I would like to convert to Judaism. My fiance is Muslim. He fully supports my decision to convert and has agreed to raise any children we may have Jewish, although he does not want to abandon his own religion. Is this a problem? May I convert in this situation?
Once you are no longer single, I am not aware of any rabbis who allow solo conversion to Judaism for someone with a non-Jewish partner. The specific religion of your spouse has no bearing on this matter. The only possibility, which seems not to be viable in your case given your spouse's desire not to abandon his religion, would be for both of you to study and practice Judaism to the point where you are both ready to join the Jewish people through a formal conversion process. At this point you might consider exploring both religions together, as well as your own birth religion, if you have one or more, in order to find one coherent faith tradition within which to create a family together.
With blessings on your life and path, Rabbi Goldie Milgram, Executive Vice-President, ReclaimingJudaism.org
Converting to Judaism involves an acceptance of all 613 mitzvahs with the idea in mind that we will fulfill all of them to the best of our ability. A conversion would not be kosher if the potential convert were to say, "I will convert to Judaism, accept all of the commandment s - except one."
The Torah explicitly forbids intermarriage. The source is inDeuteronomy 7:3-4,
You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son, for he will cause your child to turn away from after Me and they will worship the gods of others.
This is also the Scriptural source for the law of matrilineal descent. Since the verse states "for he (ie a non-Jewish father) will cause your child to turn away ... ", this implies that a child born to a Jewish mother is Jewish whereas, if a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, the child is not Jewish.
A Jewish woman who has already married out and borne children should be encouraged to give them a full Jewish education. There are today thousands of practising Jews who only have a Jewish mother. However, to a couple contemplating intermarriage, the facts speak for themselves. Except in a small number of cases in which the mother is very determined and gives the child a very positive, strong Jewish education, in many cases the child grows up with a mixed and confused identity; in simple English, half-Jewish. Technically, there is no such thing – one is either 100% Jewish or not. However, in terms of identity, the child feels only half-Jewish. Even if the mother is a proud Jew, the father, whether atheist, agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim etc., does not share the same beliefs and values. Even if he is sympathetic, or even agrees to the child being brought up Jewish, there are bound to be differences. Does one celebrate Chanukah or Xmas, both or neither? Whichever one chooses is confusing or even contradictory. Many intermarried couples today celebrate both – but what sort of message does this give the child? Is the child Jewish, thus rejecting the notions of Christianity, or is the child a Christian with Jewish roots? It causes great confusion for the child and in many cases the child sees both faiths only on a superficial level, distanced by his parents from true belief.
The child is also given the test of mixed allegiances. All passages of life create a problem. Should the child be circumcised, christened, both or neither? Should the child have a Bar Mitzvah or be confirmed, marry in a synagogue or a church, be buried in a Jewish cemetery or be cremated?
And what chances are there that the child should want to marry a Jew, and carry on the chain? The statistics show that the percentage of separations and divorces among intermarried couples is greater than among marriages within the faith.
There is another point: people are social beings. From time immemorial they have gathered in communities. One thing the international Jewish community prides itself in is the idea of Kol Yisrael Chaverim – all Israel are one fraternity, one brotherhood, one nation. If you are traveling to Bangkok and need a place for Shabbatyou can be sure that if you turn up in shul you will get an invitation. Wherever a Jew goes he will have an international support group that extends hospitality and help, if needed. By having a non-Jewish child one has extricated the child from that community and bequeathed alienation to him. Everybody wants to belong – it is a basic human need. Intermarriage causes great confusion to children with regard to where they actually belong.
Marriage in general, even between two people of similar background, entails a certain risk as to eventual adjustment and compatibility. Even if the two have been acquainted for some time there is no sure guarantee as to what the relationship will be like when the acquaintance is turned into a marriage, where the two will be thrown together under one roof for 24 hours a day, day after day and week after week. But when the backgrounds are entirely different, and where these differences date back for scores of generations – and are consequently of a deep and lasting quality – the chances of adjustment and compatibility are lessened.
Intermarriage often results, sooner or later, in friction and unhappiness. That a casual, or even more serious, kind of relationship seemed in the past to indicate compatibility, is not a proof that it would be so ever after in a marriage situation.
