Conversion and Love
It is a fairly common situation that a Jew and non-Jew are dating and the non-Jew converts Orthodox before marrying. See the book Becoming. What it takes to marry into the Orthodox Jewish faith, a process that Karlie “I am very modern, but I'm also a very traditional person, and I think that's and knowledge of Judaism, and set her conversion date for the following. Orthodox rabbis overseeing conversions are typically adamant about a prospective convert NOT dating while studying for conversion. The conversion process is.
Of course, you say, "That'll never be me!
Further, from your perspective, you should discourage any orthodox Jew from dating you until you've gone to the mikvah and officially converted. He or she will get more flack from the community than you can imagine. Most notably, especially when it's a male Jew and a converting female, they will assume that the relationship is not "proper" as in observing shomer negiah, etcand they will question whether the Jew is "really" orthodox.
Jewish Conversion and Relationships: He's Just Not That Into Your God
They'll assume that the conversion candidate just doesn't know any better, but that the Jew knows exactly what he's doing and is trying to date non-Jews without looking like he's headed towards intermarriage. I've known people who survived this, but it's not pleasant. And it's one more outside pressure you don't need on a relationship. Similarly, if your new partner isn't orthodox but you're in the orthodox conversion process, that is enough to derail your conversion for "not being serious.
If you begin dating a nonobservant Jew after you've started your process, the rabbis don't expect that the other person will begin becoming observant but will actually draw your observance back. So what happens if you happen to meet someone "nice" at shul, etc, and you want to pursue something?
Stay quiet about it.
You're Not Crazy: UPDATED: Why You Shouldn't Date During Conversion
We have seen people who discovered after much honest soul searching that their exploration into Judaism was motivated, deep down, by an effort to hurt their families who they perceived had betrayed them in a myriad of ways. Marriage, retaliation, status seeking, currying favor, etc.
It takes a very honest and insightful person and a painstaking process to identify personal interest, ego agendas and to confront the truth. There is no technology that can be applied. It may take a long time for one to be sure. Linda was a brilliant person of consummate integrity. She studied Judaism and came to classes for years. She was CEO of a huge company and sacrificed much to experience holidays and life cycles in the lives of our community.
Her agonizing struggle and search for the truth came to an end when the Rabbi asked her if she was prepared to live a life alone and unmarried. Becoming a convert, he suggested, would further complicate her life and make finding an appropriate partner all the more difficult. She said that when she was able to give an unequivocal positive response, she knew that her search had come to an end and she was ready. She realized that she was committed to the point where no barriers could dissuade her or stand in her way.
Only when there are no strings attached will you get a clear and objective picture of where you stand. Dear reader, one of the tests you might have to subject yourself to in order to strip away any doubt or semblance of ulterior motive would be to give up your boyfriend.
With that personal bias laid to rest, with that subjectivity no longer an issue, you can then proceed to evaluate the merits of your interest in Judaism.
Let me clarify the need for such clarification, and the possible consequences for ignoring it. What if your relationship with this young man should fail to materialize, as sometimes occurs over time with early infatuations?
What if your friend's parents would object and the young man feels constrained to accede to his parents' wishes? Are you still committed to becoming an observant Jew? Do you become resentful or bitter to Torah because of the collapse of your romantic interests? I am not questioning your sincerity or integrity, God forbid, nor do I seek to denigrate your courageous attempt of commitment to mitzvoth. Rather, by subjecting yourself to this test, you will determine if your journey can be a proud acquisition of your own, independent of any other person or consideration.
I have the distinct privilege of presiding over a community of which a good portion are righteous converts. They are the finest and the best, and indistinguishable from the rest. In many instances, we are into their second and third generations with offspring who are distinguished rabbis, scholars, professionals and most importantly proud members of the Jewish people.
These converts all had one thing in common -- no matter the cost, the pain and the sacrifice, they absolutely had to be Jewish! Milt and Ann came to see us about becoming Jewish. I vividly remember that day. I was in a big rush. She was bracing herself for one of my long, bitter, tearful diatribes.
I spent the next hour singing my feelings out on his karaoke machine. I was delighted but as his profile mentioned having Jewish parents I decided to tell him upfront that my parents were not. You are not a Jew.Love and Marriage in Orthodox Jewish communities
Did he think I was some breed of religious terrorist? I I keep kosher, lived in Israel, observe Shabbat and chagim. He then called me a Christian… as a slur, and blocked me.
There are Jews named Chriss. This past Shavout I heard a fellow convert say something very simple but powerful — we forget that despite our different backgrounds we once stood at Sinai together as one community.
Marrying a Convert
Maybe that was only a desert mirage. Chriss Williams is currently finishing her degree in Religion at Hunter College. Images courtesy of Chriss Williams.
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- Chriss the Jew; Dating as a Reform Convert