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Warning Against Dating Dati Jews as a Gentile

Ed: Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts.

Dear Shragi,

I have been following your blog since my orthodox Jewish ex-boyfriend dated me, and with all the intentions to convert after reading on Judaism for months (i.e. I didnt want to convert just for him), having learnt Hebrew for months and after picking up partly keeping shabbat and kosher, and going to Israel to visit him for some time, he dumps me saying that he doesn’t think he wants to go through all the trouble of conversion and marriage registration outside of Israel with me after learning the details of how that could be done.

What he is saying is I am not worth his trouble. However, half a year ago, when I was skeptical about starting a relationship with him, he was encouraging saying we should give ourselves a chance. I met his family as a friend, and they loved me, so I’m sure my being Jewish and all the troubles that come with that are the only reasons why he breaks up with me. Until I left Israel, we treated each other very well, and even after the break up, we know what qualities we want to look for in our marriage partners because we were so compatible – except that I am a gentile.

So, this email I write is to ask for a forum to warn people of the dangers of trying a dating relationship between a non-Jew and a dati modern orthodox Jewish guy, even if they find themselves very compatible otherwise. Many people like me, I realised from the internet, went into such relationships thinking that “shiksas are for practice” is such an unethical thing that Jews would either not do it or if they do it, it would be pretty obvious that that person is not a good man in general. Yet in my experience, this dati Jew I dated has a kind heart, and still the conversion and marriage troubles were “too much for him”. Too much, compared to what? A really good relationship that even he said he might regret giving up.

Why were there such troubles in the first place? Obviously, they were because of the classic discouragement of conversion, but mostly, also because of rabbinical politics which make the conversion and marriage situation very difficult to deal with, especially if you want to date with an Israeli religious Jew.

Many couples like us probably started off not realising that tragedies don’t have to start with bad intentions like “shiksas are for practice”. Yet in the end, the same results arise. The hurt can be very very real if you have found the best partner you’ve had and these things come in the way. My advice is that rather than starting a relationship with a religious Jew not knowing the specific ways to convert (you should consider them first, and then consider whether you want to convert, because the former is easier to figure out and can be the deal breaker), do some extensive research and talk through it earlier in your friendship/relationship. See if the ways are amiable to you two, or remotely practical. This is especially so if you have insufficient finance, just started on your career or live a long distance from the locations of conversion (e.g. you don’t live in the US/Israel).

If you are dating an Israeli, again, because of the lack of a civil marriage registration system, you’d have to convert with certain rabbis who are recognised by the Chief Rabbinate (who are having political disputes with many other rabbis) to be “Jewish enough” to register your marriage directly with them. By the way, those conversion programs are mostly only open to Israeli citizens (ha). Otherwise, you might need to convert with other rabbis, register your marriage in Cyprus, then go back to Israel to register it, then perhaps convert under the Chief Rabbinate’s “authorised rabbis” again if you want to play very safe.

If you only choose to get realistic after discovering a very deep bond between you and the religious Jew, the end result is not only a broken heart, but possibly, like in my case, you’re stuck being not-so-gentile because you might have picked up some habits/mitzvot/Hebrew, yet you’re also not Jewish, and you’ll have to think all over again about whether you should convert or go back to your “old ways”. The difficulty with going back to your old ways is very real, if you made your lifestyle/belief changes genuinely, rather than just to please your Jewish partner.

Yes I am shattered, and while I still keep shabbat and kosher (and am right now fasting on tisha b’Av), I don’t know what to do about my being so stuck (advice appreciated!). I cannot convert where I live. I literally just graduated and need to save some money before I get into anything like a conversion in Israel. I have to try hard not to think about the possibility that I can get him back if I end up living in Israel.

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • MadameFlutterby August 18, 2016, 10:20 AM

    Concentrate on *you* — meaning if you want to eventually convert, do it for YOU. Forget about this man, at least for the moment. Concentrate on living your best life, taking care of you. Since you aren’t completely convinced of whether or not to convert, take your time, it’s not a superficial thing. It’s commitment to a new life with all its beauty, inspiration, and yes, like in everything, some disappointments here and there. I hope whatever you decide, that life is good and kind to you.

