Guest Post: An Honest, Affirming Look at Converting Infants

Ed Case, CEO of Interfaithfamily.com, shares his thoughts on our film, conversion and creating Jewish families. You can read more of what Ed has to say on Interfaithfamily.com’s blog.

Welcoming Waters: Mikveh for Babies is an incredibly affirming video on many levels. First, Jennifer Grossman, the mother of Clara, the infant being converted, is someone we should welcome with open arms into the Jewish community: a woman dedicated to being a Jew, creating a Jewish family life and raising a Jewish child. With her own conversion and her daughter’s conversion, she is “very much looking forward to us being a Jewish family together.”

Second, the Grossman family is so fortunate to have Mayyim Hayyim, a completely friendly, embracing place – including for Jennifer’s non-Jewish family– at which to experience this ritual. They are also fortunate to work with Rabbi Andrew Vogel, whose warmth is evident throughout the film. His concern that Clara’s immersion should be shared by the entire family- Clara’s parents and both sets of grandparents- does not go unnoticed and speaks to his warmth and dedication to Jewish inclusion.

Third, as Rabbi Vogel mentions, many parents think that “the hardest thing is letting go.”For mothers who are open to considering mikveh for their children, one daunting obstacle can be concern about being required to completely let go of the infant for a moment. The film brilliantly shows, in an understated way, how blowing on Clara’s face causes her to reflexively hold her breath while her mother lets go and she is submerged in the water. It shows that it doesn’t have to be that hard to let go.

The film is honest in raising difficult issues around recognition of conversions by different religious communities. While conversion of infants with non-Jewish mothers is not required in the Reform movement, which is the Grossman family’s religious community, it is required in other movements. It is understandable that Mr. Grossman wants his daughter to be recognized by other denominations as much as possible, although I’m not sure how widespread that concern is among interfaith couples generally. I do hope Mr. Grossman won’t experience disappointment later on: sadly, Clara’s conversion under the supervision of a Reform rabbi, even including immersion, will not be recognized as valid by some denominations. I often think that interfaith couples do best to stick with their own religious community and not worry too much about meeting the standards of others.

I would also like to mention that, while Jennifer has chosen to convert, there are many women who do not, but who are just as dedicated as Jennifer to raising Jewish children. These women are the un-sung heroes of the Jewish community – mothers who are not Jewish who schlep their children to Hebrew school, light candles with them on Shabbat, and who are strong, dedicated members of our communities. If you ask them, they, too will say that they are “being a Jewish family,” together with their husbands and children. Jennifer Kaplan, the truly talented filmmaker, has done an excellent job of illuminating the issues and process involved in converting an infant, in less than four minutes. We’re pleased to highlight the film on InterfaithFamily.com’s Conversion Resource Page.

About mayyimhayyim

Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
This entry was posted in Children, Conversion, Interfaith. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Guest Post: An Honest, Affirming Look at Converting Infants

  1. pro-inmarriage says:

    Mr. Case is wrong. Only Jewish can give birth to and raise Jewish children. Gentile women can only raise gentile children. Jewish women are not trash or worthless as Mr. Case seems to think. Jewish women were born to fullfill roles that they can only specifically do. A Jewish family can only exist when both partners are Jewish. It’s nice that Jennifer Grossman is converting for her husband but if Mr. Grossman thought it was really important to create a Jewish family he would have dated and married a Jewish woman.

    Mr. Case is anti-Orthodox and wants to create a watered down Judaism that resembles Christianity. He thinks that gentile women are superior to Jewish women. Why would anyone in the Jewish community listen to what this man has to say?

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