Jewish Teens/On not-converting

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Question
Hello!
For the last several months I've been experiencing what I suppose you could call a "religious crisis." I've been questioning pretty much everything that I believe (I'm 16 - so far I've been raised Catholic), and my search has led me to Judaism. I've done lots of research, essentially reading every book my library has regarding world religions, and I have come to a single conclusion. There's something very intangible about it, something that I cannot quite explain, but I feel very drawn to Judaism.
My parents have been very supportive of my journey so far, but they will not let me undergo a formal conversion at least until I'm 18, and they highly recommend waiting until I've finished college. My proposal is that I attend a synagogue and celebrate festivals just as I would if I were converting, but without being approved by a bet din and being immersed in the mikveh and so on and so forth.
Is this okay? Are there certain festivals that I cannot/should not celebrate because I'm technically a gentile? Would I be accepted in a synagogue if I wanted to fully participate without converting? Are there any potential roadblocks or problems with this plan?
I very much appreciate any insight you can give.
Thank you!

Answer
Hi Rachel

Your parents sound both supportive and pragmatic, which is very helpful in a quest like yours. I would recommend getting in touch with the rabbi- or better the rabbi's wife- before you go to synagogue. As it is, you will need someone to guide you along the way and, of course, they will be able to tell you what is and isn't advisable/appropriate at each step of the way.

If there is a Chabad community in your area, I would suggest getting in touch with them as Chabad rabbis and rebbetzins are very approachable and will also be honest with you as to how you should proceed and what other spiritual alternatives you may want to consider (like the Noahide approach, which is the Torah system for gentiles to follow. Conversion is a huge undertaking and complete lifestyle change. We don't believe that you have to be Jewish to have a relationship with G-d, so the Noahide approach offers that opportunity to experience the spirituality and connection without the complete lifestyle shift).

Good luck!

Sincerely,

Rabbi Shishler

Jewish Teens

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Rabbi Ari Shishler

Expertise

As a campus rabbi, who teaches both religious and non-religious Jewish teens every day, I'm ready and waiting for your questions.

Experience

I spent six years as the head of the Chabad House Young Adults' Division in Johannesburg, South Africa, before moving to learning director. I am the campus rabbi at the Witwatersrand University and University of Johannesburg and was the campus rabbi at Boston City Campus in Johannesburg for six years. I have worked closely with the South African Union of Jewish students since 1997. For the past eight years, I have been a guest lecturer at the Johannesburg "Encounter" program for King David High Schools. I have also spent two years as guest rabbi at the "Encounter" program in Cape Town. King David High Schools, Yeshivah College and Crawford High Schools invite me regularly to speak to various classes. Since 1996, I have been teaching Talmud at a local religious high school.

Organizations
Chabad-Lubavitch South African Rabbinical Association

Publications
Monthly column in Jewish Life magazine, South Africa. Jewish Tradition, South Africa. Jewish Report, South Africa South African Union of Jewish Students annual Holiday guide. Jewish Observer, South Africa. Nshei Chabad Newsletter, NY. Online Jewish Magazine www.chabad.org

Education/Credentials
After completing high scool, I spent six years studying in Rabbinical seminaries in South Africa, Israel and New York.

Past/Present Clients
www.askmoses.com www.chabad.org

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