronological posts? Well, here’s another one.

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time about five years ago that I nearly converted to Judaism.

Yep, that’s me.

I have mentioned a few times that I was a White Nationalist for the past ten years. However, it wasn’t always a constant. There were times that I retreated back a little and almost completely. Once I took a break from my hateful activities in between late 2012 and early 2013, the main reason being because I had been doing some heavy research into my family tree during that time. I was motivated to dispel the rumor that I had a Jewish ancestor and to somehow prove that my DNA test was wrong.

After weeks of exhaustive research on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and many other websites dedicated to genealogy, I ended up actually finding more evidence that I did indeed have a Jewish ancestor. A few days later, after much pondering over what to think and/or do about it, I decided to call a local synagogue and scheduled a personal meeting with a Rabbi. I told him everything that I had learned about myself and presented my DNA evidence. He was quick to inform me, though, that DNA didn’t make me Jewish. Judaism is a religion, not a race. Of course, due to my experience in racist circles, I didn’t understand that at first. At the time I believed Jews were a race, genetically separate from people of European extraction.

As our meeting ended, the Rabbi invited me to attend his weekly classes that he held for people who were interested in learning more about, and possibly wanting to convert to, Judaism. I jumped at the chance and started attending the very next week. Once a week I drove down to the synagogue and soaked up as much as I could about Judaism and Jewish practices. I bought a few books, as well, to see if I could catch myself up with the rest of the class.

I met some really nice people in those classes. Except for myself, everyone there was interested in actually converting to Judaism. It wasn’t until about a month later that I decided that I might actually be interested in converting myself. So, I began attending Saturday services. It was a little awkward at first because I was so used to the way Christian services went. The services at the synagogue had a lot of Hebrew and I wasn’t prepared for that, but I tried my best, sang like a cat being murdered, and eventually came to enjoy myself. I even started bring my children along with me.

Soon I was invited to the Purim festival and I also celebrated Pesach (Passover) with the congregation. I remember what the food would be like considering that it was to be kosher. It was surprisingly tasty. I’ll also never forget the Manischewitz wine. I’m not a big wine drinker but that stuff is awesome. It made for a good ice breaker between me and some of the members seated at the table with me that I wasn’t yet acquainted with. We had some great conversations and the kids had a blast.

As I got more comfortable attending services, I decided that perhaps I should try to incorporate some Jewish practices at home. At first I tried eating kosher. It might seem easy, but for me it wasn’t. Bacon and cheeseburgers had been a staple of my diet and were hard to let go of. After I got into the swing of kosher eating, I visited the synagogue’s shop where I purchased a candle holder and some candles. I brought them home and set them up and explained to my family that they were used for saying the Shabbat blessing. I taught my oldest daughter how to say the blessing and we did it together every Friday night.

Months went by and one Saturday when we were entering the synagogue for services, I remember the Rabbi saying something to the effect of “So, how are you feeling about your conversion process?” I said that things were going well and I felt good about it so far. That stuck in my mind for some reason during the service. Afterwards at home I did some more research into the conversion process. As it turned out, male converts to Judaism have to go through a ritual circumcision to “seal the deal”, so to speak, even if they were circumcised at birth. I won’t go into the details of that here as you can find out more with a Google search. Anyway, I can remember that causing me to pause and think about what I was doing. How did all this square with my line of thinking as far as race went? I didn’t know the answer because I hadn’t though much about race or the activities I had been involved in up until I started attending services there.

I don’t remember what exactly caused me to stop attending services or the classes the Rabbi held on Tuesdays, but I did. I didn’t go back to White Nationalism, yet, though. I simply took a break and started doing more research into Judaism.

It wasn’t long, though, until I felt like going back. But the research I’d being doing during my break actually had me interested in meeting with a Chabad Rabbi. I gave him a call and brought my entire family to meet him. The process was pretty much the same. He invited me to his weekly classes, I attended them, and soon after began attending their services. Theirs were quite a bit more traditional. Women and men sat on separate sides of the room and everything was in Hebrew. The men also wore Tzitzit and Tallit (prayer shawl). I felt really out of place at first, until I came in one day wearing my own Tzitzit, which I still have. I asked a congregation member to demonstrate how to properly wear the Tallit and away I went. It took much longer to get used to these services and I didn’t attend every Saturday, but eventually I became somewhat comfortable in what I was doing. I attended their Purim and Passover events, even bringing my children along to play games ride horses. At the Passover meal I remember seeing and speaking with the doctor who delivered my youngest daughter.

It was around this time that my wife purchased a Mezuzah for our home. A Mezuzah is decorative case with a piece of parchment inside which has Torah inscriptions on it. It is typically placed in doorways of Jewish homes. I placed mine at our front door. I also began wearing my Tzitzit and Kippah everywhere I went.

Our Mezuzah

I even bought a copy of the Tanya, which is an early work of Hasidic philosophy.

My copy of the Tanya

It was a tough read and I still don’t even know if I understood half of it, but it was interesting nonetheless. Funny enough, the stuff I remember most from it had to do with men growing beards and what I beard means to Hasidic or Orthodox Jews.

I attended services and classes for a few months longer, but began losing interest after a while. I can’t recall any specific reason why, really, but if you’ve been reading my posts thus far, it’s probably easy to guess what happened after I went hard and fast into studying and practicing Judaism. I ended up getting burned out and decided to drop it altogether. On top of being burned out, my genealogical research was turning up absolutely nothing with regard to my Jewish ancestor, so I suppressed all of it and went back to just living life.

It was only a matter of time, though, that I started getting back into White Nationalism. Towards the end of 2013 I was pretty much back to my old activities.

Well, that’s about all I have for now pertaining to this part of my life. There’s plenty more to tell and as I recall it I’ll add it either here or in a new story.

Thanks for reading!



Husband | Father | Former far-right extremist Twitter: @realjoshbates1

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Joshua Bates

Husband | Father | Former far-right extremist Twitter: @realjoshbates1