Question for My Readers: Conversion

I am working on a project about the experience of conversion to Judaism, and there’s a question I’d like to ask of my readers who converted to Judaism. If you choose to participate, please answer via the Comments on this post.

Please only answer this if you became a Jew after your birth, and you have completed that process – you are officially Jewish.

At what point in the process of conversion or after did you feel unequivocably Jewish?  Was it at some point in the year of living Jewishly, or during your study, or after brit milah, or after the beit din, or after the mikveh, or at some event later? Be as specific as you can – I’m looking for a particular moment at which you were clear that you were definitely Jewish and not anything else.

There are no wrong answers to this question, and I ask readers not to comment on the answers anyone leaves here. I promise to delete any comments upon comments for this one.

I also certainly understand if you prefer not to answer.

Thank you to all who participate!

An Apology to My Readers

Image: Me at the computer with my assistant, Gabi the poodle. Photo by Linda Burnett.

I thought polls would be an interesting addition to the blog.

I thought I’d figured out how to do them.

I thought I had written a pretty good poll.

And now I know I have a lot to learn about poll making and

I am going to keep working on using polls, but this week’s attempt was a not-ready-for-the-Internet production.

I’m really sorry I made a mess.

I will leave it up because some of the comments are really quite interesting, but due to the problems with the poll, don’t try to draw any conclusions from the “results.”

Now, back to the keyboard to figure this thing out!

Thank you for your patience and readership.


Caution: Blogger at Work

You may notice over the next few days that I’m playing with the website. It came to my attention that it was running very slowly, especially on smartphones and other small screens.

After a little study on what makes WordPress sites do that, I’m trying out some new “themes” that I hope will run much better. If you have feedback about the look of the blog or the speed at which it loads, I’m all ears. Please understand, though, that since this is a DIY operation, I may or may not be able to implement your ideas!

As a certain Star Trek character* once said, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!” I’m a rabbi, not a website designer, so my skills are limited. Thanks very much for your patience as I tinker.

*Dr. Leonard McCoy, in “Devil in the Dark” (March 1967)

2017 Summary

Image: Stick figure of a girl pulling a wagon labeled “2017” loaded with red hearts. (danielam/pixabay)

Cheshboniut is Hebrew for “accounting,” and the turning of the Gregorian calendar is a great time for a little accounting. The blog went up in readership this year, from 226,465 separate views to 290,590 views. 4,068 people follow the blog via WordPress subscription or email. In the slowest month (December) people accessed the blog over 600 times a day. In the busiest month (September) there were twice as many “hits”: 1,200 a day.

What were all these folks reading?

The ten articles accessed most often in 2017:

The top ten new articles in 2017:

Some questions for regular readers:

  • Do you have a favorite post from this year?
  • Are there topics you’d like to see more often or in more depth?
  • Do you ever use the “Search” box at the right to find topics?

Thank you for a great year!



I Was Curious: Here’s Who’s Reading

Image: Woman reading from her computer screen with cup in hand. (Shutterstock photo ID: 377318731. All rights reserved.)

Wow! I am so grateful for all the responses I received to the post I’m Curious: Who is Reading? To date, there have been 51 respondents, far more than I dared to hope when I posted the survey.

I’ve learned a lot, and it will definitely help me in keeping this blog fresh and interesting for you. Here is the raw data:

  1. How do you identify?
    1. 29 identified as “Jewish”
    2. 14 identified as “Not Jewish”
    3. 1 identified as “both”
    4. 3 identified as having “Jewish heritage,” 1 as having discovered Crypto-Jews in the family tree.
    5. A number of you converted to Judaism and mentioned it.
  2. How much Jewish education have you had?
    1. 10 said “None.”
    2. None said, “Some, but don’t remember much.”
    3. 11 went to Religious School.
    4. 2 went to a Jewish Day School or something like it.
    5. 20 reported doing most of their learning as adults.
    6. 2 have degrees in Jewish studies.
    7. And two of you are Jewish professionals.
  3. Movements, etc.:
    1. 17 Reform
    2. 1 Renewal
    3. 3 Modern Orthodox or similar
    4. 2 Reconstructionists
    5. 5 Conservative
    6. 2 “Just Jewish” or similar
    7. 7 “Just Curious”
    8. 4 identified as Episcopalians
    9. 1 identified as Mormon
    10. 5 identified as Multi- or Post-denominational

If the numbers don’t seem to add up quite right, it’s because some readers reported falling into more than one category. That’s fine with me.

I was aware that this blog had two groups of clients. The first, for whom I originally designed it, are people seeking very simple, accessible information about Jewish topics. Most of those people access the blog via search engines, at the rate of about 600 “hits” a day. I’m glad to serve them with answers about what to wear to Jewish funerals, and Bar/Bat Mitzvah etiquette.

Regular readers, those of you who replied to the survey, were quite a surprise. Many of you have made a serious project of studying Judaism as adults. You are sophisticated learners and bring your own insights to the material. However, you aren’t a homogenous group – there’s a nice leavening of beginners, too.

