The lifestyle of an Orthodox Jew may seem like an odd choice for someone with the title of “beauty and lifestyle director” at a high-end fashion magazine, but this was the choice made by Jessica Diner in 2013, when she underwent a conversion. She describes the journey to Judaism as “three years of study preceded by two years of careful reflection,” requiring “immeasurable patience and immense love,” all made possible by “a lifetime of subconscious preparation.”
I chose to do an Orthodox conversion—a process that you have to want to embark on from the depths of your soul. It requires dedication and desire beyond any [romantic] relationship. . . . As dramatic as it sounds, this was my destiny.
A conversion to Judaism sees you learn and live all aspects of Jewish life. There is no masking the fact that it is a huge transition. I was still maintaining my job at Vogue, and the continuity of work that I adore grounded my experience—a typical week could see me going from backstage at London Fashion Week in the day to three hours with my Jewish- studies teacher that night.
Observing the Sabbath in the early days of the conversion seemed like such an insurmountable notion, too. Downing tools and going offline for 25 hours each week? An impossible task for someone with a busy work and social life. But as with every part of the process, it slowly infused into my everyday. The Sabbath is a time for self-reflection and to connect exclusively with friends and family. . . . When people find out I have converted, they are always intrigued about what they perceive to be restrictions, not realizing the positive reinforcement that these traditions bring. I genuinely can’t envisage life any other way.
Diner reckons as well with the less appealing consequence:
My son’s Jewish primary school has security guards and surveillance at the gate; I am fearful for my husband and oldest son walking to synagogue on Saturday mornings wearing their kippahs; and the community has security walkthroughs in advance of significant Jewish holidays in case of an attack—all poignant reminders that the world we live in now, for all its wokeness, still poses a simmering threat to the Jewish community.