To be honest – in the plain sense of the word – one would not wish to drag another party into an alliance which is likely to be troubled. If there is true love between the two parties, one would certainly not wish to cause the other this pain, and would readily forgo the prospect of immediate and short-lived pleasure in order to spare the other the probable result. Otherwise the professed love is tinged by selfishness.
Should there be children from such a union, there is the added consideration of the possibility of the children having to witness constant friction – and worse – between their parents.
One's personal desire is no justification for involving oneself to involve another person – least of all a loved one – into such a situation, even if the other person is agreeable, and sincerely so. No person has the right to harm another person.
A Jewish marriage is called a Binyan Adei Ad – an everlasting edifice. In order that the edifice of marriage should indeed be strong and lasting, everything connected with the wedding, as well as the establishment of the couple's home, should be in full compliance with the instructions of the Torah. The Torah is called Torat Chaim – the Torah of life – it is the source of everlasting life in the Hereafter as well as the true guide to life on earth.
The analogy of marriage to an "everlasting edifice" is not merely a figure of speech but contains also an important idea and moral. In the case of any structure, the first and most important step is to ensure the quality and durability of the foundation. Without such a foundation, all the efforts put into the walls, roof, decorations and so on, would be of no avail. This is even more true of the structure of marriage; if its foundations are unstable, what tragedy could result! This is why a Jewish marriage must, first of all, be based on the rock- solid foundation of the Torah and mitzvot. Then the blessing of joy and happiness will follow the couple for the rest of their lives.
Welcome to the tent! I like to describe Jewish community as big tent and converting in is a big commitment to so congratulations and Mazal Tov! Of course as you probably already know conversion is big commitment - not just the process of learning and preparing for the official transition but the post-conversion living of a Jewish life. Judaism is an all encompassing religion, culture and civilization. I applaud you for your decision and commitment to see the process through.
Of course you are welcome to convert (assuming you fulfill the requisite obligations of the community and rabbi you are working on your conversion with) regardless of your husband's religious background or desire. However, it will of course present some significant challenges in your life if your home has two religions being practiced. Let me give you some examples to think about and discuss with your husband and I think in asking and answering these questions you will be able to answer your own question.
Have you discussed what it means to "raise your children as Jews"? Will he be able to help with taking your children to Jewish schooling and holiday/Shabbat services?
What about areas of practice in Judaism and Islam that conflict - how will you rectify those differences?
How will you explain these differences to your children?
Is he comfortable if you don't practice the laws surrounding women and marriage in Islam?
Are you comfortable if he is not able or willing to participate fully in synagogue life? At lifecycle events like bar/bat mitzvah?
Are you thinking of keeping kosher? How would he feel about a Kosher home?
Are you considering keeping Shabbat? What does he do on Friday night and Saturdays?
Though these should not neccassarily be deterents to your conversion being a part of an interfaith family presents certain challenges and I believe (no matter what the faiths are) a couple needs to work hard on addressing some of the most difficult and challenging issues which will inevitably come up over the course of a lifetime especially when children are involved. This is certainly true when one partner is of the Jewish faith as it is a religion of daily ritual practices which change the nature of one's life in a drastic way. It is important to consider the impact of the differences in your religion will have on your relationship, your future children and your home life. In doing so I think you will discover you will be able to answer your own question posed here.
I am delighted that you are seeking to convert to Judaism and raise children Jewish. Mazal tov on this decision.
I am very wary of creating a situation in the family that exacerbates an already difficult situation. Being in an interfaith marriage presents many challenges when a couple is raised in a particular religion. Converting INTO Judaism and thereby creating an interfaith marriage adds a new dimension that makes the marriage even more problematic. Having the support of your husband is important but support also means that he is interested in helping you practice. How can that happen?
In addition, the reality is that, whether Muslim or Christian, the other spouse is from a different religious background that on some very fundamental levels is very different than Judaism. The Muslim element exacerbates this many times over. For instance, how is your child going to learn about love of Israel when it is probable that your fiancee's family and/or friends probably think Jews are imposters in the Holy Land? How are you going to feel giving funds to a Muslim charity that quite possibly supports anti-Semitism - which is par for the course for far too many charities? The challenges are endless and the solutions, as I see them, disastrous.
My advice is to seriously reconsider the marriage. The waters are too dangerous and, as a young Jew, you may not be ready for the tumult that will ensue.
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