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Dating Advice #31 - The Conversion Route
Dating Advice 31

Dating Advice #31 - The Conversion Route

It's an inter-religious mix along with a platonic-romantic twist. She broke it off -- but is having second thoughts.

by
Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have a problem. In my senior year of college I fell in love with my best friend, Kevin, who is Catholic, although not practicing. We broke things off with the promise to remain friends forever when I finished school (he was still in graduate school). The main reason I broke things off was the religion issue. It has always been my wish to have a kosher home and raise my children Jewish. He was willing to do all of this and convert because of his love for me, but I didn't feel this was right.

Over the last two years I have dated many men and even one seriously enough to have considered engagement, but nothing felt as right as it did when I was with Kevin. To this day Kevin says he is still willing to convert for me. I am wrestling with the idea of saying that it is okay to convert for the love of a person. I want him to love being Jewish, too, and I don't want him to feel like I have forced him into this decision. I don't want him to resent me in years to come. However, after two years of being miserable, don't I deserve some happiness -- the type of happiness I found with Kevin?

Beth in San Diego


Dear Beth,

It's easy for us to give you platitudes when we answer your inquiry, but we know that they are not going to be much comfort when you've been going through a deep inner conflict. So, before we even talk about the dilemma you're facing, we'd like you to close your eyes and imagine yourself 10 years from now, hosting a holiday dinner in your home. Lets say it’s Passover. Visualize the Seder table, set with all of the traditional foods, decorations your children crafted themselves, and perhaps even your grandmother's Seder plate. Imagine the friends and relatives sitting around the table, dressed in their holiday clothes. Picture your children -- gleaming as they share the songs, stories and rituals they've learned in religious school.

Now, come back to the present. What clues did this small vision of the future give you about the role Judaism will play in your future? In the lifestyle you hope to lead? The friends you hope to have? The way you relate to other family members?

Now, see how your friend Kevin does or does not fit into this picture.

Husbands and wives in the most successful marriages have certain things in common. Above all, they share similar expectations of family lifestyle and the way they hope to raise children. They have goals that are compatible, not in terms of careers or accomplishments, but in terms of what they want out of life. A couple can sense that they know each other like a book and feel they are very much in love, but if they cannot share similar life goals, this will be a source of marital conflict and may keep them from growing together.

Your letter mentions keeping kosher and raising your children as Jews. Each of those evidences a considerable commitment to Judaism and a lifestyle that's different than the American norm. Think of the many differences such a lifestyle might entail. Will someone who doesn't feel a strong commitment to Judaism be willing to share this lifestyle wholeheartedly? Will he resent any efforts you may want to make to incorporate more Jewish spirituality and observance into your life and that of your family?

These questions may give you some insight into why traditional Judaism does not encourage conversion. A gentile who firmly believes in God is only expected to follow seven commandments, and if he does so he merits a full reward from Above. It's much easier to live as a good gentile than it is to live as a good Jew. The Torah requires Jews to live a lifestyle based on a different, higher value system than the rest of the world. Even the most learned and sincere among us sometimes find those values difficult to achieve. Why should we impose such high expectations on someone who is turning to Judaism not because he feels compelled to accept a new, stronger commitment to God, but because he simply wants to marry the woman he loves?

Some of our readers might think of friends or family members who converted to Judaism in order to marry, and in the process found great meaning in our faith and became committed Jews. This does happen on occasion, but it is quite risky going through the conversion process hoping he or she will get "hooked" on religion after the fact. (And it is not so simple to do so in Jewish law.)

We're convinced you'll have an easier time moving forward in your life if you let Kevin move out of it. Right now, Kevin is such an ideal -- your best friend and confidante, and who remained a constant in your life even after you tried to move onward -- that as long as he's still in the background nobody will ever be able to take his place. How could they?

Think about it. You and Kevin developed a friendship at the time you each moved into adulthood, and even after you felt that your religious differences would come between you, you continued to consider each other "friends forever." With such a strong platonic friendship, how could you have enough emotional energy to develop the kind of closeness you'd want to have with your future husband? If you always could rely on Kevin for emotional support, would you even be willing to invest the time and effort needed to develop an emotionally intimate relationship with another man?

