Surely the leopard cannot change his spots
Nor the Moor his skin. Is that not impossible?
So does the Jew remain a deceiver
Although he's been baptized and ask like a Christian.
I'm speaking of the majority. Out of hundreds…
Perhaps one will remain a true believer.
Riederer, introduction to Schuster, Judischer Merckwurdigkeiten, vol. 4
Some converts remembered that intermediate and indeterminate period between Judaism and Christianity, as a time of first transgressions. Gottfried remembered not only that first wagon ride which violated the Sabbath, but relishing foods he had never tasted before and the first time he crossed himself as he had seen Christians do so many times. Daniel Bon, too, vividly recalled the taste of new foods. The most wrenching change he recalled was putting aside his tefillin, which he had regarded with greatest sanctity and which he had worn without missing a single day until his baptism. These testimonies underscore the radical break made by converts from a world steeped in Jewish tradition to one of Christian tradition. If they experienced a phase of agnostic drifting or rational skepticism, it could not be expressed anywhere within the traditional community.
The attribution of special responsibilities and powers to the convert reinforced the converts own difficult personal passage into a new social and religious world... They saw themselves as apostles to the Jews and, at the same time, defenders of the Jews against some of the worst anti-Jewish calumnies and misconceptions prevalent among Christians. Like children of divorce, they dreamed that they could bring about the ultimate reconciliation between their two “parent” faiths.
It is interesting to note that Moses Mendelssohn appeared to have suffered similar symptoms of anxiety when faced with the open challenge to conversion. After being challenged publicly by Lavatar in 1769, “The general strain of the affair aggravated his physical and psychological condition. Mendelssohn suffered long term consequences…ceased to write sustained philosophical works. When asked what he did during his long hours of enforced idleness he replied that he counted the roof tiles on his neighbors house.” While Mendelssohn’s anxiety stems not from fear of conversion but from reluctance to enter into public theological debate, the pressure on him indicates how difficult the entire business remained for even the most sophisticated German Jews.
P. 129, Quote from, Sorkin, Moses Mendelssohn, 29-30.
“I think that for any man a change of religion is a dangerous thing
as a change of language is for a writer. It may turn out a success,
but it can have disastrous consequences.”
Simone Weil, “Lettre a un Religieux”
The use of Yiddish as a language of conversion reflects the centuries-long Christian endeavor to penetrate Jewishness to its "secret core" and to use this information for the benefit of the Christian community of scholars and clerics. The emerging awareness of the private language of the Jews, and the imperative to master it in order to convert Jews from a position of familiarity, reached its peak in German lands in the last decades of the 18th century. A combination of acculturation and governmental pressure accelerated the use of German among urban Jews. The perception that Germanization lead to conversion died hard among German Jews. One typical traditionalist Jewish reaction to the proposed Prussian governmental reform plan to improve the teaching of German to Jewish students and mandate its use in communal records was, “Worum nit lieber gor schmadn?” (Why not just convert?)
P. 169, Quote from, Lowenstein, The Berlin Jewish Community, 223.
Some of the most ardent advocates of the notion of the German state as Christian, such as Friedrich Julius Stahl, were converts from Judaism. For converts like Stahl, the ability of Judaism to change and reform itself posed a severe challenge to the old theological view of the fossilized, law-bound Mosaism against which Christianity had polemicized for centuries. Great Viennese jurist Joseph von Sonnenfels, converted to Catholicism as a child, who helped lay the principles for the Edict of Toleration of Joseph ll in 1782, believed that conversion of the Jews should be required for full emancipation. As historian Michael Meyer put it, "Any signs of religious vitality in the Jewish community would represent a threat to the very principle of Jewish moribundity on which they had made their own major life’s decision. The doctrine of historical development within a religious spirit that retained its unique identity could be applied properly only to Christianity, not to Judaism.”
P. 230, Quote from, Meyer, “German Political Pressure,” 7.