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They Say You Can't Choose Your Family...

A letter I received:

Dear Sir,

I am considering conversion to Judaism, but I have two questions.

First, my husband does not believe in G-d, though I do. Is it possible to still convert or do I need to choose between him and my religion?

Second, I understand from talking to and meeting with other Jewish people that family is an essential part of the Jewish community. I cannot have children. Is that going to make me unwelcome or an outcast?

My Answer:

I have often said that a true friend does not make you choose between friends.

The first thing to realize is that there really is no need per se for you to convert at all. You could (more easily, in fact) just be a Noahide and attain a portion in the World to Come without conversion. You need not choose at all. And indeed, in your situation, it is what I would advise. Hashem does not ask you to choose between Judaism and your husband.

However, should you choose to convert to Judaism, that would make you a Jew, and thus fully obligated to keep all the Commandments and Laws of the Torah. One of those Laws forbids us from being married or living with a non-Jew.

Once Jewish, you, just like me, and just like every other Jew, would be forbidden to be with a non-Jewish spouse. This is why I would suggest that you do not convert. I see no reason for you to destroy your family life. And you have no obligation to convert to Judaism. As I wrote above, one does not need to be Jewish to merit a portion in the World to Come.

Therefore, I suggest that you check out the Noahide movement. If you keep those Seven Laws and their details, you are what Hashem asks of human beings, and you need do no more to go to Heaven. See the link below.

In my opinion, people should never put themselves into situations where they have to choose between loves. If you love your husband and he loves you, stay with him and love him all the more. G-d does not enjoy dividing families. Sometimes it becomes necessary, and in such cases it often must be done, but --- only if it must be done.

As to your other question, which was whether you would be shunned or treated as a pariah because you cannot have children: that is not the case. There is no reason to believe this. There are, sad to say, many, many people today -- Jews as well -- who have difficulty having children. Some are helped via medical means, or perhaps other means I'm not aware of, but many have not been able to benefit from these means, unfortunately. Whether a person can have children is entirely up to G-d. People with this sad difficulty do what they can, since we are required to do so. But ultimately, even after all the effort people put into these things, it's all in G-d's Hands.

The point I'm making is that we all know this, and everyone knows this problem exists, in Jewish society as well. There are people who belong to Jewish support groups for this issue, and there are organizations that try and help people solve the issues, to offer financial assistance for medical treatments, etc.

Admittedly, it might be hard to live in a society that is so child-oriented when one has no children. People do it, but many people feel the emotional pain all the more so because they live in such a society. Of course, each situation might be different. And as I said, there are support groups for childless women, and for men as well.

I have read that younger married people without children do tend to feel a bit left out. Not shunned or outcast, but simply not fully part of things like everyone else. At the very least, they feel uncomfortable always being around other people's children, hearing parents talk about their children, or about PTA, and so forth. None of this is deliberately aimed at hurting anyone; it's just that our society is centered around the family.

So what I'm saying is that you would not be shunned. People would understand, and they wouldn't hassle you or make you feel outcast. But that doesn't mean that you personally will feel comfortable. That might be up to you.

One thing that is necessary in being Jewish: total immersion as much as possible. It is absolutely required that we live in a Jewish neighborhood, within walking distance of an Orthodox synagogue. We spend our time doing Jewish things, learning from and interacting with other Jewish people, and so on and so forth.

Becoming Jewish involves a total "makeover" of all the spiritual aspects of your life. This cannot be done without the support of friends.

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Check out the Noahides Yahoo Group, at: Rachav's B'nai Noah Group to find out about the Noahide Movement.

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Links Updated 12/21/09