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Suppose the following situation, which commonly arises. A Jewish guy starts dating a non-Jewish girl, and they both fall in love. She respects his religion and wants to convert in order to be able to marry him under a chuppah. We are talking here about Orthodox Judaism.

Now, she may start out wanting to convert in order to be with someone. But as she goes through the process of learning about Judaism she may genuinely come to accept the Jewish Covenant and decide to follow all the commandments. If she immerses in a Mikveh and a court of three observant Orthodox Jews finds her Giur to be successful, then she is a Jew, right? From that point on, if she keeps all the commandments to the same level as a relatively lax Jew, she is still considered fully Jewish.

I realize there are some Kabbalistic opinions that souls of converts were really Jewish from the moment they were born.

My question is this: rabbis traditionally ignore the first few requests for conversion. But are they expected to totally turn someone away if they begin conversion as a result of being in a relationship, because it is "for the wrong reasons"? What is the most successful way to actually get such a Gentile girl to convert? I am concerned about the following issues:

  • Rabbis refusing to start the process because the girl is in a romantic relationship with a Jew

  • The effect on soul of the convert of not following all the commandments post-conversion vs remaining a relatively righteous Noahide

If I were to date gentile girls, and casually tell them about Judaism, and only marry one who becomes genuinely interested of her own volition (placing me in the company of e.g. Steven Spielberg, Jared Kushner and Sasha Baron Cohen) what are the consequences of this in the afterlife, etc. according to rabbinical Judaism?

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Hello and welcome to Mi Yodeya. It seems like you have at least two questions here: whether and (if so) how a gentile woman in a relationship can convert, and what the consequences (spiritual and otherwise) for both people in the relationship. I suggest splitting out the latter as its own question. Some related questions: first steps for converts, discouragement. –  Monica Cellio Jun 20 '13 at 3:21
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Are Orthodox Jews indeed "commonly" dating non-Jews with the intention of converting them? –  HodofHod Jun 20 '13 at 3:35
    
@hod the statistics are irrelevant as is how much is 'common'. –  Double AA Jun 20 '13 at 8:25
    
It's my impression that the population of rabbis who deal with conversion is divided when it comes to the conversion of someone romantically involved with a Jew. I think the idea in North America is that commitment to Judaism is the most important thing about conversion, and the relationship casts a lot of doubt on the candidate's sincerity. In Israel the concerns about national integrity are stronger, so there may be a more willing attitude. Perhaps in areas with less distinction between ortho and heterodox groups also. –  yitznewton Jun 20 '13 at 13:31
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@GregoryMagarshak It's impossible for us to know exactly what the effect on a person's soul of some action is, but consider this: before a person converts to Judaism, going to McDonald's is no sin for them. According to Judaism, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a non-Jew eating unkosher food. As soon as the person becomes Jewish, anything that they do that is against the Torah is a sin. So now they are sinning when before they were not, even though they are doing the exact same actions. This is exactly the reason why conversion is discouraged. –  Daniel May 10 at 18:35
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2 Answers 2

"If she immerses in a Mikveh and a court of three observant Orthodox Jews finds her Giur to be successful, then she is a Jew, right?"

Right, though you'd want to make sure the beis din is widely accepted. See the list of RCA batei din (http://www.judaismconversion.org/batei.din.html), or the list of batei din accepted by the Israeli Rabbanut (http://sephardicjewishguide.weebly.com/conversion.html).

"But are they expected to totally turn someone away if they begin conversion as a result of being in a relationship, because it is 'for the wrong reasons'?"

No. If the person genuinely wants to convert, is willing to become completely observant for life (even if the couple splits up, for example), and the spouse is willing to become observant enough to avoid getting in the way of the spouse's conversion, then most Orthodox batei din will allow conversion. It is a fairly common situation that a Jew and non-Jew are dating and the non-Jew converts Orthodox before marrying. See the book Becoming a Jew by R' Lamm, which notes how common this is.

See the following policy statement by the RCA, which manages a network of widely-accepted batei din:

"Where marriage to a particular Jewish partner is a major incentive to a prospective conversion, there is an increased possibility that the geirus may come with less than the complete commitment necessary for a conversion that would be in keeping with the standards we are trying to set for the regional Batei Din. Nonetheless, experience also shows that such a motivation can result in converts of the highest caliber. Conversion for the sake of marriage therefore requires the Beit Din to constantly reevaluate if the candidate and future partner are likely to subscribe to the requisite beliefs and practices. The Beit Din must be convinced that if the potential spouse were to disappear from the candidate’s life, his or her commitment to the Jewish faith and people would not waver. These factors inevitably prolong the process and make examination of the prospective convert more intense. Indeed, should the couple mention a proposed wedding date as a deadline or goal, the Beit Din should respond that the process will take significantly longer than that."

http://www.judaismconversion.org/GPS_Policies_and_Procedures.html

"What is the most successful way to actually get such a Gentile girl to convert?"