    • Jannis Blanc August 23, 2016, 9:48 PM

      Thank you for the kind thoughts.

  • Rebbizzel August 18, 2016, 10:37 AM

    My goodness this is awful! One should also never discard the possibility that he just lied about the reason for the breakup because it’s easier than saying that he lost interest 🙁

  • Spinning Ballerina August 18, 2016, 11:10 AM

    When was the levaya for Heshy? Also that dentist guy that used to post divrei torah here is also gone. drosenbach

  • No Text August 18, 2016, 10:27 PM

    this is absurd

    too much trouble? He has to be lying about why he broke up. What’s so much trouble? The trouble is more for you than for him.

    Are you in Israel now or the US?

  • Tug August 18, 2016, 11:52 PM

    You should try converting him to goyishkite the rabbis are not as snobby

  • D Rutherford August 24, 2016, 6:45 AM

    If he was passionately in love with you he’d do absolutely everything within his power to be with you. Move country, spend every penny he had to make that conversion possible. I know it breaks your heart, but he does not love you enough to do this. You must let go of any notion that you will win him back. You can do better than him; who wants less than full love?
    The conversion of religious faith is complex and, honestly, you are barely on the path of understanding all that you are undertaking, and all that you are asking the Jewish community to accept in you. They are a closed community and suspicious by nature – as would be anyone who has experienced the annihilation of their families just 60 years ago by people looked and behaved just like you and me. Gentiles stood by and let it happen — never forget it. Saying ‘but my family didn’t do it’ is not enough of an excuse. We are shiksas and we must earn the trust and respect of Jewish people around us. To my mind you need to show greater determination and a much greater willingness to risk on behalf of the Jewish people. Go back to Israel and get affiliated to the army, or in some NGO doing a dangerous thing to help others in need. Show – don’t just tell – your commitment to this conversion you wish to make. Gather Jewish friends around you, people who will testify to the strength of your convictions. Be in synagogue every week without fail, participate in community activities and keep to kosher and sabbath regulations in every detail. Do this for a couple of years, keeping up your study habits, and find a rabbi on your side. All this should be for you, not with any planned outcome (i.e. marriage). “Am I so committed to this faith that I am prepared to live it out for the rest of my life even if I never marry or have children?” “If a gentile man came along ready to marry me, would I switch back?” If you would switch back under these circumstances, then you should not convert. It is a 100% commitment and the people within the Jewish community will be able to sense the strength of your convictions and slowly they can begin to trust you. Finally, you will always be a convert and never have the genetic make-up of a Jew BUT YOUR CHILDREN WILL. This must be your consolation….you will fit in through your children. Read autobiographies around this topic — it will be DIFFICULT, it will never be an easy task to fit in.

    • Jannis Blanc August 27, 2016, 12:42 PM

      it was very, very constructive what you wrote. thank you for taking the time to share that. Beliefs and spiritual connection with Jewish practice aside, one reason why im seeking to convert even after he broke up with me is i dont see any possibility of myself returning to being a Christian (it is just not right to my belief anymore), let alone date/marry one, at the same time I do believe in G-d and can’t see myself being agnostic and dating people who are anti-religion. What do you think of that?
      Indeed, the intolerance in certain Jewish communities (and sometimes rabbinical exercise of authority) is frustrating and that’s the only vital thing that pushes me away. Where I live, there are not so many Jews – if the “convert stigma” is that bad, I wonder if that’s another huge problem that will unnecessarily affect my prospects of building a family.

    • Jannis Blanc August 27, 2016, 12:53 PM

      it would be very nice if you wouldn’t mind if we correspond by email? you seem to know a lot and as you said, im “barely on the path of understanding” the path. i dont have any convert friends to speak to… my email is jannisblanc@gmail.com
      Many thanks again!

      • danieltb August 27, 2016, 10:47 PM

        Do you mind if I email you to ask you a question?

  • danieltb August 26, 2016, 10:10 PM

    This is what you do when people ask you for advice–you just post it on your sick blog for views? Wait till I tell Rabbi Salendgar.

