Tonight I attended a shiva minyan for a friend whose mother died recently. She is a member of a Reform synagogue and there was a Maariv service. Her Reform congregation is more "traditional" than most Reform shuls and the service did have many parts of the traditional liturgy, including many parts of the regular 18 benedictions. But I was a little disappointed to find that the section of the Reform Maariv about the righteous ("ha-tzadikim") omitted the traditional mention of righteous converts ("gerei ha-tzedek"). The omission was not solely due to the general abbreviation of the liturgy, since some or all of the other groups of people such as the scholars were still mentioned. So I think I am right that the reason the mention of converts is omitted is the feeling that it is not nice to single them out because that's like not rubbing it in that they are "different" from Jews by birth. However, are the shul presidents and rabbis and scholars embarrassed about their groups being mentioned? And I personally like this small mention which feels like the liturgy is speaking directly to me, as one of those "gerei ha-tzedek". It is clearly such a positive reference and it's not like converts are supposed to point to themselves when they read that line.
i think i would appreciate the omission, because to me it speaks to a belief that we are all Jews, period, after conversion. But I guess it depends on your particular view Some people identify as Jews-by-choice, whereas, I would not; to me a jew is a jew.
In my case, I'm used to the traditional version of the prayer. So it is kind of like hearing a song you know well enough to sing along that has a verse that you really like because it mentions a situation that you experienced in your own life. And then you hear the song with that verse missing. I don't primarily identify as a "Jew by choice" rather than "just Jewish", but it is an aspect of my identity that is different from those who are Jews by birth.
It is similar to the fact that I have degrees in Mechanical Engineering and I also happen to be a woman which puts me in a definite minority in that field. (A quick Google search turned up one claim that only 6% of Mechanical Engineers are women.) So there are sometimes references specifically to women engineers, and as long as they are positive, I think it is probably good because reminding people about positive things about women engineers even though it means "singling them out" may help change people's subconscious negative views about women in male-dominated fields. (Speaking of which, I was so proud of the undergraduate women, two whom I knew from my own department, who were recently featured in an article about the surprisingly fact that all three of the vehicle-building student groups of the university were headed by female students last year.)
Back to "Jews by Choice": Historically, and still today in some Jewish communities (especially the more traditional ones), there have been (are) negative views of converts to Judaism, and I think the mention in the liturgy is meant to help counteract that. The phrase in the liturgy also mentions scholars and leaders of the Jewish community so the way I read the line is that the converts are considered just as Jewish as those others in the list, and that along with the other groups in the list they are just being noted as being "special" in a good way.
Last Edit: Dec 19, 2013 15:06:59 GMT -5 by Debbie B.