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Dena

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PostSubject: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:26 pm

This is a topic that has come up elsewhere so I thought I would bring it up here. I know it applies to a few of us and may be of interest to others as well.

Did you convert while being married to a non-Jew who did not convert? How has it gone for you? How have you managed to compromise? Was your partner religious or non-religious?
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James

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:34 pm

I'm converting independent of my wife, but we made the decision from the very beginning to have a Jewish house. It helps that my wife, while raised Methodist, does not follow any religion; she believes in ha-Shem, but she doesn't subscribe to any faith. I really don't think she sees Christianity as being valid anymore, and I think that once we have a new rabbi she might be willing to convert.

It's going well, but there wasn't any conflict either. There are no Christian celebrations or holidays, and we celebrate Shabbat as a family. It's up to the kids whether or not they convert (for far the youngest two- 8 and 9 - do).
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:39 pm

I should also add, do you have children and did they also convert?
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:55 pm

I am converting but my husband is not.

Despite the fact that I am becoming a Jew, my religious views really have not changed since my husband and I first started dating almost 9 years ago. He and I have always had compatible views regarding the nature of God, the purpose of life, what happens after you die, etc. theology.

The only difference is that I feel called to worship and perform religious rituals and he does not. He has made the statement, however, that if he DID feel the need to be religious or for some reason HAD to chose a religion to practice, he would become a Jew because he felt that Judaism made more sense than any other religion.

He doesn't have a problem with the fact that I put a muzzah on the door (I think he might complain, though, if I put one on every single door--and I'm not entirely convinced that one on every door inside the house is necessary). He's also okay with me not eating pork--although he still does, so there's no keeping a traditionally kosher kitchen.

I do feel a bit self-conscious sometimes when I go to celebrate something (lighting the shabbat candles, for instance), because I know my husband thinks ritual is a bit silly (even though he knows it's meaningful to me). I frequently do whatever it is when I'm alone.

We do not have children and will not have them.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:58 pm

Dena wrote:
This is a topic that has come up elsewhere so I thought I would bring it up here. I know it applies to a few of us and may be of interest to others as well.

Did you convert while being married to a non-Jew who did not convert? How has it gone for you? How have you managed to compromise? Was your partner religious or non-religious?


My husband is more agnostic in his beliefs, so he left Christianity many many years ago. My oldest son chose not to become Jewish. My younger kids chose to become Jewish. Once they found out I was starting to attend a local temple they wanted to come. They became really interested and wanted to go to Hebrew school.

So 3 out of 5 of us are Jewish. We have a Jewish home and it works for my family.

It would have been really hard had my husband still been Christian. I know folks convert and continue to practice 2 religions in the house. I know my Rabbi would not have worked with me had that been what would happen in my home. She felt that when you become Jewish you make promises and one of them is to not practice another religion. In my intro to Judaism class a couple of folks who were leaving Christianity had a really hard time with the idea of giving up Jesus.

I was really lucky in that I really grew up in a secular Christian home and did the holidays and never set foot in a church. Now my parents have walked away from the Catholic Church and now are UU.

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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:34 pm

I have to wonder why someone who is having a hard time giving up Jesus is in a conversion class to start with? I mean, it's not a secret that Jews don't believe Jesus was the Messiah. I dropped Christianity (I was a practicing Episcopalian) when I decided to convert. In fact, my problems with the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, etc. were why I ended up with Judaism.
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esf

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:11 pm

Mychal wrote:
I have to wonder why someone who is having a hard time giving up Jesus is in a conversion class to start with? I mean, it's not a secret that Jews don't believe Jesus was the Messiah. I dropped Christianity (I was a practicing Episcopalian) when I decided to convert. In fact, my problems with the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, etc. were why I ended up with Judaism.

I think when people (myself included) say 'conversion class' they generally mean some sort of introduction to Judaism course. I've never seen a course that guarantees that if you do the class, you can convert! These courses are for people interested in the possibility of converting, or for people just wanting to learn about their partner's faith, or wanting to learn about Judaism for any other reason! I also think it's natural that when you convert to another religion, even if you are 100% convinced that the new religion is the right one for you, there will be things that you miss or feel nostalgic for from your old life.


Last edited by esf on Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:15 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling - oops!)
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:13 pm

Quote :
even if you 100% convinced that the new religion is the right one for you, there will be things that you miss or feel nostalgic for from your old life.

