Posted on | April 22, 2006 | By Guest Contributor | 6 Comments
For 10 years I lived as a Reform Jew (although I didn’t officially “convert” until I was 20 years old). It is one thing for a single ger/giyores to “upgrade” to a halachaic conversion and yet another thing when there is a non-observant partner involved (Jewish or not). When you go before a Beis Din who only follows the laws of the Torah and tell them you wish to convert; you are also implying that you will observe the 613 mitzvot as well as maintaining an optimal environment where you can observe the Torah’s precepts. It is very difficult, if not impossible to have a non-observant mate. I’ve ‘heard’ of stories where someone converted and lived as an Orthodox Jew and either their mate was not observant or went off the derech or something like that. But it becomes very problematic in relation to the validity of the conversion.
Both your cousin and his wife must commit to maintaining a fully kosher home; complete with being located in the community, taharas hamispacha, sending children to Orthodox day schools, etc. In some cases, the Beis Din will not even consider the non-Jew for conversion unless this two-fold commitment can be verified. It is one thing to have “Jewish knowledge” but quite another to be willing to give up many things simply because, “the Torah says so”.
I myself struggled with this during the chag. I went to Pennsylvania to visit my family; but stay in the frum community for yom tovim and Shabbat so instead of a 10 day vacation with them, it was a 5 day. They could not fully understand why I would travel all that way and spend so little time with them. I could not bear to say no to the lemon merague pie my Grandmother made for me. So what that I left the crust; the intricrate ways of halacha is such that I will never try to balance a chag with my non-Jewish family again. I have not officially converted; the pull from the goyishe world is difficult and painful. It should not be suggested unless the person is truly willing and the probablity for success is great.
I have no real advice other than do nothing more than casual mention of the issue. I would not press it, because even if the non-Jewish wife is gung-ho you still have your cousin and the children to think about. If they seem like they would rather have the big house in the mixed neighborhood, the 1 day Pesach with a drive up to the Catskills afterward, the dinner’s at Outback Steakhouse, the children taking drama classes instead of studying advanced Chumash; any of this – it’s not worth pursuing. You gain a lot, but the entire family needs to be willing to see that gain. If you were born a non-Jew and wish to become Jewish, it takes so much more than just signing a document, change shul membership, and cut out bacon from your breakfast. You need to acquire and be acquired by a nation that exists outside of physical and ethnic boundaries. It’s a lot to ask from a non-Jew; and should not be asked (in my opinion).