ראש החודש החמישי תשע"ג
I completely understand the welcoming of "interfaith families," for the sake of the children, when the mother is Jewish.
When I say Jewish, I should not have to clarify what I mean by this, yet I will anyway. Jewish means Jewish according to halakhah (Torah Law):
1. Having a Jewish mother. Again I will clarify, according to halakhah.When only the father is Jewish, I really do not see the point. His children are goyim. He may have a responsibility, but the community certainly does not, at least not any spiritual obligations to these children.
2. Undergoing a proper conversion. Once again, I should not have to clarify, but I will. A kosher conversion is the ONLY conversion. Anything else is just a sham.*
The community may have a responsibility to him, to help him find his way, or way back, to his Torah heritage and obligations. If the man in such a family wakes up, suddenly or gradually, and decides to seek out his heritage, that's great. If such a man's wife begins to become interested in Judaism on her own, and ends up converting, that is a different story, of course.
But how many of the "rabbis" in this organization are really rabbis? How many of these "rabbis" will guide this Jew to Judaism? How many will guide him to un-Judaism?
After reading the following note from the Interfaith Family Website, you will see why I am so sceptical:
Note: Rabbis and cantors are often unavailable to officiate weddings between sundown on Friday night and sundown on Saturday night (the Jewish Sabbath)...."Often unavailable?" What does that mean? That there are some "rabbis" and "cantors" who would?
How many are being duped into believing that their children are really Jewish, when the reality is that some are, and some aren't?
How many are being duped into believing that they, themselves, are actually Jewish, when in fact they may not be?
The Proper Approach
I heard a beautiful story of a bar-misswah celebration at a Chabba"d schul. The mother was Jewish, the father born Catholic, but did not identify as Christian in any way. Of course, that makes the rescue of such children much easier. But, I digress...
The mother became increasingly interested in Judaism, started learning on her own, and sent her son to Jewish schools. To the credit of her non-Jewish husband, he was only supportive of her efforts.
As their son's 13th birthday approached, discussions of how to celebrate the occasion of his becoming bar-misswah, were initiated.
These were the results. His donning of tefillin and aliyah leTorah were like any other boys. It made very clear, yet in a loving way, that the non-Jewish father would not be involved in any Jewish aspect of the celebrations. What he was allowed to do, and encouraged to do, was to give a speech. He understood that this was to be his only role, as he was not Jewish, but his son was. This was the one thing which separated the two of them, just as we say at the close of every Shabbath and Yom Tov, בין ישראל לגויים*.
In this speech, the boy's father spoke of how proud he was of his son, and of his pursuit of a connection to his heritage.
A Jewish neshamah was saved from being lost in the shmutz of being "a stranger in a strange land," and done so with appropriate boundaries.
The bottom line is Jewish organizations are quite able to deal with the "reality on the ground," without saying that "reality" is acceptable, because it's not.
*There are, of course, a handful of individuals who have the status of safeq Jew, one whose status is unclear, for various reasons. You believe that you may be one such individual, please do yourself a favor a find a real rabbi (ie. believes that that both Written and Oral Torah have divine origins, do not believe in false, Christian, or other deity/messiahs, and are not women,...among other things).
Young Israel may be a good place to start. The Orthodox Union (O-U) may be another. The rabbis at these organizations can also provide guidance and/or counseling regarding your "interfaith" relationship, or any other questions about Judaism you may have.
This is your chance to ask those questions you never felt comfortable asking. We ALL have them, or had them. Your heritage is YOUR heritage, but you have to do your part, in order to take part. And that means asking questions. If you encounter a rabbi, whom you do not connect, say thank you, move on, and look for another one, until you find one with whom you do.
You may also leave a comment below which I will not publish, if you do not want to, and I will do what I can to get you the assistance you need.