Dear Rabbi Danny,
I have been dating a guy for 2 months now who is not Jewish. It wasn’t in my plans at all to date non-Jewish men. We met randomly through friends at uni and clicked immediately. First, we met for coffee before class, next we met for drinks and before I knew it, we were spending entire weekends together. All the while, there was this little voice inside my head saying “Are you sure you want to do this? He isn’t Jewish – he’s not like you.”
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy every minute I spend with him and I think these feelings could flourish into love. But my conscious isn’t leaving me alone. I’m proud to be Jewish, have been involved in Zionist youth movements since I was 12 and always dreamed of raising a Jewish family. What do I do? Should I ask him if he would be willing to convert?
You find yourself in a tricky situation, one which affects many people at university and beyond. The important thing is that being aware of it allows you to fully consider your options.
The first thing to recognise is that your dreams of raising a Jewish family and remaining involved with this man are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Conversion programmes are offered by all of the streams of Judaism in Britain, and as such this is an option worth discussing with him. While talking about conversion (and marriage) two months into your relationship may feel a little premature, it is worth sharing with him how important Judaism is to you and finding out how he feels about it. If you want the relationship to progress then you should start to involve him in Jewish activities; with your family, at J-Soc and perhaps even at synagogue.
However, it is also true that dating someone who is not Jewish can add complications to the relationship. There are many things which you, your family and Jewish friends take for granted which will be different for him.
While according to all streams of Judaism your children will be Jewish (as all accept the mother’s line for Jewish identity), it is important to find out if he would be interested in conversion. If he isn’t then you will need to decide whether you are willing to sacrifice a Jewish wedding and a Jewish family for this man.
People will often say that “you can’t choose whom you fall in love with” and they are mostly correct. We don’t choose whom we fall in love with, but we can avoid putting ourselves in situations where a challenging relationship can develop. Your relationship is still in the early stages and you can choose whether or not to give it a chance to “flourish into love”. Just remember that the longer you leave it without making a decision, the more challenging and complicated it will become.
All the best,