I let all of my Christmas stuff go save four ornaments: the one my grandmother bought for my first Christmas, the one my mother bought for me the year that everyone in the family got their "own" ornament, the one I bought for the first Christmas my husband and I were together, and one ratty old Pooh bear which is the only ornament, aside from my grandmother's, which survived my family's moves when I was a toddler.

I hung them off my menorah and referred to them as "my menorah bling." LOL

I guess I was still thinking of a conversion class as something that people who know they want to convert go through in preparation, as opposed to a place where people go to do some in-depth comparison shopping. "Intro to Judaism" does sound more like a general-learning, no conversion implied sort of class.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:05 am

Mychal wrote:
I have to wonder why someone who is having a hard time giving up Jesus is in a conversion class to start with? I mean, it's not a secret that Jews don't believe Jesus was the Messiah. I dropped Christianity (I was a practicing Episcopalian) when I decided to convert. In fact, my problems with the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, etc. were why I ended up with Judaism.

I can understand it. My entire life I have never--never, ever--believed in one iota of the Christian theology that was drummed into my head as a child of a Roman Catholic family who attended a Catholic elementary school. Beyond never.

But...during my own conversion journey there was a real moment of pause when I realized I was personally repudiating the Christian Jesus story. It shocked me to go experience it, but I think it was a testament to how deeply Western society indoctrinates you with Christian ideology--and Christian fear. It also suggested to me why it took me so long to realize my Jewish soul.

Actually, it reminded me of when my mom died many years ago, of all things--in that, sometimes big, life-changing events bring up emotions and fears we don't expect or don't event know are there. It's a good thing, though, because once they come up we can work through them and move on.
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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:44 am

I am (hopefully) converting while my Roman Catholic husband and six children are not. It's pretty bleak right now as we are "working through" how to keep a Jewish home in a VERY christian environment. Not sure in the end if it will work Sad It's very depresing.
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James

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:15 pm

I do wish you luck, etana.

I read the e-mails you posted on the other forum, and feel for you. All I can say is to be persistent, and even if you can't officially convert right now, it doesn't stop you from going to services and worshipping.
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searchinmyroots

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:43 pm

I guess it all boils down to respect.

Respect for one another and respect for one another's beliefs.

The best thing you can do is "live Judaism" and hopefully they will see the person who you are.

I hope for the best for you and your family. :)
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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:47 pm

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The best thing you can do is "live Judaism" and hopefully they will see the person who you are.

Excellent advice!

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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:50 am

If I may weigh in here . . . I would be extra careful if you continue to proceed. I watched my then-boyfriend get more observant suddenly when the Chabad rabbi moved to town and leave me behind for functions until he got an invite for me and it was painful to see him change into something I hadn't known to be a part of him. There was a major adjustment period for both of us as I took on Judaism - and we had to genuinely work with each other to find a happy medium that worked for both of us.

I think that change, without the other party taking part in it, can be very very trying on a relationship. While I am not saying deny your soul, just weigh how far you want to dive in with how much you value your relationship. Initiating something like this is sure to make him uncomfortable in one way or another, and it will make you uncomfortable,too, if you are worried about his feelings.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:03 am

maculated wrote:
If I may weigh in here . . . I would be extra careful if you continue to proceed. I watched my then-boyfriend get more observant suddenly when the Chabad rabbi moved to town and leave me behind for functions until he got an invite for me and it was painful to see him change into something I hadn't known to be a part of him. There was a major adjustment period for both of us as I took on Judaism - and we had to genuinely work with each other to find a happy medium that worked for both of us.

I think that change, without the other party taking part in it, can be very very trying on a relationship. While I am not saying deny your soul, just weigh how far you want to dive in with how much you value your relationship. Initiating something like this is sure to make him uncomfortable in one way or another, and it will make you uncomfortable,too, if you are worried about his feelings.


I have been reading but I am going to chime in now because what maculated has said is absolutely true. I think it is really hard for the partner for someone moving down the path towards Judaism. It really is not something a person can do just for themselves when a family is involved. I have had to make many adjustments and I would not have been able to do it had my husband been part of another religion or we had brought up our children in a religion. I could not have expected them to change and the promises I had to make would expect that.

When I became Jewish I made promises.

To raise my children Jewish
To give up other religion and only practice Judaism
To make a Jewish home.

