Submit your questions for Rabbi Reuben here… while he can’t answer all of them, he’ll select some to comment on and post his answers on the site.
My father is Jewish, but my mother was protestant. They eloped and we were raised without religion in our home. We celebrated Christmas and Easter for the tradition and food, but that is about it. My father’s family denied god after the Holocaust. I am about to become pregnant with a sperm donor who is Jewish. I am considering raising my child Jewish. Should I convert before the birth? If I don’t, can I still raise my child in the Jewish tradition? I am very proud of my Jewish heritage and relate most comfortably to that part of my life. I am a musician and a PH.D. which puts me in those circles. I would appreciate any advice you could give.
Thanks for the question and sorry somehow I missed it and it took me this long to get back to you. As far as I am concerned you don’t have to formally convert, all you have to do it simply choose to raise your child Jewish and embrace Judaism as the spiritual path of your life. Since both the Reconstructionist (my movement) and Reform Movements have embraced the idea of “patrilineal descent” and affirm that someone is fully Jewish if either his/her father or mother is Jewish and they choose to practice Judaism, you will be fully Jewish in any synagogue that is part of one of those streams of Jewish life. However, both the Conservative movement and any Orthodox synagogue will not consider you Jewish unless you convert since your mother wasn’t Jewish. The same will then apply to your child, unless you take your child to a mikvah (ritual bath) after birth and convert the child in a formal way. If you have a concern about being accepted in the majority of Jewish movements you might consider formal conversion (and of course, we have just the book for you…) but know that within the Orthodox community only someone who is converted in accordance with strict Orthodox tradition by an Orthodox rabbi and bet din (rabbinic court) will be accepted as fully Jewish. It really depends on the Jewish community that you will embrace and how you will choose to live your Jewish life. I am happy to help in the future in any way that I can. You might check out my personal web sites as well http://www.rebreuben.com and http://www.interfaithrabbi.com for further information and ideas. with blessings for the New Year, Steven
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