at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
I helped an American tourist with tefillin. He was born and raised in Oklahoma. I asked him if there were any Jews there. He told me that there were around 4700 in the entire state. I wondered how he could find a Jewish girl to marry. I asked him if his wife was Jewish.
“A Jew by choice,” he answered,
This means that she was not born Jewish, but she converted.
“Was it a Reform conversion, Conservative, or what?” I asked.
He answered, “The conversion was Reform, but there was a Conservative mikvah”(immersion).
Improper conversion is always a sensitive subject, and you could very easily think not to discuss it with him… to just leave it alone. But that wouldn’t help him at all. In fact, if you leave someone doing something that he should not be doing, and you could have helped him but did not, then you too share in that deed!
I asked if he had children. He said that he did, and that they went to the mikvah with their mother, meaning that they also converted.
I explained, “When someone converts to Judaism he or she wants to become a Jewish person. We are not a religion. We are a people. Converting to a religion is easy; all you have to do is to believe like they do. But converting to a people is not such a simple thing.”
“If someone converts according to the Reform custom, then only the Reform Jews will say that that person is Jewish. If they convert according to the Conservative tradition, then the Conservative and the Reform Jews will say that that person is Jewish. But if they want to convert and have all Jews agree that they are Jewish then they have to have an Orthodox conversion.”
“If someone converts to Buddhism, and later changes his mind and converts to Islam, he is no longer a Buddhist. But if someone has a kosher conversion to Judaism, and then changes his mind and becomes a Buddhist, he is still a Jew. But now he calls himself, a Jewish Buddhist. This shows that the true convert does not covert to a religion, but to a people.”
I told him to check with his nearest orthodox rabbi and see what it would take to make the family’s conversion kosher so everyone will agree that his daughters’ children will be Jews.