There were others but these 3 make a interfaith home impossible because you cannot make those promises.

My children were old enough to make up their own minds and my husband has been accepting of the changes in the house and I have made them slowly and we do have a mixed home with 3 Jews and 2 non Jews.

Judaism is a community religion and the most painful aspect for me is that my husband really is not interested in anything having to do with religion. It does not matter what religion it is. Being part of a religion separates us and it is hard sometimes. I already find myself talking to my kids about future mates. To find someone who shares their religion or at least will be a help mate in bringing up the kids as Jews because my 2 Jewish kids already know they want to raise their kids as Jews.

If my husband had cared about and practiced another religion I don't think I could have made this journey. He was supportive in his way and he understood my lifelong search for where I was supposed to be. His only request was not to coerce the kids and I let all 3 make their choices because of their ages. Had they been really little I would have made their choices. He was accepting of that.

The Rabbi I worked with also met a few times with my husband and he was in the Beit Din and he was asked a couple of questions too.

He was asked how this journey I undertook with my kids had been for him and how he felt about having 3 Jews in the family. We did a lot of struggling on this.

I don't want to be a complete downer and it can be done but I just want to emphasize that becoming Jewish when you have a family does become a family journey.



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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:49 pm

So should I just be "nothing" then for the next 15 years until my last child is "of age?" Do I continue to go to Mass every single week and listen to my children every single day say prayers and tell me about the new saints they have learned about, read to me their catechism, want to pray the rosary with me etc....

Should I endure this for 15 more years?????????? Just be nothing because the family won't convert? This is extremely sad to me. Sad
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:12 pm

etana4310 wrote:
So should I just be "nothing" then for the next 15 years until my last child is "of age?" Do I continue to go to Mass every single week and listen to my children every single day say prayers and tell me about the new saints they have learned about, read to me their catechism, want to pray the rosary with me etc....

Should I endure this for 15 more years?????????? Just be nothing because the family won't convert? This is extremely sad to me. Sad

No, not at all but I am speaking through my experience which was that of a person who converted and had a family.

I started looking into it alone and not until I felt I wanted to move in this direction did I bring my family into it. I spoke with my husband, I spoke with several Rabbis. All of them would not move forward without my husband being on board and supportive. They did not expect him to convert, they did want him to be supportive.

The Rabbi I worked with met with both of us on several occasions.

When I started going to services I did so alone, but then my younger kids wanted to know where I was going and then they wanted to go.

So I took them. It was easy for me as we did not have any religion in my house. Then they wanted to go to Hebrew school and I found a place that would accept them.

What was a journey for me became a journey for them and my husband needed to make changes as to how he felt.

Even with my husband not being a religious person he had to make huge changes because it became a family journey.

I am not saying you can't but I am saying it cannot be just a journey you take alone. These are discussions you need to have with a Rabbi, your husband, because it is not a solo journey to come to Judaism when you have a family.

What will you do if your children want to join you? Will you celebrate Christian and Jewish holidays? Is your husband supportive?

The Rabbi will ask you these questions and more.

Judaism has become central to who I am as a convert and to my children. I did not understand how central it would become 5 years ago when I started my first searches alone. It has changed my family, not just me.





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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:44 pm

I appreciate the honesty as I do really want to know what to expect. At first - a few weeks ago when I did tell my husband, his response was one of "I just want you to be happy" and seemingly supportive, but now that it has sunk in I think he is scared. His main fear is that the children will be confused and will start to doubt their own faith. They are VERY strong Catholics. Their normal topic of conversation does not revolve around things like video games or the latest songs on the radio or movies - it's things like "what feast day is it," or "what mystery are we on in the rosary today?" or "We are reading about St. John Boscoe and his dreams - want me to tell you about dream #14 mom?" ALLLLLLLLL day. They are more Catholic than the pope! LOL So my husband fears what ME - their rock - switching gears will do to them. Yet I have completely NO interest in Catholicism. I have completely detached myself from anything and everything Catholic. In fact, when they are all at school, I have lately been "thinning out" the house of statues and relics and things that are considered "graven images". I do it slowly so it won't be noticed.

I think once my husband learns more about Judaism and really accepts that this is MY path - he will be supportive of a Kosher home, me going to Shul and keeping Shabbat (is that the proper way to say it?) There is no reason whatsoever that the family cannot participate in anything I am doing as it does NOT go against anything they believe ya know? These are all Old Testament laws.

