Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Converts With Kids~Part I

One thing many converts do not think of is the impact their conversion will have on their family. In this particular case I mean your children. You make the decision to convert for varied reasons, but ultimately the decision is "for you". My points here  are based on a "Halachic Orthodox Conversion" defined on the the Israel Government website as:...a process by which a person exchanges his existing religion for Judaism and thereafter leads a lifestyle based on the written and verbal dictates of the Torah (Bible), belief in the Gd of Israel, performing the mitzvot (righteous deeds or commandments) of the Torah and full identification with the Jewish people.  
Remember, Jews do Not believe in the xtian jesus, and you must vehemently deny any connection to deity, virgin birth or resurrection. You and your children cannot have xmas trees, easter eggs, crosses or other symbols of idol worship. While you are not expected to be a Torah Scholar,  you must be committed to enter into a "new" life style that includes learning, prayer and a mitvot inspired life with Synagogue attendance, Shabbat, Kashrut and for boys kippah, tefillin and tsitzit. Youngsters may not understand (initially) why they cannot go to a birthday party of a non Jew because of kosher issues or why they can't watch TV on Shabbat.
Children from a very young age are more tuned in and observant than we give them credit for. Everything we do leaves an imprint. While a newborn may  not be affected by your change in lifestyle (remembering of course that males must be circumcised), your teen may very well be devastated by the very same things. As kids grow older your conversion will have varying degrees of impact--even if your children are married and have kids of their own. For starters let's consider the impact If Your Children are Minors...
According to the laws of Jewish conversion, a minor is a boy under the age of 13 or a girl under the age of 12. Since children of that age are too young to understand the full significance of the conversion process and its implications, the religious courts accept minors “at their discretion.” This means that the courts accept responsibility for converting children to Judaism and their acceptance into the Jewish faith.
In contrast to adult conversion, the conversion of a minor is provisional. Should the minor later declare, on reaching adulthood, that he does not in fact wish to be Jewish, his conversion is null and void. On the other hand, should he continue to live as a Jew after reaching maturity, he is considered a Jew for all intents and purposes and cannot then leave Judaism.
Your new lifestyle means being part of an Orthodox Community, which includes Synagogue, Jewish Schools and of course "Kosher" shopping. If you move with young children to a Jewish community they may well "stand out in the crowd".  Boys are required to wear a kippah (head cover) and girls must learn modesty in dress and manner. (While this is still an uphill battle, in every society, your daughter will be faced with great differences)
For young boys and girls the experience of a new school is hard enough, but when you add a new lifestyle complete with dress code, food and observance the result can be traumatizing. If you make aliyah to Israel it is much easier to follow an orthodox lifestyle, but there is the added stress of learning a new language (trust me it is not easy!). As children approach puberty they will usually study in separate classes and learn appropriate, modest behaviour.  I should note here that if you want to join a Charedi community there are even more complications. For starters the dress and behaviour rules can be very strict. Teens in particular are very likely to rebel. There are many Charedi youth who fall off the derech (leave the way) and literally run away. Some look for the extreme opposite of  the modest ways they were used to (ie) sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.  For children of a convert the pressures are even greater. To read more on Charedi lifestyle and some true stories of "rebellion" I recommend spending time at the site Shearim. There is a wealth of information drawn from personal experience and interviews with rebels.
To Be Continued...

1 comment:

Moses Israel said...

"There are many Charedi youth who fall off the derech (leave the way) and literally run away. "
Do more Charedi go off the derech than Dati Leumi? Is strictness the real issue that's going on for most of these kids? Food for thought.

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