Is he converting or not?

Rita - posted on 01/21/2009 ( 14 moms have responded )

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My husband is not Jewish, but he believes in God. He says that his beliefs are most closely related to Judaism and since we are raising our kids Jewish, he wants to convert so that they have no confusion and no one can question their identity (including his hyper-christian overbearing family)...

... except, I have explained to him that it can't be a decision made JUST for his kids.. it has to be personal, for himself. He has to feel fulfillment from it. We started the conversation with a rabbi, but I think he struggled to confidently say "yes, I am ready to convert." He just listed the reasons why he thinks it's a good idea...

How do I help him find out if this is really what he wants and to make this transition? Does anyone know what conversion involves? Any other thoughts would also be appreciated.

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Rivka - posted on 03/29/2009

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Quoting Kari:

 exposure to both will give them an opportunity to choose for themselves when they are older. 


I am going to have to say that I disagree. That exposure to both religions will almost definitely misrepresent Judaism and ultimately, your children will probably choose the easier more popular religion in the USA, Christianity. They won't really know what it means to be Jewish and therefore, won't be motivated to be Jewish. 

Emily - posted on 01/26/2009

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Hi Rita;



The conversion process can vary pretty widely between the denominations.  We started in the Orthodox process studying one-on-one and finished in the Reform process also studying one-on-one but the more typical Reform process is through an "Intro to Judaism" class.  The reform process also involved a written test (including some Hebrew) that we had to pass prior to sitting for the oral interview with the beit din.  Then it was hatafat dam brit (or brit milah if the man isn't circumcised) and the mikvah.  The first step, of course, is convincing a rabbi to sponsor you!  I think some rabbis are more concerned with motives than others; for some, family unity is a good enough reason while others are more interested in your personal religious beliefs.  Anita Diamant's book "Choosing a Jewish Life" is an EXCELLENT resource for prospective converts - I highly recommend it.



Good luck!

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Marla Aviva - posted on 06/09/2010

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I am a Cantorial Soloist at a Jewish Reform Temple in Michigan. I am married to a non-Jew with Catholic roots. We are raising our daughter Jewish and keep a kosher Jewish home. I would suggest the following resources:
"The God Book" by Rabbi Paul Yedwab (includes a workbook/journal). Also, "The Jewish Home," "Why I am a Reform Jew," and "Finding God" by Rabbi Daniel Syme.

Emily - posted on 05/06/2010

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My husband converted before we were married. When he mentioned he wanted to convert, it took me by surprise, but I wasn't going to object. I was raised in a mixed home and when I decided to embrace my "Jewish blood", I think my dad took it personally at first, like I was choosing my mom over him. I really wanted to avoid any of that with by kids.
Honestly, as long as both parents agree on how to raise their kids, it shouldn't matter what religion they are. When the kids grow up, they end up deciding for themselves what they believe in, so the parents should have the same option.

Dawn - posted on 04/03/2010

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Here my 2 cents worth. I converted because it was important to my husbands mother and grandmother that he marry someone Jewish. It didn't matter to him. From 1984 until he passed away in 2003 he only went to temple for weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvah's. I was the one who took the kids to hebrew school, temple for the high holidays. My lkids who are all adults now date non jewish people. My grandson whose farther isn't jewish is raised with both religions. My husbands sister married jewish and all 3 of their children date people who aren't jewish.

Gabrielle - posted on 03/24/2010

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Yocheved, I just would like to point out that my brother and I were raised in a mixed household. I had a ketubah at my wedding (even though I married a non-Jew) and my brother is marrying a Jewish woman this year. He had a bar mitzvah and I chose a Hebrew name for myself when I worked at Hillel in college. We both consider ourselves to be Jewish. It's certainly easier when you're raised with only one faith, but sometimes I wonder if people really believe that faith, or just go along with it because that's what they were raised with. My brother and I conciously chose Judaism.

On the flip side, I have three Jewish cousins who were all raised in Jewish households with two Jewish parents, all b'nai mitzvah, more Jewish traditions at home, etc. One married a Jew, two didn't. So you never know what's going to happen. But all of their children still celebrate major Jewish holidays with family, so there is still some connection to Judaism.

