I am African American, and have a strong desire to convert. I live in the southern United States, have read hundreds of books and material on websites about Judaism and attended Reform and Conservative synagogues. I have no ulterior motive for converting, yet I feel that I am not welcome in the community. I feel that a certain social and economic position is required in order to be accepted. I identify strongly with the Jewish people; I lived in Germany and visited the sites of concentration camps. I study Hebrew and celebrate the Sabbath. I would really appreciate your help in dealing with these issues.
Conservative congregations welcome people who want to study Judaism and eventually convert. I would suggest that you talk to the local Conservative rabbi (we can provide you with contact information) and see if you can join a conversion class. The local rabbi is the right person to help you along in the process. Have you been in touch with him/her, or with a rabbi of another denomination? Orthodox rabbis usually have much stricter requirements for a potential conversion candidate.
I don't know why you have all these doubts regarding the possibility of conversion. You should rest assured that considerations of race, social position or economic status have no relevance in the conversion process. Some people may be prejudiced, and that is most unfortunate. If you are not already aware of this, thousands of Ethiopian Jews, live in Israel and abroad, who are considered 100% Jewish. The only requirement is the sincere will to join the Jewish people and to observe the commandments of our faith.
I commend you for starting the process on your own, through personal practice at home and synagogue attendance. It will, however, be much easier and more natural if you do it within the community. I hope that you can find your place within the local community.
Have a Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Diana Villa