Jan 7, 2014

Messengers of Love: Rabbis and Jews-by-Choice in Interfaith Relationships

Messengers of Love: Rabbis and Jews-by-Choice in Interfaith Relationships
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I never thought, while in rabbinical school, that so many people would be interested in converting to Judaism. Nor could I have anticipated my own joy at being present with someone charting a new Jewish path. It is, quite simply, the most meaningful thing I do. I am most aware of the transformative power of Jewish values, learning, and living most deeply when someone exploring them reflects them back to me.

And so, these many years of Jewish meaning-making with "New Jews" leads me to respond to a related question I was recently asked with acquired experience and profound joy.

Question: What should a rabbi's response be when a married person wishes to convert to Judaism while their supportive non-Jewish partner/spouse is not interested in converting to Judaism?

Answer: A person's religious journey is deeply personal, and when blessed by a supportive partner/family, then their own "becoming" is healthy and beautiful. The challenges of intermarriage are just that: challenges

But to whom do they belong? Not to the rabbi or to the "community." They belong to the family, including but not limited to the Jewish member. When Midrash Tanchuma (Lech Lecha 6:32) says that God's Love for a New-Jew surpasses God's love for a Born-Jew, it is because the choice of a Jewish covenantal relationship with God demonstrates a profound statement of Jewish commitment. How much moreso when that person's individual commitment will require inner-family negotiating. It is no simple thing to be in a blended family of any kind. The Jewish community is obligated to welcome and support every Jew, born and emerging. This is a moment when rabbis can truly be messengers of holy love.