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Intermarriage: An open letter to Orthodox and Conservative Rabbis

An open letter to Orthodox and Conservative rabbis:

Guest Post by Laura Cooper

You say youíre against intermarriage, you know thereís a 50% intermarriage rate, and you know some kids who come out of those marriages arenít going to be halachically JewishĖmaybe 30-40%. So, about 15-20% of all Jewish marriages will result in non-Jewish children. You say youíre against intermarriage, but what are you going to do about it?

Iím one of those kids. I got lost in the system. To be told by someone that youíre Jewish one day and to be told youíre not the next, well itís pretty disconcerting, if you can imagine. And as much as Iíd like to believe the former, Iíve decided to convert. Iím tired of wondering in which contexts I can call myself Jewish, and in which contexts other people would be offended if I did. Iím tired of wondering whether the words of the Torah were meant for me or not. Iím tired of having it implied that the God of my fathers doesnít want my davening. Iím tired of thinking thatís actually true. Iíve been trying to convert since I was nineteen, but I keep running up against you.

I like to think Iím doing the right thing, you know. Next to all the halachically Jewish kids my age, for whom you are happy if they just light some candles on Shabbat or something, Iím gladly taking on a whole lot more. I donít know about them, but I have the extra burden of knowing Iím the only one in my family left to keep it going. Iím here. Iím ready. Heck, Iím even completely willing. And yetĖI get no compassion. You donít even notice. In the halachic world of categories and laws, I have no category. I fell through the cracks. Do you care what happens to me? Am I a part of klal yisrael? If so, what do I do about it?

Nothing would make me happier than having you tell me youíd like to see me convert because itís my responsibility as a part of the Jewish people. Instead, itís as if you hope I donít mention it too much. Itís as if you simply cannot tolerate the subject, so instead you always come up with the same line: ďYou are Jewish if your mother is Jewish.Ē And the conversation ends. And I feel terrible. And you donít notice. Your hands are tied, you say. Just be patient, you say.

My request isnít that radical. Iím not asking that you accept patrilineal descent. Hey, Iím with you: my childhood was a perfect case study of the mixed messages kids get from an intermarriage, and therefore Iím against it because intermarriage caused this.

Iím only asking two things, and I think theyíre pretty reasonable: Make it easier for people like me to convert, and stop reacting with such horror when you hear the term. Itís not a ďdeath sentenceĒ for continuity unless you make it one. Look, Iím on your side. I want to do this the right way. Why make it so difficult? Thereís a lot of people like me out there, and I bet the number is growing. Ignoring it isnít going to help you, me, or us. Telling me that Iím 100% a gentile and you couldnít care less one way or the other whether I convert or not is pretty hurtful, you know. I know itís easy to say it anyway, especially now that itís an ďissue.Ē

I want to know something. What do you suggest I do? What would be ideal? Do you want me to be Reform? Convert to Christianity, maybe? Would that be convenient for you? Do you really think keeping the children of 15-20% of married Jews alienated from Judaism is going to be a good thing? I didnít choose the religion of my parents, but I am choosing what I do next. I love Judaism, Iíve never had another religion, I donít want it to die in my family, and I donít believe you really do either. So, can you help me out here?

Sincerely,

A Patrilineal Conversion Candidate

Find out more about conversion on 4torah.com

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