Article Discussion: A Christian Mother’s Jewish Prayers for Her Unborn Son

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This topic has 3 voices, contains 3 replies, and was last updated by  Jacob 965 days ago.

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August 26, 2011 at 10:00 am #6055

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August 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm #6058

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I am in the same situation and had the same thoughts myself when having our children. Will our children always have to prove themselves “real” Jews?

Don’t let others tell you who and who is not Jewish. Hold strong to this and repeat it to your child. Anyone who has a problem with your family’s “Jewishness” should look to themselves first, not you.

We teach our son to “worry about yourself.” A good lesson about tattling but also here.

There are so many wonderful things to learn from Judaism. However I feel so many people get caught up in the rules of who is Jewish enough that it overshadows the great openness of the faith.

Thanks for sharing your story.

August 28, 2011 at 3:35 am #6061

Debbie B.

Cassie,

I wasn’t Jewish either when my children were born 17 and 14 years ago, but like you, I had “lived Jewishly” for 10 years before I became a mother. Here is my general advice: you can’t really control how other people will choose to see your child, but you do have the ability to help your child have a strong sense of Jewish identity and have the knowledge and experience to be comfortable in Jewish settings.

Despite the above sentiment, I’m glad to hear that you do plan to do the things that you can to make it easier for other Jews to accept your child as Jewish. Some people do not want to do many of the traditional rituals for bringing a child of a non-Jewish mother into the Jewish people because they feel that is capitulating to an unfair system imposed by traditional Jews. But I have found in my own experience that there traditional Jews who want to be more accepting, and will in fact bend in their own way if some important aspects of tradition are followed.

For some of our Orthodox friends, knowing that there was a bris for my son and immersion in a mikveh for both of our children, allows them to follow their hearts in treating our kids as Jews because they can feel that it is only in details that there is a question, a “safek”, not a definite problem. I remember being puzzled when one of our Orthodox friends asked us about whether we had converted our children. Surely she would never allow her daughter to marry my son unless he did first did an Orthodox conversion. And then there was my own conversion. I wondered if it would matter to her (or other Orthodox friends) if it wasn’t Orthodox. The answer is that yes, even though there are some Jews who will insist that a non-Orthodox conversion is meaningless, for those Orthodox friends and relatives who are not scorning you or your children altogether, an non-Orthodox conversion will still make a difference, and will probably allow them to be more comfortable with the Jewish identity of your son.

Be sure to have a recognized (“Orthodox”) mohel to the brit milah. We had a very well-known Orthodox mohel do our son’s circumcision. Since you already know that your child is male (we didn’t know until our son was born), I would start asking around now to find a suitable mohel who is willing to do the brit milah “for the sake of conversion”, knowing that the mother is not Jewish. The wording of the blessing is only slightly different. I doubt most of the attendees at the bris will even notice. In fact, one of our minyan friends who has a pretty good knowledge of Hebrew did not notice the difference in blessings, so that years later he was shocked to discover that I wasn’t Jewish. (I converted a couple years after that.) And if your son should want to do an Orthodox conversion in the future, it could save him from having to do the “hatafat dam brit” symbolic drawing of blood.

I don’t think it will be possible to do a child conversion under Orthodox auspices under the circumstances, but nevertheless do be sure to convert your son with an immersion in a mikvah with a non-Orthodox beit din. I believe that there is only one non-Orthodox mikvah in Israel which is located on a Masorti kibbutz, but I would be sure to use it rather than say the ocean or another halachically valid natural body of water. It will simply  make more Jews feel more comfortable about the conversion to know that the immersion was more “traditional”.

And then, bring up your son in a home that observes Jewish ritual and give your son a strong Jewish education. I hear from Israeli friends that the people who attend secular schools have a shocking lack of knowledge of even very basic Judaism. If you are still in Israel when your son reaches school age, I suggest you look into the Tali (Masorti) or Reform Jewish schools. We have Israeli friends who have sent their kids to both of these kinds of non-Orthodox schools that still teach religious subjects.

The fact is that there WILL be Jews who will question your son’s Jewish identity. The best defense is for him to have confidence in his own Jewish identity and having a good knowledge of Judaism is helpful for that. This has worked for my own kids. Because they are half Chinese, people have questioned their Jewish identity based on their appearance. Even while they fully understand that their Jewish identity is not accepted by Orthodox authorities, they FEEL Jewish, and they are knowledgable and observant enough to feel comfortable in Orthodox services or at Orthodox ffriends’ homes.

The fact that you are thinking about this and realize that there are issues is good because it is more difficult when these things come up later in way that is emotionally damaging. But I agree with the previous poster that you shouldn’t get too caught up in the worry either. Another thing that is good is your positive feelings about Judaism. That’s what is important to convey to your child, and it can be done even if you are not Jewish yourself. I hope your husband is also supportive of providing a strong Jewish identity for your son. Sometimes the Jewish spouse in an intermarriage is conflicted about Judaism because of the negative reactions to the intermarriage from Jews .

Best wishes for you and your child and your husband.

–Debbie

August 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm #6071

Jacob

I think what you said has great value. The concern is even more so for interracial families. I am a white Jew-by-choice and my wife is black (and a non-Jew). So when people see us in public they don’t always see us as a Jewish or interfaith couple. I imagine our children will be questioned as well. People will probably wonder if I adopted if there mother is not with them. We are planning to move to the Detroit suburbs where the number of interracial people/families is higher and there is also a large Jewish population. Our hope is that we will be able to expose them to both great cultures and they will never feel invisible, or not Jewish-enough/not black-enough.

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