The Bintel Brief

Embracing Your Would-Be Convert, Would-Be Sister-in-Law

By Amy Sohn

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Dear Bintel Brief:

My boyfriend and his brother come from a family with Jewish values. Their mother has imbued them with the importance of marrying within the faith. My boyfriend’s brother has only been dating a woman for a short period of time, but the woman insists that she is passionate about converting to Judaism. She has a volatile personality. I wonder how committed she actually is, and I worry for him. I don’t know how to tell my boyfriend how I feel, and I would never risk hurting him or his family. What can I do?

Amy Sohn responds:

Dear Questioning:

Your boyfriend’s brother is his own person and needs to make his own decisions. If your brother wants to speak to him out of his own heart, he should. He has the right, as a brother. But this is not your role.

People must make their own beds. If the woman converts and they marry, they may find a lot of happiness. She may be more serious about it than you realize. And if she is “volatile,” as you say, and stops her plans to convert, your boyfriend’s brother may decide that he does not want to marry outside of the faith and she will have to make her peace with that, without him.

In the meantime, you should be welcoming and accommodating to a woman who may wind up becoming your sister-in-law. Maybe you can expose her to some of the Jewish values that you, your boyfriend and his brother hold dear. This is the best way to make a non-Jew enthusiastic about conversion. If you make her feel foreign, different or out of place, you do a disservice to Judaism. You will only cause her to wonder why she should join a culture that makes her feel ill at ease.


Amy Sohn is the author of, most recently, “Prospect Park West” (Simon & Schuster) — a novel about living, loving, hating and procreating in the leafy Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. She is also the author of the novels “Run Catch Kiss” (Simon & Schuster, 1999) and “My Old Man,” (Simon & Schuster, 2004). A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.


If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, email bintelbrief@forward.com. Selected letters will be published anonymously. New installments of the Bintel Brief will be published Mondays in October at www.forward.com.


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Comments
James Sun. Nov 8, 2009

Great response. Keep up the good work!

Silvia D. Fri. Nov 13, 2009

First off, I want to apologize for posting here. My comment is directed toward Joan Nathan's entry. For some reason, the comment box doesn't pop up on her entry, so I will write my comment out here.

Why does Joan Nathan refer to vegetarians as "picky eaters"? That comment is irresponsible, inconsiderate and very outdated. It belongs somewhere in suburbia, circa 1970s (if not 1950s). A lot of people who eat kosher have experienced being called "picky", "bizarre," "anti social" by both Jews and non Jews. Yet Nathan would never think of referring to those who observe kosher dietary laws as "picky." Why so for vegetarians?

There is no need to expound here on vegetarianism and its implications for economics, ethics and global warming.

I urge Ms. Nathan to revise her thinking or, at least, be more careful with the way she phrases her responses.




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