(Closed) Questions about converting to Judaism

posted 8 years ago in Jewish
Post # 3
Member
57 posts
Worker bee

I’m a convert to Judaism and as director of a Jewish chorale I know a lot of other converts. I was raised without religion (pretty much – Easter services and sunday school three or so times a year!). I married a Jew. Our pre-nup specified that our kids would be raised as Jews and not only was that fine with me, I looked forward to it! And so it was. We went to services sometimes, the kids went to religious school and we celebrated the holidays etc.

A few years after we divorced, I decided to convert. He said: “Why now? Why not earlier when I wanted you to?” And I said: “You have to do it when you feel it!”

If you feel it now, do it now. I know a lot of converts who are more religious than their spouses. Do it for yourself, if you want to. And it will absolutely make things easier for your kids. Mine are, technically, not Jewish, and that would make problems for them in Israel or if they were to marry sticklers.

Post # 4
Member
875 posts
Busy bee

It sounds like you are discovering the joy of a relationship with God…throught His people.  I would encourage you to talk to the rabbi.  If your Grandmother was Jewish, you need to know the stories of her faith, and the blessings of being the people of Israel. 

Post # 5
Member
1106 posts
Bumble bee

Please dont take this as an attack but here are some questions I have for you. Do you intend on practicing? Do you intend on teaching your kids judaism? I am a jew and my SO is not.. I grew up in a VERY Orthodox jewish family and my SO is Half greek orthodox half catholic. My kids will be jewish regardless, but we have decided that we are going to teach our kids both and when they are old enough they can decide for themselves. A reformed jewish conversion will only be recognized in a reform shul/ temple as a true orthodox conversion is one of the hardest conversions (if not the hardest) and takes anywhere from 2-5 years. I too encourage you to really talk with the rabbi and find out truely if this is something you want to do.. I wouldnt worry much about your SO’s sisters boyfriend as that shouldnt affect your decision.

Post # 6
Member
52 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: June 2011

I agree that you should do what’s in your heart and do it for yourself. Would you still want to convert if you weren’t in your current relationship? You’re so lucky to have FILs and a boyfriend who will accept whichever decision you make.

I thought about this early in my relationship because my FH observes the cultural traditions and I love doing that with him, but we’re both atheists. (I was raised Christian.) There was some concern on his relative’s side about our kids not being Jewish or being raised Jewish, but in the end, we decided that it would just be dishonest to teach our kids to believe in something that we didn’t (or for me to convert), just to get them the easy pass into the religious community. They can always convert if it’s in their hearts, and we would support them wholeheartedly. BTW, I’m not at all implying that your situation is the same, just in case it came off that way.

As much as this decision affects your family and future family, it really is all about you and what you believe and value. Good luck!!! 🙂

Post # 7
Member
287 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

my family is very not jewish. like we have a christmas treee. yet my sister-in-law who was raised christian decided she wanted to convert. my brother/my family never went to temple ever and rarly did holidays (if we did, it was only the cooking the meal part).

she wanted the kids to have a consistent faith and while my brother didn’t care much, he knew he didn’t want the kids going to church. she also really wanted a family friend, who is conservative, to marry them and he wouldn’t if she was not jewish.

anyway, she did it and i’ll let you know she is more jewish than all of us put together because she had to learn everything. if you maternal side is jewish, then you are jewish, regardless of what you were raised with. that might make the “conversion” process a lot easier because you wouldn’t really be “converting” if you are technically on the mother’s side jewish.

my fiance was raised without any religion and has no intention of converting. i feel like i can’t demand or ask that he does since i am so not religious. he is spiritual though and we plan to raise our kids with a non-judgemental and curious attititude about religion. we are having a jewish wedding because i really relate to the cultural piece and love the traditions and beauty of the ceremonies. plus it wouldn’t make sense to do it any other way since i am something and he doesn’t identify with anything. we did have some difficulty finding someone to marry us though.

talk to a rabbi and see what you would need to do, if anything.  it seems like you’d like to learn more and that is worthwhile regardless of whatever else you may do.

Post # 8
Member
244 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

I’m not Jewish but I am a recent convert to the faith of my fiance (Catholicism).  Hopefully my experience will share some insight even though the faith I chose is different.  I wanted to say that in reading your post your situation sounds very similar to mine except that FI’s family (beore we were engaged) had dropped a couple not too subtle hints that they would prefer that we get married in the Catholic church.  However, they by no means made this a requirement and although they attend church semi-regularly they are somewhat culturally Catholic as opposed to extremely pious.