I would LOVE to be able to take three of my six children on Saturday to Synagogue - my 6, 5 and 3 year old. I think it especially interesting that my 6-year old suffers SEVERE anxiety in Mass. He actually looks like he is having a seizure in the pew. Every single Sunday I have to take him to the van (along with the 3-year old who is SO noisy) and turn on cartoons for him (we have a video in the van). The very SECOND he walks out of church he is 100% fine. He actually curls up into a ball, curls his fists, squints his eyes, which roll back in his head - like he's possessed. It's VERY bizarre!!! I tried to google this phenomenon and didn't come up with anything.

Well, G-d's will be done. My husband will come around. I am working with a Rabbi and hopefully we can work all this out.

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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:21 pm

I am weighing whether to say anything at all, because, to be honest, your post terrifies me. Growing up, I thought *I* was a model Catholic and that was nothing like your kids. Having my unified family switch tactics and make me have to endure that would have broken me. I needed to find who I was on my own. It sounds to me like you are going to force your very devout children on a path, and your husband as well.

When my mom found out she was half Jewish, she went to synagogue and found it "disgusting" how "Catholic" it was. She thinks I'm an idiot for being observant and "it being in the Old Testament" is not going to work. I dated a Catholic guy once who said it best when, "It's the Old Testament, it doesn't count." Catholics are taught that Judaism is a relic religion held by people who missed the boat. That was how I felt about it, and that's what your Catholic family feels about it.

Whatever your husband's initial fears are, don't be surprise when they shift away from your kids after a while and become his fears, too. He is trying to be a good man for you, but it will get complicated. You are essentially divesting yourself of the strong culture of your household. Please treat lightly.
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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:30 pm

Quote :
It sounds to me like you are going to force your very devout children on a path, and your husband as well.

Sigh. I am not going to "force" anybody to do anything. I mean no disrespect, but I think I know a little about what Catholicism teaches as well. I KNOW this is an impossible situation and I would never FORCE my children or husband into anything.

Like I said, there are days I think I should just be "nothing" because this IS truly impossible and this is exactly why I stopped posting on any forums because I have yet to meet a single person that has told me "Yes! There is a way to do this." So maybe therein lies my answer.

My fear? Being nothing for the next 15 years will harden my soul, but so be it - if it means my family will be protected in their own beliefs. I suppose I don't really count.

Everyone tells me you can't be Jewish quietly. What a shame. So I'll be "nothing" quietly then. I'm not angry with you mac - it's just the same thing I run into with the few forums I have been on.

So be it.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:34 pm

Thanks for not being angry. I just know that I had a very, very painful transition and I don't yet have kids and I was working on joining my husband's religion/culture and the amount of changing he and my family had to do to accommodate that was more than I'd wish on someone else. In your situation, it would be 100 times harder.

Some people here had it easy because it was solely about them, but I think when a family is involved, things get a lot more sticky.
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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:38 pm

So basically, the advice that would be offered to a person such as myself would be "don't convert...just be nothing." ??
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:47 pm

You want what *I* would do? I'd be quiet about it, and that's hard coming from me because I am ALWAYS the tallest nail that gets hammered down. Buy a siddur, pray from it. Make choices that reflect kosher intention. Do small celebrations for yourself. Light Shabbat candles as part of your Friday night family meals. And find ways to pray to your maker on your terms in Mass. Catholic and Jewish aren't so divergent as you think. Catholic ritual was entirely inspired by Judaism, as is much of everything from the liturgical calendar to rising and sitting on cue. Find ways to teach everyone in your family things you value in Judaism that fit in the context of your family culture. One thing I found was that Judaism was a pretty natural transition because all the vestiges I liked in Catholicism I found in Judaism.

If you give it time, you can examine how you feel. If the spark within you is so strong that it must be expressed, do it. I don't want you being an oppressed wife and mother and not your own person if it comes down to that choice. But you sound like maybe you're in the early stages and it's simply not worth scuttling what you have now for that. HaShem can wait for your formal conversion - after all . . . as has been said on many other of these threads, it's mostly for other people, anyway. And your kids may be super into it now, but that can change, and most likely will. I was the poster child for pro-life and went around my diocese giving speeches. Now I am staunchly pro-choice.

Maybe I'm informed by the pain and having watched people I love get divorced and ruin their lives because they had to express individuality that in the long run could have been compromised in a positive way.

