These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Not a Hypothetical Situation

Posted on December 14, 2012 by David Bogomolny

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We spent last Shabbat with a friend and his partner.

He is a Jewish convert who is currently not halakhically observant, but his Jewish identity is very important to him, and his attitude towards Jewish tradition and halakha is very respectful.

His partner is a woman whose father is halakhically Jewish, but she is not halakhically Jewish herself. Therefore, she must go through a conversion process in order for the two of them to be married in Israel as Jews. However, she has two children with a previous husband (a boy of fifteen years, and a boy of nine years) who live with her, and don’t have any particular interest in converting to Judaism.

When she made Aliyah, she considered converting, but her then-husband dissuaded her. Now she’s exploring conversion once again.

CM and I were invited to spend Shabbat with the two of them – it was the prospective convert’s first Shabbat ever. Not her first Shabbat meal (we’ve had her over for a Shabbat meal before), but her first Shabbat during which she more or less abided by halakhic observances.

Anyway, she was very interested, and asked us a lot of questions. And our friend (her partner) was very enthusiastic about studying halakha and Torah with her. He feels that it’s his tafkid (role) to educate her, and as they learn together he remembers more and more of his own Torah studies, and is becoming more and more excited about becoming more halakhically observant himself. It’s all very sweet.

However – I’m fairly concerned about what the Jerusalem Rabbanut will say about her situation vis-à-vis her non-halakhically Jewish children. I wouldn’t be surprised if they reject her as a potential convert if her children don’t convert themselves, as living a halakhically observant life will be significantly more challenging for her (in terms of kashrut and Shabbat, for example) if her children aren’t also maintaining the same lifestyle.

And if she isn’t allowed to convert… where does that leave her and her partner? They’re currently excited and hopeful about starting a Jewish life together, and raising Jewish children… and the beginnings of her conversion studies have already inspired her partner to once again take an interest in living a traditional Jewish life. I don’t know what will be if the Rabbanut rejects her 🙁