Every once in a while, I get a letter from a non-Jewish woman who wants to convert to Judaism.
She’s married to a Jewish guy and the more she learns about Judaism, the more she wants to be Jewish herself and raise a Jewish family. She thoroughly checks out all her options and decides she can only convert Orthodox because only an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle will do for her soul, her marriage, her relationship with G-d (and sometimes her Jewish in-laws). Sometimes this woman has already converted Reform or Conservative before but “too quickly”–for her community–became more observant than any of her Jewish friends. And even though her biological clock is ticking and she has no idea how long it will take (1 year? 2 years? 5 years?), she might have even refused to have children until AFTER she’s converted because she wants them to be born Jewish.
But it’s not as you’d expect, the major opposition in her way is not an Orthodox rabbi or a community that is less than lackluster when it comes to being welcoming. No, her biggest obstacle is her Jewish husband. Go figure. (Sometimes, it’s even his parents who are not happy that a “shiksa” thinks she knows more about Judaism than them!)
I always tell the non-Jewish spouse to be (unbelievably) patient, to take it at the speed of snails when they want to move like a speeding train, to understand that all the Jewish baggage their Jewish spouse comes with and a couple of years down the line, they have settled into a Jewish life they can both cope with…or I never hear from them again.
People reading “My Husband, a Convert, is More Observant than I Am” (Tablet Magazine) may think that a situation where a convert is having a much deeper, love affair with Judaism than their Jewish spouse is an anomaly but I know better.