I converted to Judaism. When my parents pass on, I desire to sit shiva. My parents are supportive of my decisions, and of my living a Jewish life and raising a Jewish family. Should I expect my Synagogue to recognize my loss and notify members of the death and shiva times?
When a person converts, Judaism treats them as newly born - severing in the eyes of Halacha (Jewish law) any link to past relations. However, Judaism cherishes the value of hakarat hatov - recognizing the good that one has received and expressing that in appreciative conduct. One of the concepts within the sitting of shiva, is to show honour to the deceased. The sitting of shiva by a convert for a gentile parent - while not an obligation - reflects this hakarat hatov and should be recognized by the community. A synagogue may wish to denote in announcing this shiva that it is being undertaken as a voluntary expression of gratitude, but the community should encourage this practice and allow for the comforting of the bereaved by announcing shiva times, etc.
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler
WHERE IT ALL MATTERS
Shiva is observed by Jewish individuals - regardless of whom they may be mourning. As you are Jewish, your congregation should absolutely recognize your loss, just as they would any loss by a member of the community. Shiva is observed in exactly the same manner.
You ask a wonderful question. The simple answer is yes. As you know, it is mitzvah to engage in the mourning customs of our people. And as a Jewish person, you are expected to mourn as a Jew.
From pre-burial preparations, to the burial/funeral service itself, through shiva, shloshim, through the the year of mourning, and yarzheits and yizkor commemorations – our tradition has a beautiful and spiritually charged set of rituals for grieving for our loved ones who have died. Part of the grieving process occurs in your own space, while some of it occurs in the communal space.
Every congregation offers some level of assistance with these rituals – depending on the community - including notifications and shiva visits. The fact that you are a convert does not change this. As the Jewish people welcomed you into the tribe when you chose to join us – so too, we commit ourselves to supporting you in times of loss. The Jewish mourning customs are designed for the living, not for the deceased. So, whether your parents are Jewish or not, the mitzvot are there for you to fulfill.
I would encourage you to discuss this further with your local rabbi or cantor if you have any other questions or concerns.
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