I don't understand what you're asking with this question. Do you meant if that a Jew is dating a non-Jewish woman, what is a successful strategy for persuading her to convert? If so, this is a problematic question. Most sincere converts convert out of a strong personal desire to convert, not because someone wanted them to. However, there may be situations in which a non-Jewish woman exposed to Orthodox Judaism in a non-forceful and gradual way may come to decide she wants to convert. As noted below, however, this is unlikely to succeed and one should not expect it to take place.

Perhaps by the question you mean the following: if the non-Jewish woman wants to convert, what is the most successful strategy for completing the conversion? In this case, the answer would simply be to attempt to start the gerus process and don't take no for an answer (that is, persist in your interest even if rabbis try to discourage you or don't answer your calls, etc.). How to go about starting and progressing in the conversion process is explained at length and very practically in the Gerus Guide by R' Aryeh Moshen.

"If I were to date gentile girls, and casually tell them about Judaism, and only marry one who becomes genuinely interested of her own volition (placing me in the company of e.g. Steven Spielberg, Jared Kushner and Sasha Baron Cohen) what are the consequences of this in the afterlife, etc. according to rabbinical Judaism?"

It is wrong for a Jewish man to date non-Jewish women. So as far as the afterlife is concerned, I would think you would be punished for that (if you do not do adequate teshuvah in your lifetime, at least). It is important to note that the vast majority of non-Jewish women you date will not be drawn strongly enough to Orthodox Judaism to be able to successfully convert. It is an extremely risky and dangerous strategy to date non-Jewish girls with the hope that you can nudge the one you end up falling in love with and wanting to marry into converting. In short, it is extremely unlikely to succeed.

"The effect on soul of the convert of not following all the commandments post-conversion vs remaining a relatively righteous Noahide"

If the convert did not truly accept all the mitzvos, then the conversion was not valid. But if the conversion is valid and the person is not completely observant afterward, the person would be punished for their aveiros as would any born Jew. Note that when a convert is unobservant after a conversion, the conversion is sometimes considered to have been invalid.

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You mention 2 concerns. Let's take each one separately:

1. Rabbis refusing to start the process because the girl is in a romantic relationship with a Jew

Classicaly, as a general rule, Rabbis would not agree to deal with a non-Jew who has ulterior motives for converting.

Historically this meant that the relationship would end, as few Jews would marry out of their faith. If they were an exception to the rule, then everybody would shun them as the one who doesn't belong or other nasty appellations.

However, nowadays, people have no qualms marrying out of the faith. Some Rabbis may consider conversion of the non-Jew as the lesser of the 2 evils and decide it's better for all involved for the conversion to take place.

So back to your concern, you could solve this by "shopping around" for a Rabbi who can be convinced that conversion would be the best choice is this particular case.

2. The effect on soul of the convert of not following all the commandments post-conversion vs remaining a relatively righteous Noahide

This concern has no easy way around it. There is no obligation for a gentile to convert - and they are routinely discouraged from doing so, during the conversion process.

A gentile has the 7 Naochide laws they must follow - and that earns them their place in the world to come.

Once they decide that they must join the Jewish people, they are in a more precarious situation that a Jew-from-birth.

The latter can claim that he was forced (by an accident of birth, so to speak) to be Jewish. He can claim that he wasn't ever taught the law in a compelling way. How his claims affects his punishment, is up to the Heavenly Court to decide.

A convert, on the other hand, has no such excuses. They will have been warned multiple times that they have to keep Jewish Law in its entirety, as well as the consequences of not doing so. They will have been taught the basic laws - and usually even be tested on the material.

By insisting on nevertheless converting, they will be punished much more severely - for the same sins - as their Jewish-from-birth counterpart, who was not given the choice.

The end result is that a convert who ends up not following all the commandments post-conversion is in worse shape spiritually, than a relatively righteous Noahide.

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I would like to add that, according to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, it is forbidden to marry a convert with whom you are even suspected to have had sexual relations before his or her conversion. –  Tatpurusha May 11 at 15:22
    
"By insisting on nevertheless converting, they will be punished much more severely - for the same sins - as their Jewish-from-birth counterpart, who was not given the choice." What is your source for this? I have never heard this idea. –  Kordovero May 11 at 18:26
    
Tatpurusha, modern authorities don't hold by the Kitzur in this regard. It is fairly common for someone to convert (under widely-accepted Orthodox auspices) even though they are already married to a Jew under secular law. –  Kordovero May 11 at 18:28
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