Posted on | April 10, 2006 | By Guest Contributor | 31 Comments
Charnie sent in the following question looking for insight from our readers.
What a great idea it is to pick everyone’s collective brain here! So here’s an issue weighing on my mind.
I have some cousins who live in upstate NY with whom I’m very close. The husband is very involved in his Reform synagogue and has, at times, said how he admires my husband and I and our commitment to Torah Jewry. His wife (my cousin by marriage) is an absolutely delightful woman of whom I’m very fond.
Here’s the problem – her mother isn’t Jewish, her father is, she had a Reform conversion. So technically, of course, neither she nor their 10 year old daughter are Jewish, although they absolutely consider themselves as such. The daughter attends the Hebrew Day School in their community, which has Jewish children running the gamut from Chabad to Reform as there aren’t enough Jews in their city to split them up by denominations, maybe something the rest of us could learn from in terms of Ahavas Yisrael. This woman is probably the most knowledgeable cousin I have on that side of the family in terms of Jewish observance, and is definitely the only one I’d trust in my kitchen because, although she doesn’t keep a kosher home, she does know about how it’s done.
My dilemma is: Can she be encouraged to “upgrade” her conversion? We were speaking the other day and she mentioned she might like to come to NYC during the last days of Pesach. Without thinking, I told her we’d be delighted and then, upon hanging up the phone, remembered that there are serious halachic issues about hosting a non-Jew for Yom Tov. However, to bring these facts up to her would not only insult her but would cause a serious Sholom Bayis issue in the family.
At times I’ve considered ordering “The Bamboo Cradle” from Amazon and sort of sending it to her by mistake, making it look like it was intended for someone else (like have a gift card with someone else’s name on it), and then just hoping maybe she’d pick up on the idea of how her conversion isn’t universally recognized. And even if she were to undergo another conversion, that would not change the daughter’s status, which is a whole other “can of worms”.
I’m sure I’m not the only one here with non-Jewish relatives. To me, this cousin’s situation is unique because she absolutely, unequivalently considers herself Jewish, and it is a very important aspect of her life. I don’t doubt at all that at the time she underwent her conversion, she did not know what the ramifications might be, and she’s even joked about how in Israel she wouldn’t be considered Jewish.
What would you recommend?
Looking forward to your comments!