The thing that struck me about your post is that (and maybe I’m reading into it), it sounds like you really do want to convert to Judaism.  It sounds like you found a community there, that you feel connected to the culture because of your family and that you enjoy practicing that faith.  I had similar feelings that conversion was the right thing for me regardless of its relationship to our marriage.  In terms of whether this is “enough”, that is what the conversion process is for.  I found that through the classes I took that my initial feeling of wanting to be a part of the Catholic Church grew into a deeper religious faith.

My FI is not fervently religious but Catholicism is a part of who he is and being a part of that with him and knowing our whole family will be of the same faith is important to me.  Also, I have found that FI become more open about his religious beliefs and what he truly thinks as I went through conversion. 

The main point I would make is that this is a decision you should make for you. How religious or practicing your boyfriend’s family is shouldn’t really play into it. Also, I don’t think it would be presumptuous to talk to a rabbi.  I began my conversion process almost 2 months before we got engaged and, honestly, it was fantastic to do it that way.  I felt like I wasn’t pressured to make any decisions about going forward.  By the time we had to book the church after we were engaged I had made up my mind about converting.  It would stink to book a synagogue or officiant and later decide that conversion isn’t for you =).

Good luck to you!

 

Post # 9
Member
232 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2010

Everyone has said a lot of what I was going to say, so I’ll keep it short.  If you don’t think it’ll make much of a difference, then don’t do it.  You should convert only if you are prepared to fulfill the objectives involved in doing so and take the matter seriously.  There are many in the world who would like to convert and can’t, so it’s not something that should be taken lightly just because you can.

If you are going to do it then do it with purpose.  But be sure your reasons for doing so are because it’ll add meaning to you, not because it’ll be easier, or his family wants you to do so, etc.

Post # 10
Member
2392 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

One thing that I’ve found in reform Judaism is it’s not that important to be a religious person in the way that a lot of other religions expect faith and belief in their God and bible.  Reform Judaism can be more about the culture and history than the religion – in a lot of synogogues and communities that okay, even encouraged.  A couple of quotes that come to mind is my grandfather’s constant reminders that Judaism is about the questions, not the answers.  My fiance’s grandfather’s Rabbi once told him that “if he found God, he should stop coming to synogogue” because it was about the search, and the examination of history, the discussion and debate of the Talmud.

It really sounds to me like you are getting a tremendous amount from the culture, history, and community of Judaism.  Your concerns are more about the religious aspect – that you’re not sure you have faith.  You’re not sure your SO is religious enough.  That your family has encouraged you to be a non-believer.  In the reform tradition, at least, I think there’s often room for people who see religion as more cultural and scholarly (studying history, debating ethics).

It’s great that his family is not pressuring you either way – I think that says a lot about them as people.  I just get the sense from what you’re saying that you enjoy participating in his Jewish life, and that you would get a lot out of studying Judaism.  I have a friend who is in a very similar situation, except she’s been married almost two years and still hasn’t decided.  You have time either way, but it does sound like it might be something you want to do for you, for the cultural/historic/community reasons which I think are great reasons to be a reform Jew.

Post # 11
Member
347 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: February 2018

Here’s the thing about converting- it takes a year or longer, so unless you’re planning on having a long engagement, you’ll probably have to start the conversion process BEFORE you get engaged.

I was raised Catholic and my Jewish husband’s family was the same way as your SO’s family- they didn’t really care if I converted or not.  

My husband and I had talked about getting married a lot and I knew we’d get engaged eventually and the conversation of converting came up. Even when we were just friends, my husband had always said he would marry a girl who wasn’t Jewish, but he was going to raise his kids Jewish no matter what.

We both decided that I would convert and because of the length of time it was going to take, we decided that it was best that I start sooner rather than later.  We had a general time frame for when we wanted to get married, and so I started the conversion before we got engaged.

If you feel a connection with Judaism, then I think it would be nice for you to convert, even if your husband isn’t a particularly observant Jew.  I wasn’t an active Catholic and I’m not an active Jew.  

I converted solely so that I could be the same religion as my future children.  We don’t really go to synagogue because at the moment we can’t afford to belong (it’s about $1,500-$2,000/year) but we will start going when we have kids.

