Monday, June 7, 2004

Hi Rabbi F,

I told my ex-husband M on Saturday that I am thinking of converting

to Judaism. He looked at me and said, "I'm not anti-semitic, Jen."

He was actually really supportive of it, said it is good that the kids

are exposed to lots of different ideas, and we agreed that they need

to make decisions when they are adults.

He was a little concerned about "the repudiation of Christ," but I

assured him that it just doesn't come up.

He mentioned that Sam at age 13 would be old enough for First

Communion, and I said, "Also Bar Mitzvah," so he laughed and said,

"How about a birthday party?"

I think it would be possible for Sam to do something that could

acknowledge what he is being taught at that time. There is time to

plan, time to think about it.

I read The Chosen yesterday. It was very good, and Dereck is bringing

home The Promise for me. I am starting to understand more and more of

the history of the Jewish people. Wow, you can't say, "I'm converting

to Judaism," any more than you could say, "I'm converting to


Which branch?

I asked Dereck, "How did the hasidim go from opposing the Zionist

movement to controlling everything in Israel?"

He just shrugged.

I can see now why you want me to read more about the history before we

talk further.

I had a little bit of a crisis yesterday because I thought, "I'm not

yet at the point at which it is crucial to me that the boys become

Jewish. What's the point of converting if that isn't the goal, to

raise Jewish children? What kind of a Jew are you?"

And the more I read about the history, the more I think it is

necessary to raise children who will be Jews-- so maybe it's not that

I don't find it important, but that I despair that if I can't have

them convert now that maybe they won't do it as adults.

But then I talked to Dereck and he said, "Look, there are reasons why

it's important personally to you, and also, the boys will have no

chance at becoming Jewish if you don't."

M said something about the Newman Center starting up its classes

again on Wednesday nights (when I have the kids), but I can't take

them to that. You have to draw lines. I can't actively promote their

activity in another religion. He also said that while Catholicism

might be right for him, he doesn't know if he can impose it on the

boys. But he doesn't really like Timber Ridge (the outreach Church he

takes them to) anymore either.

We actually had a very decent chat. I emphasized the Bible stories,

loving G-d, and living an ethical life, and he nodded and agreed that

there are a lot of great stories in the Old Testament (and he added

that there are some crazy things too, and I said, "Oh, come on, look

at Paul! You are no lover of Paul, M." And he isn't-- he hates

Paul. He agreed, and said that is one of his main problems with

Catholicism-- it's based so strongly on Paul's teachings.

He started out by saying, "Oh, Jen, we're not Jews," But I told him I

want a heritage and a tradition to hand down to the boys. And he

concluded the conversation by saying it sounds like a good fit [for

me]. He even knew the name of Reform Judaism, though I don't know how

much he knows about Judaism, period.

But he wasn't opposed. Phew!

I don't know yet what he will say to the boys about it. I guess I'll

find out. But at least it's out in the open now. I told him that our

oldest boy is interested in learning Hebrew and he said, "I'd rather

have him learn French." Oh well. And I told him about our Shabbat

services and blintzes on Shavuot.

So, I'm now reading The Making of the Modern Jew by Steinberg (Chaim

Potok loves Steinberg, it turns out).




  1. Hi Jen!

    When I started the conversion process, my son was 9 and had just had first communion/confirmation in the second grade. I didn't think I had the right to ask that my son convert with me. My husband (who did not convert) and I decided to raise him in "both."

    At the mikveh/bet dein, one of the rabbis asked me what we planned to do with Evan. I responded that we planned to raise him with awareness of both traditions.

    And then he had it out with me :)

    He pointed out that I made decisions for my son all the time. I decided that he would attend school, I decided that he would brush his teeth and eat healthy meals. I decided what activities he participated in and made him clean his room. So, he asked, why was it so hard to make this decision?

    He said he really didn't care if we raised Evan as a Jew or as a Catholic but his point was that we needed to make a decision one way or the other. The result if we didn't, he said, was to raise a child who didn't feel grounded...who searched...and who would end up, like me, having a hard time feeling a part of anything.

    So, we discussed it and I really felt that I wanted Evan to be a Jew. But I also knew that my husband's Catholic family wouldn't be too keen on it.

    In the end though, we decided Evan would be a Jew. We enrolled him in Religious School and he'll take Hebrew this year. My husband's family didn't say a nieces are Jewish (his twin's kids) so it's not SO unusual.

    The end result is we have a Jewish home. My husband worries as much as I do about getting to services and having the candles lit on Fridays by the proper time. Our lives are ruled by the Jewish calendar and to tell you the truth, we LOVE it. I strongly expect my husband to eventually convert.

    Rabbi Gibson was right...making the decision simplified things more than we imagined. We thought Evan could make the choice later and indeed, he can, when he is old enough but until then he will have a strong Jewish background and feel VERY Jewish. The choices he makes about religion as an adult will be like all the other things he chooses.

    I am not encouraging you to do one thing or the other...just offering some advice in hindsight as you make your decision :)


  2. Hi, I found you from Z's blog. I really liked "My Name is Asher Lev." It's a recommend :)

  3. I just bought My Name is Asher Lev-- thanks for the recommend!