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The story goes that a Rabbi was visiting his neighbors, and found one of them cooking his dinner, which was a young goat, boiling in goat's milk. The Rabbi found it abhorrent to cook a child in its mother's milk. So, thereafter, it was not kosher to cook meat and anything dairy together, or eat them at the same meal. (so no cheeseburgers) Orthodox and most Conservative Jews don't even use the same pots, pans, plates or utensils to eat meat or dairy.
Kosher applies to more things than just what foods to mix. Other foods cannot be eaten, like shellfish, rabbit, and pork. The meat products that can be eaten are kosher (kashrut) only if the animal is slaughtered in a humane fashion, and the majority of the blood drained from the meat. Certain parts of the animal may not be consumed, like the liver and brain. Any alcoholic beverage is only considered kosher if it is made by Jews.
Another story says that at the Creation, G-d did not intend humans to eat animals. When humans started to kill and eat animals, G-d was horrified. Later, He granted a dispensation, but handed down the kashrut (kosher laws) so that the animal would not suffer too much. This I find interesting in sharp contrast to the Catholic position that animals do not have souls or feelings.
With all that to remember, no wonder so many Jews are vegetarians.
Four (major) branches of Judaism. Orthodox(tough), Conservative(less tough), Reform, and Reconstructionist(über-tough).
I am a Reform Jew. This is the most lenient sept of Judaism, which doesn't even require me to keep kosher, or a lot of other things other branches would. The only other branch that would even accept my conversion to Judaism would be Conservative, and then only if I married a born-Jewish man.
I converted to Judaism when I was 13 after reading The Source by James Michener. This wtf poll says a lot about why I converted. Also, my mom's Catholic. What better form of rebellion?
Hmm. This was a while ago.
First I had to find a rabbi to teach me. He asked me some stuff, like if I was being pressured to convert by anyone. After that, I joined a class of other converts. Once a week, we'd get together with the rabbi and he'd teach us. There was a lot of reading. I mean, a lot of reading, even for me. The teaching process took a few months. Six? Eight? I don't remember. Then some members of the congregation fired off different questions at me. I was so nervous, I don't remember what they asked or what I answered. But they accepted me, so I guess it was fine. I remember the other converts had to choose Jewish names, but I already had an acceptable one. Then there was the mikvah, a ritual immersive bath meant for purification. And then there was the announcement of conversion, which was pretty much like a party at the synagogue.
The hardest part was explaining to my family that I was going to be Jewish. My parents have now pretty much accepted it, but my grandparents still pretend it didn't happen.
I'd help you but I'm only 1/8th genetically German Arab Jew...My ancestors converted to Christianity when they came here, but my whole family is Atheist. I do know a fair amount about it but not enough.