The Conversion Dilemma

Issue of the week #1

The Conversion Dilemma

The Jewish partner connecting to his/her roots, especially if he/she is starting to take on mitzvos, can cause a lot of stress in a marriage that was not there before. Even before any commitment to observance, just the thought of the situation arising may be seen as a barrier. Our guess is that you've encountered a person who converted to Judaism and left a Jewish-from-birth spouse in the dust, so to speak, in the whirlwind of observance that conversion of necessity creates. The demands of an observant spouse to keep kosher or observe Shabbat etc. flies in the face of business-as-usual. The non-Jewish/less-observant spouse (even if accomodating) may well resent the changes. The converted spouse sees no choice in the matter, but feels guilty about making his/her spouse unhappy, or about messing up a relationship that was fine before; or, they begin to let their own observance slide to make the gap less of a problem.” (shoshana zakar)

Intolerance and lack of respect between members of different faiths brings much strife and discord to the world. When this intolerance exists within one family the results are often devastating. Among the greatest challenges of family counselors today is keeping peace in interfaith marriages where one spouse has discovered faith or has become “born again” into a religious philosophy.

Testimonials sent to our center identify three major causes of conflict in such marriages:

1. Gentile spouses who convert to Judaism and leave Jewish-from-birth spouses bewildered or lagging behind in sharing the enthusiasm.

2. Children of such relationships who now become living “tug-of-war” objects between two people vying to control the educational and social influence of their charges.

3. Increased expenditure and investment of time and resources straining the modest budget of certain couples.