Sunday, 5 January 2014

Why can't I go to the Bet Din when I'm pregnant?

Allison asks 'I am almost ready to appear before the Bet Din and am 7 months pregnant.  My partner and I are looking forward to having a 'Jewish' baby - but I hear that this may not be possible.  Please explain the situation.

Rabbi Jonathan responds:

The first think to point out is that this is a question about Conversion, not Introduction to Judaism (which is only that, an Introduction, or one of the steps on the way to conversion).

I believe there are two main issues around heavily pregnant women and the Bet Din (Jewish Court):
a) Hormones have a significant effect on emotional mood in the later stages of pregnancy, and what is at any time a very emotional and challenging interview can become overwhelming, and ultimately may not be perceived by the candidate as a positive and supportive experience,
b) The Bet Din must feel, and be seen to be, free to question and evaluate the candidate fully and properly.  On occasion, such as when a wedding date has been set and guests already invited, the members of the Bet Din feel pressured and that they are expected to be a rubber stamp - the Bet Din is no longer free to say 'no' or 'we feel you should do a little more on this or that area' (even though in my experience it never does the former and very rarely even the latter).  With a baby imminent, the Bet Din may feel the same pressure - clearly the woman (and couple) want and expect it to be completed at this interview and before the arrival (as you suggest).

I think this is a fair and reasonable position - it is certainly observed also by B'tei Din in the UK.

Hope that helps


Rabbi Jonathan

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