Yocheved - posted on 03/24/2010

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I hate to say that I disagree with those of you that are letting your children decide what they want when they get older. All they will know is their parents don't believe in anything so why should they. Judaism and Christianity don't mix and serve only to confuse the kids. And for the post about the non Jew that cried. The reason no one ever asked why he didn't convert is because we as Jews don't proselytize! That's is just one of the differences between us and them. If you have a Jewish neshama (soul) you will seek us out. And a Rabbi will turn you down at least three times before accepting that you really want to be a Jew. So your husband has to want to be a Jew because it is in his soul and not because his kids and wife are. Judaism is a way of life not just a religion. It needs to be in your soul. It's very hard, if not close to imposable to raise a Jewish child in a mixed marriage. Statistics show that children from mixed marriages by the second generation are no longer Jewish. It's so much easer to follow the others or no one at all!

Gabrielle - posted on 04/15/2009

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Hi Kari. I think that my husband and I have it a little easier than some because neither of us are very religious. Neither of us were attending services when we met (I used to go home for High Holidays with my parents, but I haven't lately and he stopped attending church in high school, I think) and neither of us leads a very religious life. I'm sure that's not the case for many people in this group. However, my husband does feel that he has a loving relationship with Jesus and I feel a strong connection to Judaism.

As far as holidays, we are borrowing from what my parents did. We celebrate most things outside the home, with family. Xmas and Easter celebrations are secular family gatherings, so there's no mention of Jesus. Hanukkah and Passover have more religion in the gatherings, since we light candles, recite prayers, read from the Hagaddah, etc, but it's blended with lots of family time, and some secular stuff, too (Hanukkah presents, etc.)

At home during December is a little tougher. I had a tree in my home growing up until I was 14, and my Catholic grandparents always asked us to decorate theirs, too, so I enjoy the tree. (I also tease my husband that with all the lights on it, it's more appropriate for a Festival of Lights than a birth of a saviour.) We have a small tree at home, but the star is a hand-made Jewish star, courtesy of my loving hubby. We also have an electric menorah (safer with a baby and 2 dogs) that I hang in the window. This year, I sang the prayer to my daughter as I "lit" another candle each night. So, again, not much religion, but the customs are right next to each other. It was that way for me, growing up, and I will say that the menorah and the idea of following a tradition that had been in my family for maybe thousands of years meant a lot more than a Santa that I never believed in.

You might tell your husband that my Catholic grandparents have celebrated Seder with us several times. They respect our Jewish traditions and see them as part of the heritage of their faith. They also attended my brother's bar mitzvah. Jesus was born to a Jewish mother and preached a lot of Jewish beliefs, so maybe your hubby can focus on that.

What my husband and I are going to focus on, I think, are the values we were brought up with, that are universal: Be kind to others. Be respectful. Be open-minded and gracious. Etc. It's ok for kids to know that mom believes one thing and dad believes another, because when it gets boiled down, you'll be saying a lot of the same things.

I hope that helps. In case it bothers anyone, this is just my opinion, based on my own experiences, and I am willing to be dis-agreed with.

Kari - posted on 04/14/2009

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Gabrielle,
I appreciate your post. I know there are strong feelings in the Jewish world regarding conversion and interfaith families, on both sides of the issue. I cannot say what is right for others, only that I believe that G-d created me with a Jewish soul. I am simply obeying. Your words are encouraging, and much appreciated. I would like to talk more about your upbringing, and what negative and positive things your parents did to make your religious training meaningful to you. I want more than anything for my children to love G-d with all their heart and soul, and to learn the traditions which He set up for His people. Also, how do you and your husband compromise holidays and other conflicts between your beliefs? My husband is also very respectful of Judaism, and completely supports my conversion... but he gets hung up on the whole Jesus thing... I want to respect his beliefs and teach my kids Judaism at the same time... not an easy task, I know! Anyway... enough rambling on my part. Thank you again for your post, and I would love to hear more of your insight!

