Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conversion for Marriage

If anyone wonders why sincerity is important to becoming a convert to Judaism one need only read the story featured in the Chicago Sun-Times last Saturday. One of the things that conversion courts look for is whether a potential convert is doing it because of marriage. This is a very big red flag and often a deal breaker.

I don’t know whether the ‘conversion’ of Joseph Reyes, the father of 4 year old Ela, was Orthodox, . But her mother, Rebecca, is Jewish. That makes Ela a full-fledged Jew in any case. When Joseph married Rebecca – Joseph’s conversion to Judaism was part of the deal. She would not inter-marry. Rebecca Reyes has since become Orthodox and sends her daughter Ela to a religious day school. But the couple has since divorced.

The custody agreement was that the child would be raised Jewish. The problem is that Joseph Reyes returned to his original faith of Roman Catholicism. And now wants to raise her as a Catholic or at least show her what Catholicism is all about. So during his time with his daughter he takes her to church.

Reyes has apparently become more religious than he ever was - or he simply wants to ‘stick’ it to his ex-wife by trying to immerse his daughter in Catholicism!

Ela’s mother vehemently objected (obviously) and the whole thing went to court. Reyes Jewish attorney, Joel Brodsky, argued successfully that the father had the right to expose his daughter to his religion even though the custody agreement stated that she be raised Jewish.

How sad for their young daughter to be pulled apart like this. What manner of man converts to Judaism; later says he only did it to marry a Jewish girl; and then undermines the agreement to raise her Jewish after a divorce? Is he really a more religious Catholic now? Maybe.

But the fact is that he ‘converted’ to Judaism. Had he remained married he would probably still be making that claim. Now, suddenly he got religion?! Or is he just being a typically spiteful ex-husband? I think the answer is obvious. And who pays the price? A four year old Jewish girl.

Who knows what all this confusion and resentment between parents will do to her faith… or even her overall emotional well-being?

This is what you get by converting for marriage. I realize that there are exceptions and that what initially begins as falling in love with a person of another faith can ultimately result in a sincere conversion. But unfortunately I think that the Reyes case is far more typical. And the fallout of something like that - as can plainly be seen here - is tragic!