0 In Faith/ Family

Changing My Mind

With the mikvah postponed until our schedules matched I had time to think and I made a bigger decision than to convert.

I decided to not finish my conversion.

So close to the finish line, so close to finally being the same.

Here’s the truth, the wedding suddenly was coming in under a year. And I started to think about all the changes that were expected of me as a wife. And suddenly, changing my last name to his AND changing my religion it was just too much at once. I just couldn’t do it.

I was embarrassed to be honest. I had sunk so much time, effort and emotion into the conversion to not go through with it.

Nothing changed when I decided not to go through with it. We still had a lot of love from both families. We still go to services. We still celebrate all the holidays. We lead Jewishly inspired lives. All that’s changed is when I go to the chuppah, I won’t be Jewish. And that’s ok. I’m going as myself. And that door doesn’t close. It’s not right now, but in 10 years it might be.

In truth, I like that we’re different. I like my traditions I bring with me, I like our tradition of breaking fast on Yom Kippur with an Italian feast to represent both sides. That’s our family. How boring our lives would be if we were the same.

The Rabbi working with me on my conversion said something to me day one of my journey that always stood out “if you get to the end and you don’t want to do it, that’s ok, you’ll have learned something new, and you’ll be a better person for it.” He reiterated that when I decided not to convert. Nobody was mad, nobody was disappoint. Rather they were happy I had come to this decision on my own and wasn’t being forced into converting.

Marriage doesn’t mean you’re giving up your identity, it means though that it does change. And for me, adding in a Jewish identity on top of everything else wasn’t something I was ok with.

But conversion (or non conversion) is a deeply personal experience. And I encourage those close to the Jewish partner never make assumptions or ask about converting to the non Jewish partner. Let the non Jewish partner ask questions and tell you if they’re converting. And never make the assumption that because you know, everyone in the family should know. Always remember that while for one half converting may be seen as the ultimate act of love and a happy occasion,  the other half might be feeling betrayed and left out.

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  • Reply
    slimmingbsimcha
    February 18, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Dear Erin,
    This is an amazing post. It is really admirable that did not convert. Becoming a Jew, deciding to keep the Torah is not a small thing and it isn’t something you can do for any other reason that you personally believe it to be the right thing for you.
    Obviously, as an Orthodox Jew, the idea of interfaith couples isn’t something I rejoice over. However, to convert and either not really be sincere, or do a non orthodox conversion is far more confusing in the long run. I have relatives who have gone through with this and I think it is unfair to the children who think they are Jewish but halachically they are not. It becomes get complicated and people get very offended. It is more straightforward with the cousins who aren’t Jewish and don’t think they are, than the ones who think they are, but aren’t.
    Anyway, this is a long winded comment, and I think I’d better wrap it up now.
    Simcha

    • Reply
      Erin
      February 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      Simcha,

      Thank you so much for your comment! It wasn’t a small decision, and I truly feel that if and when I decide to convert it’ll be between myself and G-d since that’s all who needs to know. Maybe J, but we’ll see.
      I have some Orthodox family and we had conversations about my non-Orthodox conversion and what we would do about children. For us, since we follow the Reform movement, our community would always follow patrilineal descent. I also think that we would take a child to the mikvah if we felt we were going to follow a more strict teaching of Judasim. I know our Orthodox friends and family would be there for us for anything, but I also know they probably won’t see our children as Jewish unless we were to take them to the mikvah.

      I think people get offended because of how many schools of thought there are. What my Rabbi says is fine, your Rabbi will disagree with. But I totally respect the Orthodox school of thought, I find it very close to my own up bringing. Truly the best part of the converting process was learning things from all three major branches! I’m also not easily offended by those who don’t rejoice over the interfaith thing. Initially, our Rabbi was performing our ceremony knowing that I was converting because she didn’t do interfaith weddings. When I told her I wasn’t converting, my love for her as my friend didn’t change because I knew she couldn’t do that and stay true to herself. I was more disappointed such a light in my life wouldn’t be able to perform my service! In the end, she left our synagogue and actually decided to do the ceremony! Which is a topic for a later post!

      I hope you had a restful Shabbat and we can continue the conversation!
      Erin

  • Reply
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