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.