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January 16, 2004 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-16

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Bringing Up Baby Jewish

Helping a gentile baby become _part of the Jewish community.

holds true for a divorcee. Consult your
rabbi for details.)
Children who have undergone an
t only takes a moment to fall in
Orthodox conversion will be recog-
nized as Jews everywhere, and enjoy
When parents look at their new added benefits in Israel. For a baby to
child, whether the baby was
have an Orthodox conversion, however,
born to them or adopted, they become
the parents will be expected to be
dizzy with joy and wonder.
observant themselves.
The care for this little miracle,
Those seeking an Orthodox conver-
though, does require plenty of practical sion for their gentile baby will meet on
thinking — everything from diapers to
a number of occasions with their rabbi,
a college fund and, for some parents,
specifically to discuss the child's
the religious identity of the child.
upbringing. The actual conversion cere-
According to Halachah (Jewish law),
mony itself is simple. In the case of a
any child born to a Jewish mother is
boy, he will have a brit, or circumcision
Jel,vish. The baby may be the son of a
(if the baby already has been circum-
gentile father in the Ku Klux Klan who
cised, a ceremonial drop of blood will
grows up to be the tattoo-covered
be taken by a mohel). Once completely
leader of Hell's Angels who has never
healed, the baby will go with his father
observed a single mitzvah. He's still
to be immersed in the mikvah. A
Jewish, recognized as such by the major mother takes her baby daughter to the
Jewish movements and the State of
mikvah. Outside, the beit din (rabbini-
cal court) will supervise the conversion.
The Reform movement also regards
The child is then raised with all the
as Jewish those babies born to a Jewish
responsibilities and rights of any other
father (but a gentile mother) who are
Jewish child, though when a boy is bar
raised as Jews, who participate in
mitzvah, or a girl bat mitzvah, he or
Jewish life and who identify as Jews.
she will have the right to continue his
The decision to recognize Jews of patri- life as a Jew or not, explains Rabbi
lineal descent was made in 1983 by the Yechiel Morris of Young Israel of
late Rabbi Alexander Schindler, then
head of Reform Judaism's Union of
The Conservative movement follows
American Hebrew Congregations.
much the same path. Parents meet with
Yet no one in the Orthodox,
the rabbi to consider the ways in which
Conservative and Reform movements
the child will be raised and to discuss
recognize as Jewish an infant born to
their own commitment to Judaism.
two gentiles. What, then, are the
In the case of a boy, the child will
options for Jewish parents who have
undergo a circumcision or a drop of
adopted a gentile child, and who wish
blood will be taken, says Rabbi David
to raise him or her as a Jew?
Nelson of Congregation Beth Shalom.
There is no difference, under
If the child is older and requires cir-
Halachah, between a convert and one
cumcision and the,procedure is done at
who is born Jewish and, in fact, to
a hospital, Rabbi Nelson will accompa-
point out that someone is a convert is
ny the parents into the operating room.
against Jewish law. All are obligated to
Both a gentile baby boy and girl,
the same mitzvot, or commandments.
held by a parent, will be submerged
(A very few restrictions apply to con-
three times in a mikvah, their conver-
verts to Judaism. According to
sion supervised by a beit din.
Brachot (blessings) are said following
Halachah they may not, for example,
marry a Cohen — though the same
the immersion. This is usually when
parents, and especially grandparents

AppleTree Editor


"like to take a lot of
pictures, which will be
Congregation Beth Shalom
embarrassing to the
child later on," Rabbi

/3,3$ SO
Nelson said.
eau Us -ea 4
Parents then receive
a certificate to show
Michigan there
that their child has
undergone a conver-
Rabbi Daniel
Syme of Temple
Beth El says that the
Reform movement
opted to recognize
patrilineal descent
cod of
for religious reasons
— and for practical
ones, as well. In the
Torah, he says, "the
child followed the
S.roarD AND gratan B SS
ZS mrs
lineage of the
father" until a dis-
pute, stemming
from the behavior
of Jewish males
after the destruc-
A conversion
tion of the First
certificate from Congregation Beth Shalom.
Rabbi Schindler was further dis-
turbed that the law for determining
to two gentile parents, or if they wish a
conversion for their own reasons even if
who is a Jew didn't take into considera-
the child's father is Jewish, Rabbi Syme
tion any mitigating factors.
"[Former Soviet leader Nikita]
does encourage families to take the
children to the mikvah (a mikvah used
Khrushchev had a son who married a
by the Reform community is at Temple
Jewish woman and they had a child,
Israel), especially if they are considering
which means that his grandson is
aliyah, immigration to Israel.
Jewish even though they probably
Reform parents seeking a conversion
never did anything Jewish in their
for a child should expect to meet with
lives," Rabbi Syme says. Former Israeli
their rabbi before any ceremonies are
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, on
performed. Rabbi Syme says he will
the other hand, had a son who married
a gentile; their son was raised a Jew and speak with the parents to discuss their
served in the Israeli army, yet according own interest in and involvement in
to Halachah he was not Jewish.
Judaism, and to make certain that their
child will be raised in a Jewish home.
Rabbi Schindler, says Rabbi Syme,
He also recommends that parents
"realized, 'Something is wrong here."'
consider circumcision for their new
Consequently, members of the
son, noting that the Reform movement
Reform movement do not ask parents
has both male and female mohelim (cir-
to seek a conversion for children born
cumcisers), as well as physicians who
of a Jewish father.
can perform a brit. II
At the same time, if the infant is

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