Julie Wiener at The Jewish Week has a nice column about non-Jewish women who convert many years after their intermarriage.
This phenomenon marks a change from the typical pattern 20 or more years ago, when women would often convert before marriage under pressure–either overt or subtle–from their partner’s families.
“Today we’re seeing a flip, and more and more — I would say the majority of people who go through the process of converting — make that decision after they’re married,” says Kathy Kahn, director of outreach and membership at the Union for Reform Judaism.
While being careful not to criticize those who convert before the wedding, Kahn observes that “often these later conversions are particularly deep and rich.” …
Traditionalists often argue that if gentiles married to Jews are accepted, not pressured to convert and allowed to participate fully in Jewish life, there will be no incentive left for anyone to convert. However, the stories of Beth and other late-marriage converts indicate that for many people, the acceptance and lack of pressure — in short, having a positive, not coercive, experience in the Jewish community — allows them to feel comfortable enough to explore Judaism on their own terms.
Rabbi Sam Gordon, who works for a congregation in suburban Chicago that specifically serves interfaith families, has a nice analogy for these converts:
Rabbi Sam Gordon … compares gentiles in Jewish households to immigrants who have not yet decided whether to become naturalized.
“You don’t become an American citizen sitting on the shores of France or on the boat over here,” he explains. “You live here for a while and then it becomes yours.”
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