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Son marrying non-Jew


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Cheshvan 22, 5782
My son is engaged to marry a non-Jewish girl. She was adopted as a baby and was converted somehow by her totally secular Reform parents. She strongly identifies as being Jewish and my son tells me it is "insulting" to not accept her Jewishness. So far my son and I are still okay. He knows I will not attend the wedding. But what about after, or even now before. What do I do when my daughter-in-law has a party for my son when he graduates in a few weeks and invites all the brothers. Do I not go because she will be there? Do I cancel Thanksgiving dinner and our traditional Super Bowl Sunday get-together? What happens Pesach for the sidarim? Do I tell my son to not come home? If I do that I know I will lose another son who is not observant. My boys are very tight with each other. The observant son is terribly conflicted as am I. He doesn’t want to lose his brother. I need daas Torah to guide me. I don’t know how to behave? Can you offer some guidance or refer me to someone who can help?
I'm terribly sorry to hear about your difficult predicament, which unfortunately is not uncommon today. By all means, you should try and keep your lines of communication open with your son, and not alienate him, for your sake and for his, as well as for your other children. It’s immoral to stop your loving parental relationship and break up a family, because of something drastic and unfortunate, and there’s also no reason to punish yourself by “losing” a loved one. In addition, nationally and religiously, the last thing the Jewish People need today is to sever the last relationship that a particular Jew has with his religious past, which is through you. On the other hand, we clearly cannot condone intermarriage, and according to his upbringing, your sons knows (!) and should understand that this is a basic "red-line" of Judaism, where the objective definition of one's Judaism isn't up to you, nor up to him. Reform "conversion" has never been accepted halachically for obvious reasons (compared to true conversion, everyone knows that it's laughingly superficial). Accordingly, as you wrote, tell him that it really hurts you, but you simply can't go to his wedding (and again, he should understand that you just can’t), and just like he wants you to respect his choices, he must respect yours, as well (especially when it's not really up to you…). Suggest strongly to him that she undergo religious conversion, that will solve this and all (!) future problems, that you both want to avoid. She should also understand this, and even support his loyalty to his mother and heritage, just as she wants him to be loyal to her! In the meantime, see how they react to this idea of religious conversion, and try and keep that option open by attending her party, having them for Thanksgiving, etc. Hopefully the warm feeling that he gets, will make it that much harder for him to stay adamantly opposed to her religious conversion. If you have a good relationship with her, there's also that much more chance that she will be willing to convert. I understand that there is a good program for conversion in the Ohr-Torah foundation in New York (probably associated with the Lincoln Square Synagogue), see: All the best and may we hear good news! Rav Ari Shvat
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