Your friendship with Kevin probably developed very easily. Your next courtship will probably not develop that easily, even if the man may be ideal for you. If you keep comparing that man with Kevin, will you even have the chance to see what develops?

The bottom line? You have to make some hard decisions. And we hope that whatever choices you make, you find the peace of mind and happiness that we all strive for.

Rosie & Sherry


Published: December 16, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) Anonymous, April 11, 2013 11:30 PM

conversion

Conversion to Judaism is no small task and can take years. It is a lengthy endeavor that should not be taken lightly, however I have seen many couples go through classes and go on to have happy marriages and Kosher homes. There is a huge learning curve and culture shock that goes beyond Hanukkah and Pesach, from Catholic to Jewish is a major step, would his family be supportive or would that alienate him from most, if not all of his family and friends. Perhaps he can attend Shabbat dinners, a few Seders and learn about the faith first, in order to determine whether or not going forward with conversion.

(11) Anonymous, July 16, 2008 2:09 PM

Just being "okay with it"

I think there is an important aspect of her situation with Kevin that Beth should realize. Believing in Judaism is not the same as "being okay with it." Maybe it would be helpful for Beth to encourage Kevin to explore Judaism on his own, and perhaps spend some time apart from their friendship (a hiatus, so to speak). Kevin, I think, in order to be a convert must experience Judaism in his own eyes and not only through Beth - it is not enough for him to just "be okay with it" if she wants both of them to raise a Jewish Family like the one she described. If Kevin can show a direct personal investment in and dedication to Judaism outside of his relationship with Beth (whatever that may be), the two could then more comfortable talk about conversion and marriage.

In fact, it might actually help to get the conversation started by asking Kevin to think about this scenario (though it is not totally optimistic):

"Kevin, would you still adhere to living a Jewish Life if, G-d forbid, our romantic relationship does not last forever?"

Either way, it is good, I think, to inspire him to think about what he really wants.

I am not sure if this attempt is totally possible, being that the possibility of marrying Beth after conversion has already been placed before Kevin. However, no matter what the future holds - everything is alright in the end, and if it is not alright, then it is NOT the end. Nothing is too difficult for Hashem, so one cannot underestimate the power of praying for help finding the answer to such an inner conflict.

I hope this advice is useful to you, Beth. Good luck!

(10) Sarah, October 26, 2002 12:00 AM

The point is if someone is going to convert to Judaism they should do so because they really believe in it. The only reason why religious Jews think that Jews should only mary other Jews is so the children will be brought up Jewish but you have to think that if this guy is willing to convert to Judaism for this women then he will also be happy with their children being brought up Jewish so their should be no problem their. I know of Jewish people who have been brought up Jewish who have on non Jewish parent so it does work in some cases depending on how the non Jewish partner wants the children to be brought up.

(9) Ed Vena, October 18, 2000 12:00 AM

What's the big deal?

In regards to the Beth and Kevin marriage, I don't see what is the big deal. If Beth truly loves Kevin to begin with, there should be no question about whether she should marry him or not. And furthermore, if she is that worried about Kevin being resentful for converting, then don't make or ask to him convert! Just marry him for the man he is, whom she loves; don't marry him because he is now an eligible, better person, whereas before he wasn't worthy. Love will conquer all.

(8) , October 12, 2000 12:00 AM

Things that make you go hmmm...

I don't fully agree with Rosie & Sherry's advice to Beth in San Diego. I am a 33 year old still single Jewish male who has been through the same type of situations. It seems relationships always click much better with gentiles.

The issue here is whether to marry a converted gentile who you'll be happy with or marry someone of one's faith who you may not be as happy with?

My advice to Beth is to follow your heart on this one. If you feel Kevin is "it" and he is willing to convert, then take that chance. My first choice would obviously be to marry someone of my faith, but I will not risk losing someone very special who is willing to convert.

Life sometimes only gives you one chance...

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