Gabrielle - posted on 04/01/2009

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I guess I'm going to back up Kari here. My dad is Jewish and my mom was raised Catholic. She has never "officially" converted, but she stopped believing in Catholicism at about 13, but still believed in G-d. So, we were exposed to both religions and holidays growing up. When my younger brother decided to be bar mitzvah, we became a Jewish household. I never felt religious enough to have a bat mitzvah, but I have always identified Jewish.



I was motivated by my family and the casual spirituality of our family celebrations. I am drawn to the history and ability to question. My grandparents left Germany in 1939, so I am also determined to defeat the Nazi's by continuing the Jewish tradition. Christianity and Catholicism made no sense to me and even though the majority of American claims to be Christian, I have never wanted to "be like everyone else".



I also have friends whose father is very Catholic and whose mother is Jewish, and both kids were b'nai mitzvah. So, it's possible to be exposed to both and choose Judaism. You just have to ensure that the kids learn the right things about Judaism. That's why, since I married a Christian who is unlikely to convert (although he has the highest respect for Judaism), when it's time for my daughter's religious education, she's going to a Jewish school.



Anyway, in actual answer to Rita, I will say to you what my dad said to me when I was about 13. I told him I didn't want to go through with a bat mitzvah because I didn't feel I believed strongly enough. He said, "What 13-yr-old does? We do it because we're supposed to." So, your hubby may not believe with all his heart (yet), but his heart is in the right place. If your rabbi is ok with it, there's no harm in letting him do it. And, as Kari said earlier, he may discover things during the process that will make it all the more meaningful.



So, there's my 2 cents. Sorry for such a long post. :)

Kari - posted on 03/29/2009

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well, in the few short months since my post, my daughter has decided to identify herself as Jewish. she has said that she feels G-d has led her toward that decision and feels quite comfortable with it.

Emily - posted on 01/28/2009

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Hello again;



I think we paid about $600 for the study supervision and then about $200 for the mikvah (four and a half years ago) - we had already done a lot of studying at that point, mind you.  I don't know where you live but I'd certainly look around for other rabbis (including ones not affiliated with a congregation, ie: working in teaching or counselling settings).  Having said that, there are some real advantages to being affiliated with a congregation.  We did quite a lot of our study at a distance (we read then "met" online for conversations or did conference calls) and did a few face-to-face meetings in between because there aren't any rabbis where we live.



Our rabbi once told us this story about when she was working in her first pulpit job after being ordained.  There was a non-Jewish man who was always at the shul, doing odd jobs, repairing things, building things; he was basically their on-call handyman, a big burly guy.  His wife was Jewish and they were very devoted to raising their kids Jewishly.  One night, after observing him for about a year, they were having a community Oneg Shabbat and our rabbi just casually asked him... "so, you're here all the time, why haven't you converted?".  Well, the man started to cry and excused himself from the table.  Shocked, our rabbi followed him and apologized for upsetting him - he explained that he had gotten emotional because NO ONE HAD EVER ASKED HIM BEFORE! Because he had already learned so much from learning with his kids, he went through the conversion process quite quickly. 



I think there's a lesson there about opening doors for people!



 

Rita - posted on 01/27/2009

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wow, thank you. that is already more than i knew. i have a shortage of reform rabbis in my area, though. and then those that are, like that one that married me, charge crazy fees.. is that normal?

Kari - posted on 01/25/2009

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I am sort of in the opposite situation, as I am in a conversion process, but my family is choosing to remain Christian. My children get to experience the best of Christianity and the best of Judaism, and exposure to both will give them an opportunity to choose for themselves when they are older. I do know that conversion, at my temple, involves a study process. Some larger synagouges offer conversion classes, but we are a very small congregation so I am studying one on one with the rabbi, while I read and learn about Jewish history. This is the first step into conversion. Since it is such a learning PROCESS, I would guess that your husband will be able to make these discoveries abotu personal Judaism during his journey. Best of luck to your family! Shalom!

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