    • Shragi August 27, 2016, 12:27 AM

      I’m sorry you feel this blog is sick, you should probably stop reading it so you don’t catch it.
      But to answer your question – no, this is not what I do when people share their intimate private lives begging me for help: this is what I do when people ask me to post it and solicit opinions from those readers who feel they have relevant insight to share.

      • danieltb August 27, 2016, 1:37 AM

        It was a joke–I thought threatening to involve Rabbi Salendgar would’ve made that clear.

  • Michael Lewyn September 1, 2016, 9:44 AM

    If Orthodox conversion is too nuts for you and you don’t want to be a Christian anymore, why not try a Conservative conversion? Its much easier, but Conservatives still observe shabbat and kosher in somewhat different (diluted if you want to be perjorative about it) form. Going from Christian straight to Orthodox is a bit like completing a PhD without completing a masters’ degree first- certainly possible, but I would imagine a very difficult enterprise.

  • Akiva October 28, 2016, 11:27 AM

    1.) His reckless actions almost constitute a Chillul Hashem. I say this, because it leaves that stereotype (and reality of some men) that “shiksas are for practice” hanging in midair. That doesn’t reflect the reality of the Torah’s assertion of intrinsic worth in all human beings. Please, know that Jewish or not, Hashem loves you.

    2.) Since your conversion isn’t all said and done, then don’t feel bad if you slip up on some mitzvot. As you know, of course, the Halacha is so that you’re under no penalty for not meeting the ideal if that were to occur. I argue that you do get merit in fulfilling as many mitzvot as possible regardless. You’re a strong person.

    3.) Find a Jewish community. Begin to build one. If you find one or two Jews that you can relate to on a level that you need, then it will make the world of difference. It’s not always easy depending on where you live.

    4.) Please, be kind to yourself.

    • Jannis Blanc January 17, 2017, 10:08 AM

      Toda Akiva. I’ve done what you said so far and am happy to say it’s been very intensive work, I’ve been trying hard every day, but all worth it for avodah Hashem and my yiddishkeit. G-d bless.

  • Jannis Blanc January 17, 2017, 10:06 AM

    As the writer of the original post, I am happy to report that I am still trying to start a conversion and have been working on it. From the original post, it’s been 6 months. Among other things, I keep fully kosher except on few occasions. Very hard work at the moment, but it was a blessing in disguise that I got involved with a Jew and then got dumped. What I’ve learnt – Hashem knows whats best for us! 🙂

    • Count chocula January 31, 2017, 10:43 AM

      About the post, honestly nothing happened. Just sounds like he got bored and dumped you. It’s cool that you found Judaism, but he wasn’t a great guy. You would have done much better having your father pick out a man and marrying you off to him in 1800. You should find a rabbi/rebbetzin pair that everybody likes and have them pick people for you. You shouldn’t be doing this by yourself.
      I know you’re your own person yada yada, I’m just telling how it looks from a guy’s perspective. You don’t sound like you know what a good guy actually is.

  • HHH March 6, 2017, 5:53 PM

    YOU KNOW THEY WILL NOT CONVERT YOU IF YOU ARE NOT HONESTLY CONVERTINH AND IF YOUR BOYFRIEND IS NOT SERIOUS ENOUGH IN JUDAISM. He propably found out that they will NEVER convert you as long as you are with him. SO he thought you want to convert anyway and can not date while converting so it is the safe bet and THE ONLY BET to officially break up with you, wait for your conversion and afterwards go back together. THAT MAY BE THE ONLY WAY FOR YOU TO GET HIM! GOT IT? Somebody told him they checked him out and that he is not religious enough and does not feel like being so much more religious.

    OF COURSE if he is like ultraorthodox, his family might disown him if he married with a convert or if he is a cohen, he is not allowed to marry a convert.

    Please seek a bit deeper 🙂

  • Rona Chava March 13, 2018, 11:24 AM

    I actually married an orthodox Jew. I converted conservative after studying for about 2-3 years. I keep Shabbat and kosher but I had some issues with Orthodoxy. To make a long story short, after 7 years, I lost hope and trust and although we were really good together, we are almost done. And not because of religion but his family, mom especially. So good luck!

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