October 14, 2010
Follow The JC on Twitter
Follow The JC on Twitter
Question: How should I explain to my deeply Christian parents that I want to convert to Judaism? I don’t know how to tell them that I don’t believe in their religion without causing a rift that may be irreparable.
Rabbi Naftali Brawer
Naftali Brawer is rabbi at Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue.
It takes a lot of courage to consider converting to Judaism and I commend you for that. I also commend you for the sensitivity you display towards your parents. One of the Ten Commandments is to “honour your father and mother” and this is clearly important to you.
Having to explain to others why you have chosen to convert can be a very useful exercise in clarifying for yourself your reasons for such a monumental move. Conversion is a serious business and conversion to Judaism is particularly challenging so it is useful to articulate the reasons behind your motivation.
I am not sure if it would be any easier trying to explain your conversion to ardently secular parents. In some ways that might be even more difficult as their entire frame of reference would be different. As committed Christians, your parents have the benefit of a religious mindset and while that is deeply Christian in nature, it also encompasses some of the key elements that comprise all faiths. Hopefully, this should make it easier to explain to them what you are experiencing.
I am not sure there is a delicate way to tell your parents that their faith does not appeal to you. However you word it they are bound to feel hurt, confused and rejected. This is to be expected and you must be as understanding as possible during this difficult transition.
It is important, though, that you credit your parents with giving you the spiritual awareness to embark on your conversion journey. It is also important to acknowledge that while you are abandoning your parents’ Christian faith, you are not abandoning faith in God. It is just that you have found a new path to serve Him.
Finally, it is not just theology that you parents will worry about but, perhaps more importantly, they will worry about how your conversion will affect their relationship with you in a practical sense. Will they still be part of your life? Will you eat in their home? Will your children relate to them as grandparents? Assure them that they will always retain their special place in your heart and that you will always be proud to be their child. You will have to learn how to navigate around each other’s rituals beliefs and practices but it is certainly possible to achieve a state of mutual respect and maintain familial love.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain
Jonathan Romain is rabbi at Maidenhead (Reform) Synagogue.