Also, it's sort of my philosophy that this stuff sorts itself out. Free choice and all that, but my life is too much evidence to me that there wasn't a force pushing me a certain way. Just let the force push you.
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etana4310



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PostSubject: Re: Converting Without Spouse   Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:57 pm

I cannot sit in Mass and do all the "stuff" Catholics do - like bless myself or genuflect or pray the Hail Mary, dab in the holy water - all the things I did every single Sunday I no longer wish to do. This, in and of itself, would be MORE confusing for my children than if I told them the truth and let them experience both - lighting the candles on Friday evening - saying the prayers - keeping a Kosher home, etc. There is nothing NOT Catholic about that. I can still go to Mass with them on Sunday and stay in the van, but go as a family as we stay after and socialize afterwards. At least I would be honest. I wouldn't be forcing anything on them - it would be an opportunity for them to expand their little world of Catholicism into something deeper and richer.

We were a homeschooling family for seven years until just this past fall when they all started Catholic school so my children are all used to "teaching moments." Whenever we found an opportunity in life to weave anything teachable into our lives we would. Judaism's PRACTICES can easily be woven into the home without conflict if need be. I guess you might think I look at it more polyana-ish, but I suppose if G-d wants it to work, He can make it work. No, I'm not really on the beginning road - I've been on this road for three years now - only now verbalizing it.

Again, it's my guess that I would do more damage to my children by sitting in Mass and NOT participating than by just telling them the truth.
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PostSubject: not a "nothing"   Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:23 pm

etana4310 wrote:
So basically, the advice that would be offered to a person such as myself would be "don't convert...just be nothing." ??
Just because you don't formally convert, or take a long time to do so, does not mean that you are a "nothing". I should know, having spent almost 25 years in precisely that status. I lived a Jewish life during that time, much more Jewishly observant than all my Reform and many of my Conservative-affiliated friends. Although I did not actively try to hide my non-Jewish status, I didn't always know who knew and who didn't, so that I ended up unintentionally shocking an Orthodox Jewish friend who had been completely sure that I was Jewish during the few years she knew me before she found out because she said that I even "thought like a Jew". I was in a very different situation from what is being discussed on this thread however, since I was married to a Jewish husband and converted and raised my children as Jews---something I may have wanted more strongly than my husband, even though one of the rabbis on the Beit Din for my children's conversion was condescending to me and clearly did not understand my relationship to Judaism at that point.

In the past, a non-Jew who lived closely among Jews might be referred to as a "ger toshav", and some people have suggested that the label could be used for such people today. It is discussed in the book A Place in the Tent: Intermarriage And Conservative Judaism Before I converted, I used to say that I was "fellow traveler" with respect to Judaism. It is a more common status for non-Jewish spouses of Jews, but it could work in a similar way for a non-Jew with Jewish interests who has a non-Jewish spouse and family.

I honestly think that when prospective converts to Judaism feel that they must jump into conversion as quickly as possible (despite circumstances that might make is much more prudent to take it more slowly), it is often because of deeply held Christian fears of damnation for the non-believer while they feel that it may be "safe" to be a Jew, since Jews have a special pre-existing deal with God. From the Jewish perspective, it really is OK for other people to not be Jewish.

I agree that it could cause a lot of stress on a marriage to pursue conversion to Judaism with a non-Jewish spouse, given the various requirements that entails (more so for the more traditional streams of Judaism). Judaism requires changes in lifestyle which will necessarily affect the rest of the family. Don't fool yourself into believing that if someone loves you enough, and if you feel that Judaism expresses who you are, that s/he will be happy if you convert. Your spouse may still love you, but it is asking a lot of people to change what they do in order to accommodate your new needs. Even though husband and children were Jewish before I converted, I appreciate that they have been willing to accommodate my increased observance in the past few years: from keeping a strictly kosher kitchen (which means that they have to be careful about what cookware, plates, and utensils they use) to which restaurants I am comfortable eating at, to what activities I will or won't do on Shabbat.

I highly recommend that anyone in or considering an "interfaith" relationship, check out this website: Interfaith Family
I don't agree with all opinions expressed there (particularly the idea that it is fine to "raise a child with two religions"), but I think it is worthwhile to peruse the articles and discussion forums to get a feel for the challenges of intermarriage along with people's ways of handling these issues.
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