I want to convert to Judaism, but my husband is not Jewish…
I’d like to introduce myself first: my name is Elsie. I am from Germany and 26 years old. I am studying for a PhD in English Literature at the moment and came across your site while browsing. Since many years I have been searching for MY religion – a girl from the southern German countryside, raised a Roman Catholic… And so very often I feel that spiritual connection with judaism. When I hear a “Shalom Aleichem” I get goose pimples, it touches my soul deeply.
There were times when I celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat, read a lot about judaism and went into it. But still I lacked the Jewish background – and the Jewish infrastructure. In the end I left it. But it came up again, so I contacted both the Rabbis here in Munich to be allowed to go to synagogue and talk to them. The Orthodox rabbi unfortunately told me that there was no way for me to judaism as I was together with a Roman Catholic who wanted to stay so. I am now happily married to that man whom I love deeply.
The liberal rabbi also rejected me, also because of my Christian boyfriend. Then I thought I should forget judaism, as there is no space for me… and it has begun creeping back into my life. My thoughts wander around “what if I were jewish?” I get a peace of mind if I think about it, I browse the net for jewish reources… and I don’t know how to talk to anybody or whom to ask for guidance or for an evaluation of my situation. I have absolutely no connection to jewish life, and unfortunately the jewish community here is very closed and rather for itself.
What can I do? How can I find out whether judaism is for me? Is there any way of you helping me? What is this all about?
I hope to hear from you soon! Thanks for everything and best regards,
Thanks for your email. I must say, I don’t envy the position you’re in. It is very complicated, to say the least. It’s true, if you were to stay married to a non-Jewish man who was unwilling to explore Judaism with you, you’d have no way to convert. So I see three options for you at this point:
1) Have you ever heard of the Seven Laws of Noah? Judaism believes that gentiles can have a place in the world to come and a connection with G-d too. We have no belief that the only way to “salvation” is to be Jewish. The Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach (as they’re called in Hebrew) are just basic laws that expand probably closer to around 40 laws about generally being a good person and having a relationship with G-d. There are communities of Bnei Noach (children of Noah) all around the world, they follow these commandments, learn Torah, go to synagogues, but remain gentiles. Perhaps this would be a happy medium – stay with your husband, but connect to other non-Jews who follow Torah law. For some resources on this subject, please see: http://www.noahide.org/ and http://www.beingjewish.com/conversion/becomingjewish.html The second site recommends some books as well.
2) Does your husband know anything about Judaism? Would he be willing to expand his horizons and find out if he saw as much beauty in it as you do? Asking him to convert is a big thing to ask, but asking him to learn shouldn’t be too much trouble. Perhaps if he learned more he’d feel the same way you do and you could do this together. A book that I’ve seen recommended for non-Jews considering conversion (that would be useful for him and you) is called “Becoming a Jew” by Maurice Lamm http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Jew-Maurice-Lamm/dp/0824603508
3) The third option, if you felt you had to become Jewish, but your husband was unwilling to explore it himself, would be to leave him. I wouldn’t recommend this though as you have a great marriage and have no obligation to become a Jew. However, if you were to learn about the Noahide concept and still felt unfulfilled by this and if your husband was completely unwilling to even explore the possibility of learning more, leaving him might be your only option.
I’m sorry that the local Jewish community in Germay is not too welcoming. I can’t speak for them personally, but we don’t encourage conversion. While living a Jewish life is extremely rewarding, it also is an undertaking, so the policy is to stay aloof and let the would be convert keep coming back – a sign that he or she is really sincere about the conversion.
In terms of trying out Judaism for yourself – would going to Israel be an option for you? There are several programs in Israel that take a small number of students wishing to convert each year. You can get a list of beginner seminaries here (StudyinIsrael.org). The only thing, though, is that if your husband is not willing to open himself up to the idea of learning, getting to see Judaism so up close might unfortunately mean an end to your marriage – or maybe it would show you that it’s not the right thing for you after all, and you could happily live following the Noahide Laws staying married to him. But I think you will have to explore at least one of these options, because no matter how much you love your husband, if you keep feeling the need to explore Judaism and keep ignoring it for the sake of your marriage, you could end up resenting your husband down the road. Like I said, I don’t envy your situation.
No matter what you end up doing, I wish you every blessing and much success and happiness in the future.
All the best,