It’s not too early for you to start talking to the rabbi about the process of converting at all 🙂 

Post # 12
Member
304 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2010

I’m almost finishing converting (my mikvah is in June) and I just want to chime in.  My FI is not very religious, but I converted because I like what the culture represents.  Being Jewish is not necessarily about being religious.  In fact, my Rabbi told me that many jews are atheist (actually, the most out of any religious group). 

I actually really like the values of the Jewish cultural, specifically the focus on charity and education. 

If you are thinking about conversion, you have to take an Intro to Judiasm course, which is typically only offered once a year starting in the fall.  Then if you convert to Reform, you have three conversations with the sponsoring Rabbi.  The whole process takes a year or so. 

If you are having doubts, many Rabbis will do inter-faith marriages, so you can figure it out later.  Plus, the Reform movement allows the kids to be Jewish if the mother OR father is jewish, as long as the child is being raised Jewish.  So if you don’t want to convert, you don’t have to in order for the children to be raised Jewish.  This was passed in the 70s by the Reform rabbis.  This is totally not recognized by conservative or orthodox movement.  Though, if you convert to Reform, you have to have it recognized by the conservative faith in order to have your children be recognized by the conservatives.  My FI and I decided that if our kids want to be conservative, they can convert just like me.  🙂

Post # 14
Member
7 posts
Newbee

Conversion to any faith is a very big commitment, so big a commitment in the Jewish faith, most Orthodox Rabbis will make you ask at least 3 times to see if you truly want to convert.

Conversion to Judiasm reaches further than Shabbat dinner… it is the belief in one G-d. It is a faith of deep thought, wisdom and beauty. Jews are not made to believe in guilt or original sin. Guilt is what other mothers give us for not calling or visiting often enough and sin is something we committ as we go along in life, but something for which we can be forgiven if we make amends with ourselves and other toward whom we may have sinned.

Conversion to Judiasm, unless by the Orthodox method, is not recognized in Israel. Conversion through the Orthodox sect is the best way though because of the learning and thorough understanding of the religion. It take the longest, but it is worth it.

Do not look at who is going to shul and who isn’t. That’s not religion. Of course it is nice to attend shul and be observant of the holidays. That is a personal choice. You have to do what is right for you. Most Rabbis are more than willing to speak with you about conversion. They will ask hard questions, those which will reach into your soul. You have to convert because it is right for you, not to appease anyone else.

Lastly, you mentioned a great grandmother who is Jewish. If this is your mother’s grandmother, then by default, your grandmother is Jewish and so is your mother, then making you Jewish. The only default would be if somewhere along the line one of the mother’s converted to another faith.

Good luck on you decision. Remember it is one only you can make and must be made for all of the right reasons.

Post # 15
Member
71 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

in the faith, judaism is passed down by the mother to her children. so if your mother is *technically* jewish, so are you–you mentioned that your maternal great-grandmother was jewish–if your great-grandmother gave birth to your grandmother, who gave birth to your mother, then you are already jewish and there is no need to go through the conversion process. if not, you can instill whatever values you want in your kids, with or without a conversion. however, if you do raise your kids jewish without converting, they might face problems down the road, as the jewish community (with the exception of reform) will not accept them as jews, which may become problematic if/when they want to participate in conservative or orthodox ceremonies/rites.

as far as your families are concerned, it’s improtant to keep in mind that you and you SO will be starting a family of your own and while it is important to take what both of your parents say under consideration, you have to decide for yourselves what kind of family you want to build together, just like your parents did.

Post # 16
Member
7 posts
Newbee

If your maternal great-great-grandmother was the first in a line of women in your maternal line (as in, your link to her is through women only) then according to Chalacha, you are Jewish unless one of those women officially converted to another faith. Even then, if it can be proved that this was done as a result of political perspecution, then I think that you can appeal to the relevant Rabbinical boards for exemption from conversion.

My father converted (we are Masorti/Conservative) and the process was quite arduous. For my father, it was a matter of genuine faith, and he is extremely observant and active in our community. My father came from a conservative, evangelical Baptists family. He decided that it didn’t make sense for him at the age of 11 (he is extremely intelligent) and finally converted to Judaism after years of being agnostic (not atheist) in his 30s.

Keep in mind, the US Reform rabbinate decisions about chalacha and lineage don’t apply in a lot of other countries, including Israel. America is rather unique in that Reform rabbis reform interfaith ceremonies etc – that does’t happen in Australia or the UK. So the Reform decision in the 70s does not apply outside of America, from what I understand. I know that it doesn’t apply in Australia.

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