Obstacles in the way of making a decision

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This topic has 5 voices, contains 5 replies, and was last updated by  Debbie B. 1207 days ago.

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June 29, 2011 at 3:28 am #5913

Desiree

I just recently got married this May to a man who is very proud of his jewish heritage but is not currently observant. I was raised in a christian household but ever since the age of 13 have questioned/disagreed with too many of the core ideas to consider myself one. I know a lot of general things about Judaism through talks with my husband and reading books. I know I’ve only scratched the surface , but I feel a real connection. I want to learn more and possibly convert.

So I come to my first obstacle= LOCATION.
I live in Panama City, FL and if you want to find any religion other than Christian…good luck. It makes any thoughts or ideas about converting that much more stressful. My husband and I do know of one synagogue but he refuses to go there because they were unwelcoming to him. Soo…the only other option i could think of is to contact a synagogue in Tallahassee. Two hours away….

Second obstacle= Level of observance
Like I mentioned before, my husband has a low level of observance. Although he said that he would be supportive and active in the conversion process if that is what I wanted. BUT my fear is that I will be dragging him along…and that will become a long, exhausting journey.

Third obstacle= Acceptance by other Jews
Obviously if I don’t convert through an orthodox process I wont be acknowledged in all circles…and neither will our children. My husband says the branch of Judaism you choose doesnt matter. Is that how most people feel?

Any suggestions or advice is very welcome. Thank you !

June 29, 2011 at 5:50 am #5914

Phx Mom

First of all, mazel tov on the marriage! 
I can offer some advice.
First, you said there was a congregation near you, but your husband felt unwelcome.  (What does that mean?)  You did not specify what stream of Judaism it was, but if you haven’t checked it out, there is a Reform congregation, Temple B’nai Israel that is in your town.  Although I do belong to a temple where I live, many times I worship online with a fabulous congregation: Central Synagogue of NY.  Luckily, you’re in the Eastern Time Zone, so services will be at the proper times for you.  The URL is: http://www.centralsynagogue.org  The clergy is wonderful, particularly Rabbi Rubenstein (who actually took the time to answer a letter I had written) and Cantor (and Rabbi) Buchdahl.  There’s at least one Conservative congregation online and other Reforms, so you can worship from the comfort of your own home.  Cyberjudaism.org might have some.
Second, I am inmarried, and my level of observance is different from my husband’s.  The bottom line is that you’ve just got to do your own thing. 
Third, your husband is correct.  Most Jews don’t care how you converted.  I believe that Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist all accept each other’s conversions.  Orthodox do not, but the question is whether you forsee yourself ever becoming Orthodox.  While I’m partial to the Reform branch (I’m third generation Reform; the last Orthodox in my family had come from the old country in the 19th century), do what’s most comfortable for you.  If you’re not going to be completely observant, I doubt an Orthodox Bet Din would convert you, anyway. 
Best of luck.

June 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm #5915

Debbie B.

Desiree,

I am a “Jew by Choice” who converted many years after being married to a Jewish husband. You can find out a lot about Judaism through online resources. I suggest you check out this website for converts and prospective converts to Judaism: http://www.jewsbychoice.org
You’ll see that I am an active contributor. It has lists of websites with information on Judaism and quite active online discussion groups.

I will tell you upfront that my personal feeling is that it doesn’t make sense to formally convert if you don’t live where there is a Jewish community to be a part of. The reason is that there is nothing wrong with being a non-Jew in Jewish theology (ie. there is no “damnation” and non-Jews can earn a place in the “world to come”). Some people in your situation will try an online conversion program. I feel that someone who converts through such a program, but does not have any way to truly experience Judaism in a Jewish community will not really understand what being a Jew means. I even know of such a person whom I was not able to convince that he’d be better off waiting until he could move to an area and join a community and work directly with a rabbi. He will be completing an online conversion course by traveling quite hundreds of miles to meet with a Beit Din and immerse in a mikveh. My suspicion is that what drives many of these people is a deep-seated Christian fear of damnation, where they basically feel that the Jews are exempt because they have their own special pre-existing deal with God. They may also just want to have some religious label for themselves and would not be comfortable living as I did for many years as someone who practiced Judaism (and was much more Jewishly observant than any of my Reform and even many Conservative friends), but was not officially Jewish.

Judaism is a wonderful religion in many ways. It fulfills my own spiritual needs. So do explore it—Judaism might have what you are looking for. Just remember that you can explore it and even live it without needing to convert, so you shouldn’t worry about “making a decision” right now. If you end up “dragging your husband along” on what becomes your journey to Judaism, know that you are in good company. There are a number of articles on this website about how the non-Jewish spouse brought their Jewish spouse to a closer connection to their religious heritage. My husband is just amused that I’ve become the more observant Jew in many ways, although he has been quite Jewishly engaged for most of his life. I hope to “see” you over at the JBC website.

By the way, Phx Mom is right that Reform and Conservative synagogues will generally be much more welcoming. I would expect you and your husband to automatically be seen negatively (and possibly harshly rejected) at most Orthodox synagogues because you are an intermarried couple. Some Reform and Conservative individuals will also react negatively to you. This Interfaith Family website and organization exists to combat those negative attitudes and actions on the part of Jewish communities and individuals toward interfaith families.

August 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm #6074

Son Nguyen

Hi Debbie B.
Sorry if I am off-topic.

Do you know some cases when the parents are not Jewish, but want to raise the son Jewish ?
I’ve been asking a Rabbi about the journey to become a Jew, but maybe I am not determined enough that he simply ignores me.

Now I want my son not start the journey in his early age: but preparing food and education for him.
Thanks

August 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm #6075

Karen Kushner

Hi,
Firstly, congratulations on your impending birth. I can well imagine your desire to find the best combination of values and culture for your son and I know that there are many common values in Chinese and Jewish culture.
If you fill out a form here: http://www.interfaithfamily.com/findarabbi we will look for a welcoming rabbi in your geographic area and send you the names. We have rabbis from all over the country who are helping those who want to convert, have birth ceremonies as well as weddings.
Best of luck!
Karen Kushner
Chief Education Officer
InterfaithFamily.com

August 31, 2011 at 7:47 pm #6079

Debbie B.

Son Nguyen,

Your question is rather “off-topic” should be posted as a new discussion topic. (But I’ll try to answer briefly here although I’m not sure I understand what you are asking.)

Are you asking about a situation of a child with no Jewish relatives? I’m quite sure that no rabbi would consent to a child conversion for such a case and it wouldn’t really make any sense. You could try to make sure your son learns about Judaism, but that is very different from developing a sense of Jewish identity.

Are you saying that you’ve had difficulties in seeking conversion for yourself, so now you’re wondering about raising your son Jewish without converting yourself? If so, you need to either persist in asking the rabbi (some adhere to the tradition to turn away prospective converts three times) or find another rabbi who is more amenable.

Please start a new topic or PM me if you want to elaborate or have other questions.

–Debbie

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