Why does someone in a committed interfaith relationship choose to convert to Judaism?

As a rabbi working with hundreds of interfaith couples, I would have to say that there are as many reasons someone in an interfaith relationship would choose to convert as there are interfaith couples.  Some have been thinking about being Jewish since childhood, others have only come to consider it since dating someone Jewish and others have been married for years before putting a toe in the water.  What is common to all of them is the sincerity with which they approach the decision to convert and the dignity they bring to the process of preparation and the final act of immersion.

What brings someone to the door of the mikveh often has to do with their own sense of having found “home” and wanting to identify with it.  It could be the love of a Jewish family, a regular connection with a Jewish institutional community or Jewish professional, the preparation of their children for bat or bar mitzvah, a class they took in Jewish living or finding that the people they connect most with are Jews, that motivates the choice.  Some are pushed to discover Jewish choices by their prospective in-laws, and some find it in spite of no one even hinting at the possibility they could consider conversion, for fear of turning her or him off to joining the family.

If I were asked to define the formula for bringing someone in an interfaith relationship to conversion, I would have to say “Hold yourself as an example of what is meaningful and valuable in being Jewish and share your love of Judaism through your words and actions.  There is no need to push.  Simply be welcoming and open to the possibility that someone would want to convert to Judaism, while loving them for who they already are.”

Lev Ba’esh is the rabbi of B’nai Or of Boston (a Jewish Renewal Congregation) and the Director of the Resource Center for Jewish Clergy at www.Interfaithfamily.com.  Lev travels the world officiating life cycle events for Jewish and interfaith couples and families, and can also can be found teaching courses on Jewish living and life cycles, and facilitating workshops on ‘Inclusion and welcoming’ of unaffiliated Jews and interfaith families in Jewish life and community.    Lev was ordained in the Reform Movement of Judaism in 1994, holds a law degree from Yeshiva University and a BA in Psychology from Clark University.  He lives in Malden, MA with his partner Andrew.

to contact rabbi Lev lev@rabbilevbaesh.com

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Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
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One Response to Why does someone in a committed interfaith relationship choose to convert to Judaism?

  1. Debbie says:

    Rabbi Lev is absolutely right, and I know from personal experience:
    I attended services at a university Hillel almost every Shabbat and most holidays for three years as a non-Jew before marrying my Jewish husband. But I did not convert before marriage although I loved Judaism, in part because it would have upset my parents. I did finally convert many years later and I have to say that a big influence for me was that I was inspired by people in my lay-led minyan whom I wanted to emulate. It was clear that Judaism was a major aspect of their lives and the source of much of what made them special people. I am very grateful that these same people welcomed me into the community even as a non-Jew and nurtured my interest in Judaism without ever pushing me to convert, so that I could feel that I did it for myself and when I was ready.

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