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Jewish Journal

Love, Faith & Converting

by Ilana Angel

August 12, 2012 | 7:16 am

I would like for my son to marry a nice Jewish girl.  It is important to me, and while I know some people think it is ridiculous, I will feel like a bit of a failure as a mother if he marries a woman who is of another faith.  Love is elusive and his happiness is the most important thing, but with that said, we are Jewish and I want that for my grandchildren.

I am not going to apologize for thinking this way.  I hear all the time that it is unrealistic for me to have this hope and selfish for me to put such pressure on my son.  Whatever.  If I am a Jew, and have presented faith to him in a way he embraces, then what is wrong with my wanting him to provide the same upbringing to his own children?

I have been divorced for 16 years and know how hard it is to find someone to share your life with.  I live my life with a romantic heart but I have walked away from relationships that were not complete because in the end I want it all.  I am not going to settle for less than I deserve just so I am not alone, and my partner must be Jewish.

If I had to choose between my son being happily married to someone not Jewish, or unhappily married to a Jew, of course I would want him to marry the woman who made him happy.  This is not about telling my son who to love.  I am simply hoping he opens his heart to accepting and receiving love, and God willing she will be a Jew.

My son has asked me what I would think if he married a woman who converted.  I have thought about that a lot and always wondered how I would really feel about it.  I don’t think I am judgmental as much as I am skeptical about how someone gives up their faith to take on that of another.  Does the desire for love trump a connection to faith?

The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world, with Canada ranked number eight.  If statistically you have a 50% chance at getting divorced, is it worth it to change religions to go into a marriage?  Being Jewish is about more than a religious view.  Judaism is traditional, cultural, spiritual, and routed in family not just religion.

I’m in Canada this week on holiday visiting my family and friends.  We have spoken a lot about faith and how we raise our children.  Last night we were hanging out after dinner and spoke of religion.  We are all Jews but observe at different levels, and the person who had the most interesting take on what it means to be Jewish was a woman who converted.

Esther is 35 and has been dating her boyfriend Howard for 5 years.  She is pretty with blonde hair, an easy laugh, and a body that lets you know she is a Pilates instructor.  You can pop a quarter off her ass, which I know because I tried it.  She turned around to see what hit her and I said nothing, but yes, you can in fact pop a quarter off her of her ass.

Esther was brought up Christian but it was more about tradition than religion. She celebrated Christmas and Easter but they were always more of a celebration of family over any religious beliefs.  She was not baptized or confirmed, did not spend any large amount of time going to church, but she did go to a Catholic high school.  She was aware but secular.

Her boyfriend told her that it was important to him that the mother of his children be Jewish and so she said she would convert.  They are not married and have no plans to get married, but they would like to have a baby and so she converted in order to have a family with the man that she loves.  I spoke with her today for hours and it was really fascinating.

She is a really lovely girl.  I’m not sure how to say this without it sounding horrible, but she seemed very Jewish to me.  I am offended when people say someone is very Jewish, yet Esther is very Jewish.  She has a worldview that is Jewish based, and a way about her that gives off a mensch vibe.  I would not have assumed she was Jewish but I get that she is.

She came into a large Jewish family and held her own.  She was scared and intimidated but the love she had for her boyfriend, and the hope of being a parent with him, allowed her to set aside being uncomfortable.  I am in awe of her because she is able to put love ahead of everything and I envy that quality.  I believe it is the key to her happiness.

I am in a new relationship and I spend a lot of time worrying about how to define it.  Does he love me?  Will he marry me?  Is he a good person to have around my child?  If I spend time thinking of how things could go wrong, then how much time am I spending enjoying the love I have found?  Am I wasting my energy on the wrong things?

Esther’s relationship seemed complicated when I met her.  It appears to me that she sacrificed a lot to be with Howard and he appeared to be reaping all the benefits.  She walked away from Christmas and Easter, no longer celebrates with her family, and he does not ever have to marry her because he said from the beginning that he would not.

Esther and I had an honest and open discussion about what I perceived to be her sacrifices and in the end she does not view her choices as sacrifices as much as choosing to be happy.  She has love and believes that with love will come everything else.  She is Jewish not because he asked her, but because she chose to.  The conversion was about love not faith.

In the end she has embraced Judaism and to hear her speak of her faith is touching.  She speaks of being Jewish with a calmness grounded in love.  She is Jewish not because it was handed
down to her, but rather because she chose to hand it down to her own children.  I started our conversation with some judgment but in the end I was judging myself.

Esther is a wonderful woman with an open and giving heart.  She embraces love and allows it to guide her faith.  I want that for myself.  I asked Esther to describe herself in three words and she chose patient, nice, and funny.  I would use giving, aware, and Jewish.  Howard is lucky to have met such a nice Jewish girl, and so am I.  She has opened my eyes.

I want my son to marry a woman who makes him happy and is a wonderful mother.  I hope that she will be Jewish girl but should he fall in love with a girl who is not Jewish, but wants to convert, then that will be a blessing.  For a woman to love him so much she changes her faith in order to share a life with him is something I respect and admire.

I have found a great love in my Englishman and it is about time I stopped to enjoy that love.  I am not going to worry about anything other than the love we have.  If I have love then I have everything.  I am impressed with Esther and feel proud to know her.  This newly Jewish woman has taught me about love and reminded me to keep the faith.

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