You Shouldn't Try to Convince Her

Conversion to Judaism is one of the most personal decisions one can make. Ultimately, it is up to your daughter-in-law - and no one else - whether to convert or not. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to convey what you see as the benefits of converting, as well as your disappointment if she doesn’t (unconditional love notwithstanding), without her feeling she is being pressured to convert.

Pressure, real or perceived, will backfire. Pressure usually makes a person less willing to convert, or else less than enthusiastic even if they do convert. Why risk a backlash when your daughter-in-law has gone out of her way to tell you that her affection for Judaism is growing? If her relationship to Judaism continues to deepen, and it’s meant to be, then your daughter-in-law will convert on her own.

However, while expressing your personal desire that she convert may be inappropriate, there are realities about which she know. I have encountered many in her situation who were done a great disservice by not being told.

Your son may feel perfectly comfortable in a Reform temple where your grandson will be considered a Jew by patrilineal descent. However, the majority of the world’s Jews, which adhere to the longstanding norm of matrilineal descent, will not consider him to be Jewish. Even within American Jewry, current demographic trends point to a Reform movement that is aging and contracting, and will be a much smaller minority by the time your grandson grows up.

Regardless of one’s feelings about this, it is nevertheless the reality. I must emphasize that it is not a reason to convert. However, it is important that people make decisions with all the facts in hand. Many a patrilineal Jew has encountered heartbreak in adulthood because he/she had never been made aware that not all Jews have the same understanding of Jewishness.

Harold Berman is a veteran Jewish communal professional, and the Director of J-Journey.org, which provides mentoring and support for intermarried families exploring the possibilities of observant Jewish life. Harold is also, with his wife Gayle, the co-author of “Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope,” about their “intermarriage gone Jewish.”

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You Shouldn't Try to Convince Her

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