Our oldest son informed us that he was dating a Christian girl. At the start, we reluctantly accepted the relationship, expecting that it would not last. After all, how could it? He attended Jewish day school through eighth grade, and continued his Jewish studies through high school. We were active in our synagogue, kept kosher and observed the Shabbat and holidays.
What we didn’t appreciate was that his girlfriend was an active member in a Christian campus missionary group. The relationship did not end, rather it intensified. Our son accompanied his girlfriend to Christian social events and bible studies. He was becoming a believer.
We discovered our son’s deepening Christian involvement by accident, when it came out during a family visit. We were angry, confused and saddened. We felt shame and guilt, asking ourselves what we had done wrong as parents.
We couldn’t understand, and we did not want to accept, that our Jewish son was on the road to becoming a Christian.
There is a modern liberal dictum that parents must accept the choices of their children as they become adults, even if those choices conflict with the parents’ own values and desires. But we could not accept the pain his conversion would bring us. How could we allow our son to make a decision that would affect the rest of his life when he didn’t seem to be thinking clearly?
We needed to intervene – but we didn’t know what to do. We confided in a few close friends and Jewish professionals, but they could not offer the help we sought.
An internet search brought us to the Jews for Judaism website. We were moved by stories on the website that struck a chord as they described parents and young adults in circumstances comparable to ours. So we called Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz.
Immediately, he responded with sympathy, compassion, and a plan of action. He listened to our story. Then he became involved – intensely involved.
First, Rabbi Kravitz helped us to calm down and to focus on restoring our relationship with our son. He offered validation that we could love our son, even as we acted to oppose a choice we felt was not right for him. He offered the support we had been searching for, at a time when we needed it most.
We asked our son to allow Rabbi Kravitz to speak to him, and eventually our son agreed.
They began to converse regularly on Skype, sometimes for hours at a time. Rabbi Kravitz was persistent and patient with our son. When our son and his girlfriend visited her parents in LA for Christmas, Rabbi Kravitz hosted them for a Shabbat meal and showed them the warmth and spirituality of Judaism.
Rabbi Kravitz was always there for us with his characteristic patience and humor, celebrating even modest victories and sustaining his message of hope.
Several months went by. Our son had scheduled a date for his conversion – Easter, which coincided with the start of Passover. Two days before Passover he texted us that he would be joining us for the Seders. This meant he would not be converting that weekend. He also ended his relationship with his girlfriend. We did not know what lay ahead, but we hoped the worst was behind us.
For a year or so he was somewhat in limbo – not knowing where he was religiously- but our relationship grew stronger than it had ever been. We spent hours with him on the phone as he began to accept our support and advice, during his move to a new city to start a career. He slowly and tentatively began to explore the Jewish community in his new city.
After much encouragement, our son decided to go on a Birthright Israel trip this past summer. Imagine our joy when he called from Israel to tell us that when his group – a non-religious group – had no plans for Shabbat morning services in Jerusalem, he took it upon himself to seek out a place to daven near the hotel and organize a group of friends to go with him.
Since the Birthright trip, he has made more effort to explore his Judaism, and has begun to realize that he needs a fresh start.
It has now been over three years since that fateful family visit. Today, we look back and our experience seems unreal. We cannot believe this happened in our family. But we also realize this can happen to any family, regardless of how much we try to raise our children in a Jewish home, provide a Jewish education, set an example of living a Jewish life and instill a love of Judaism in our children.
As much as we try, we cannot fully protect and shelter our children from the influences of the outside world. Nonetheless, we have learned, with the help of Rabbi Kravitz, to have faith in the strength of our family and in our commitment to living a Jewish life.
We are strong supporters of Jews for Judaism, and we urge everyone who hears our story to support them as well. We found no other organization that could offer the help and experience that Jews for Judaism provided in our time of need.
We will never forget how he helped us, and our son, in our hour of need.