Thursday, 24 August 2017

On Conversion, Marriage and Status of Children

My name is Deborah, I am Jewish, however my partner who I have been going
out with for 8 years is not. The option of him converting has been discussed
over the last few years. I think his conversion needs to be done through a
liberal/progressive movement though, as we have looked into and spoken to a
orthadox rabbi and it's honestly just too hard.

My question is, if my partner converts through a liberal/progressive shul (synagogue) I
am aware we would ultimately end up getting married by a liberal/progressive
rabbi. Therefore, is our marriage considered Jewish? And when we ultimately
have children and we gave them bar/bat-mitzvahs do they take on the
liberal/progressive identity or would they still be considered orthadox
because of me no matter where they were given bar/bat-mitzvahs and no matter
where we got married?

Please let me know.
Many thanks.

Rabbi Jonathan responds:

Many thanks for your message and honesty, Deborah.

The bottom line is what you want conversion for?

If your partner is not interested in converting to Judaism, we can't convert him.  If he (and you) wish to be orthodox, we're not the right address for you.

If you both want to have a meaningful Jewish life that believes in welcoming sincere converts without making it too difficult, then we may be the right place.

However you have given no information as to where you are located.  To convert you have to be able to be part of a Jewish community.

Conversion takes a minimum of a year - realistically it usually takes more like two - and includes circumcision (for males) and mikveh (ritual immersion), which concludes the process.

I would point out, though, that we run an Introduction to Judaism course (which can be done on-line), which is the 'academic' side of the Conversion course.  Your partner (or you both) would be welcome to undertake this, and would both then know and understand more about Judaism and our perspectives, and would be better equipped to understand Judaism, discuss with family, raise children in a Jewish home, and know whether or not he wished to continue to conversion at some point.  You'll find details here:

Regarding your wedding questions:

The Progressive Movement in Australia, New Zealand and Asia only does marriage between two Jews.

If your partner converted with us, he would sadly not be accepted as Jewish in the eyes of most orthodox, and therefore you would not be able to get married in an orthodox synagogue.

However, since the orthodox observe the matrilineal rule, if the mother is accepted as Jewish by the orthodox, then so are the children.  Therefore, from the narrow point of view of the Jewish status of the children, it makes no difference whether your partner does not convert, or converts through the Progressive movement, or converts through the orthodox system.

Wanting a 'Chuppah' (a Jewish wedding under the canopy) is certainly not a good enough reason to convert and take on an entire framework and world view of belief and practice.  However, if a couple are both born Jewish, or if one converts through our Bet Din (Jewish court), then of course we'd be delighted to conduct a Chuppah.  A past orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Rabbi Jakobovitz, ruled that if a couple could have been married by the orthodox, then the children are counted as Jews, whether they are married in a Progressive or orthodox ceremony.   

Therefore, they could if you chose celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah in orthodox synagogues (though your husband would not be able to be involved, whereas in a Progressive congregation they could).

I hope this is helpful.

Please don't hesitate to contact me with any further questions, or to make an appointment to come together to chat about it all, without obligation of course!  And if you might be interested, why not come along to a service or two to see if you feel comfortable with our lovely, friendly community in East Kew?

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jonathan 

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