Dear Rabbi and Rebbetzin,
I am a convert to Judaism and have been living a “Conservadox” life for about 15 years. My conversion was traditional, with all of the rites, including hatafot dam brit, immersion and questioning before a beit din [rabbinic court] after a period of about two years of study. However, the rabbi overseeing my conversion was not Orthodox. I want to participate in an Orthodox minyan but face the ethical quandary of maintaining my anonymity with regard to my conversion versus divulging the full details of my conversion to an Orthodox rabbi. I believe my conversion was valid under halacha [Jewish law] and that anyone questioning my status is acting outside the bounds of Jewish tradition. But I also respect the halachic process and would not want to compromise the halachic status of a minyan if the other participants viewed my conversion otherwise.
I have three questions: What are my responsibilities under Jewish law in this case? What are the rights of the Orthodox minyan in questioning my status? And what is more important, Jewish unity or adherence to a legal opinion that is not universally accepted?
Yitz and Blu reply:
Dear Blu and Yitz,
On lawyer’s advice, my (ex-)wife refuses to accept a get (yet the divorce is all her doing), and for over 10 years refuses me regular visits with our children. (The visits are irregular, essentially when she feels like it, on her lawyer’s advice.)
My question is, when she decides she wants a get (i.e., when she meets someone), would it be morally wrong for me to demand my excessive (i.e., excess over “normal”) legal expenses and/or some sort of damages for her improper actions?
My wife and I are observant Orthodox Jews so she would need a get. I obtained the appropriate “dispensation,” but I find the women I date are very apprehensive about me not having visitation and assume something is wrong with me.
Yitz and Blu reply:
Dear Blu and Yitz,
All of my daughters married Jewish boys. But sometimes I think it might have been better had two of them married non-Jewish boys who would at least have been supportive of their wives trying to bring some form of Judaism into their homes and into the lives of their children.
One of my daughters, to the chagrin of her husband, has enrolled my granddaughter in a Jewish Sunday school, and both attend holiday services. Her husband works on the High Holidays and will put up with attendance at secularized Jewish celebrations. My granddaughter may or may not become a bat mitzvah.
My other daughter informed me that her husband said he has better things to do with his money than to put it into a synagogue and into my other two granddaughters’ religious education. He also does not honor the holidays nor does he attend religious functions other than family events that he is expected to attend. My daughter has made it clear that she will do whatever it takes to keep peace in her home. She did say that she will take the girls, now 6 and 8, to see what Hebrew school is all about, but if they don’t like it, she will not insist they stay. Can you imagine leaving such a decision up to children that age?
Both my sons-in-law are talented, decent men who are good providers. All had bad experiences while being forced to become bar mitzvahed. As far as Judaism is concerned, they have never evolved beyond the age of 11 or 12 and are still angry.
I continue to send my grandchildren holiday greetings, books about holiday celebrations, invitations to celebrations, letters explaining the significant Jewish concepts, etc.
My wife, who is very secular, tells me not to push. But I see my grandchildren and my descendants being deprived of their religious heritage, their Yiddishkeit, and their civilization because of their Jewish fathers who find the faith into which they were born irrelevant to their lives and possibly an unnecessary burden.
I want to make this an issue, and my wife is against it. What do you advise?
Blu and Yitz reply:
This month the Bintel Brief features advice from a Jewish power couple: Blu and Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg.
Blu was the founding president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. She is the author of “On Women & Judaism” and “How To Run A Traditional Jewish Household,” among other books.
Her husband’s no slouch either. Yitz was the founding president of CLAL - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and served as the chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. A leading post-Holocaust theologian, he is the author of “The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays,” “Living in the Image of God: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World” and “For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity.”
Could you use a little advice? Send your questions for the Bintel Brief to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters selected for publication will be published anonymously. Check the Forward Web site Mondays this month for new installments of the Bintel Brief with Blu and Yitz Greenberg answering your questions.