My takeaway from this is that I should not be shy about offering studies on short Jewish texts and other more challenging material. That’s good, because I have covered as many beginner topics as I can think of (which is why I love questions so much – I can remember being a beginner, but I’ve forgotten some things, too.)

Thank you all for participating in the survey! You add to my learning, and for that I am very grateful!

I’m Curious: Who is reading?

Image: A picture of Jojo the poodle, to reward regular readers who read this post and consider answering the questions.

Instead of a blog post, I’m going to ask some questions, and I would be most grateful to those who answer in the comments. There are no wrong answers, just a desire on my part to learn more about my regular readers.

  1. Do you identify as:
  • Jewish
  • Not Jewish
  • Partly Jewish


2. How much Jewish education have you had?

  • None at all.
  • Some, but I don’t remember anything from it.
  • Several years of religious school
  • Several years of Jewish day school / cheder / yeshiva
  • I have several years of synagogue-based study as an adult.
  • I have a degree in Jewish Studies.
  • I am a professional Jew (rabbi, chazzan, educator, administrator, other)

3. Which of these categories best matches your Jewish identity?

  • Reform
  • Renewal
  • Orthodox
  • Reconstructionist
  • Conservative
  • Just Jewish
  • Just Curious

Thank you!

I Think I’ve Got It.

Image: Swiss Army Knife. Public Domain.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I felt like changing the look of my blog. What I finally decided was that I didn’t like all the blinkety-shminkety from the ads, I didn’t like the green background, and that this new theme would be better.

I DID listen to your comments, and I think I have something that will please the majority of commenters. At any rate, I like it. I hope you will speak up if you don’t like something, or if you do – I am a tinkerer by nature, so it’s never completely done.

And now for a little ad of my own:

Yesterday I posted about Steps to Success, a truly wonderful project. I am so enthused over these women that I will give a one-hour Skype study session to anyone who gives them $35 using this link. Your choice of text, OR if you want to spend it telling me all about how horrible Religious School was at temple when you were a kid, I will listen with care and respect.

She’s Tinkering Again!

Car Repair. Photo by davidpheat/Pixabay.

Yes, I’m tinkering with the blog again. I wanted links that stood out more clearly. I wanted a format that would work better with Google AdSense. I wanted something fresh and new.

So you may see things shifting around on your page. I’m not done. If something bothers you, speak up. If you like something, speak up. I’m listening, but not necessarily taking orders.

I have begun allowing ads on the blog in the hopes of defraying some of the cost of this blog. While it is possible to run it on a shoestring, after seven years of shoestringing I thought I’d give the ads a try. Again, listening for feedback here!

AND: Ask the rabbi something! Topics, topics, I need topics! What did you see at synagogue that seemed mysterious, weird, or wrong? What did someone tell you “All Jews Do” and you just wondered? What tchotchke [trinket] do you have around the house that belonged to your grandmother and it has Hebrew letters on it and you don’t know what it is?


Chart Toppers of 2016

Image: “2016” in a dark hand against a background of amber lights. Geralt/Pixabay.

I like taking stock of things, and year’s-end is a good time to do it.

Many people sought out the blog from search engines, looking for answers to particular questions. They were, in fact, the bulk of the readers.

The ten articles accessed most often in 2016:

Most of these are “oldies but goodies” from previous years that answer basic questions. That’s fine with me: the original purpose of this blog was to support my Intro students and others on the outskirts of the Jewish world with basic information in plain English.

The top five new articles in 2016:

Last year the top new articles came from reader questions. In 2016 they came from current events, large and small.

Here is the data from 2016 in CoffeeShopRabbi Land:

The last post of 2016 was my 286th post of the year, down from 327 posts last year.

There have been 157,985 visits in 2016, up from 121, 794 visitors to this blog in 2015.

There were 226,465 page views in total, up from 190,063 page views.

There were 1,385 comments, down from 1,868 last year.

My reading of this:  I met my goal of working a little smarter to reach a few more people. On the other hand, some of you were quieter. Any ideas why?

Here’s to a good year of writing and reading ahead!



Milestone Survey

Image: An odometer. Photo by Rabbi Ruth Adar.

This is the 1000th entry on this blog.

I started this round of blogging in August of 2011, with this entry. 1000 posts later, there is still lots more Basic Judaism to learn and to teach.

Here are some questions, as I begin the next thousand entries. Answer one or all of them in the comments.

  1. Do you have a favorite article on this blog? Which one? Why?
  2. What topic would you like to learn more about?
  3. Is there a topic you’re tired of me covering?
  4. If I were to self-publish a collection of articles from the blog about the Jewish Holidays, for instance, would you be interested enough to purchase it?
  5. Is there a social media platform where you wish I would list new posts?
  6. What Jewish experience has been the most moving in your life?
  7. Which Jewish experiences did you feel were overrated?

I look forward to getting to know you better.