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I am contemplating joining a Reform synagogue up the street from where I live. I have been once before and would like to start attending though I'm not sure yet about conversion. I am agnostic but feel the need to be part of a religious community. I have a 7-month-old son. I'm not married but live with the father of my son in a domestic partnership. My significant other is okay with me going to temple or even conversion if that's what I wish but doesn't want our son to be Jewish unless he makes that decision on his own. He doesn't want his son to not experience Christmas even though he is agnostic as well and Christmas is a secular holiday in our home: it is still an important celebration for him and our family.

I was wondering: if I did convert would I be expected to raise my son Jewish? Would it be an issue with the rabbi or the Jewish community is what I'm asking. I know if you convert to Catholicism you have to agree to raise your children Catholic. Is the same required to convert to Judaism?

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Of interest: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/29567 –  msh210 Jul 17 at 4:52
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sgriffin, thanks for bringing your question here; welcome to Mi Yodeya! If you were to seek conversion, one of the rabbis working in the synagogue (or another rabbi) would guide your conversion, and you should consult that rabbi with any practical questions; use answers here to inform you but not take the place of consultation with a rabbi. Anyway, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  msh210 Jul 17 at 4:54
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Can you make this a more general question? E.g., trim down the first paragraph significantly. Also, ditto what @msh210 said - talk to the rabbi there, since s/he might have different (and certainly more relevant) expectations than generic Internet people have. –  Charles Koppelman Jul 17 at 5:10
    
Also of interest: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26721 and its answers –  msh210 Jul 17 at 16:20

2 Answers 2

I am an active member of a Reform congregation and know a lot of converts through that channel. In addition, I've taken some training (from CCAR/HUC) designed to prepare lay people to assist with common synagogue tasks ("para-rabbinic", of a sort), and this training included conversion assistance. (Note: lay people do not make decisions in that area; that's the prerogative of rabbis. But I've helped teach classes, for instance.)

The CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis, the governing body of Reform rabbis in North America) does not require that existing children convert along with the parent, but does require discussion of the matter. CCAR does require a commitment that future children will be raised Jewish. Some rabbis amend the required pledge to say "exclusively Jewish", though that's not in the CCAR guidelines for rabbis. According to the rabbi who taught my class, "exclusively" is clearly the intent, and goes with the commitment to have a Jewish home. (Note: it looks like the copy on that web site is missing embedded Hebrew. I have a paper copy.)

To quote from that document:

f. discuss with the prospective ger the religious status of any current children and if there is a necessity for them to be included in the process of exploring geirut.

When both parties are active participants in the process, issues of lack of partner's support, or outright opposition to can be discussed and solutions can be found far more effectively and far earlier in the process. [...]

1f. If the prospective ger has children the following questions should be asked and discussed: What is their status? Are they Jewish according to Orthodox halakhic standards? Are they Jewish by Reform standards? Are they not Jewish at all? If not, is it appropriate for them to become involved in the process of geirut, and if so, when? Should they participate with their parents or should these issues wait until their parent(s) are clearer about their own intentions?

This leaves open the possibility that such children will not convert. I don't see any age-based discussion here; that seems to be left to rabbinic discretion. (I can imagine that a teen leaving for college soon might be treated differently than an infant in this regard.)

The requirement about future children is in the boxed text in the section called "readiness".

See also: CCAR Responsa: Conversion of a Young Child of a First Marriage:

In summary, we urge that a complete conversion take place for the young individual if it is agreeable to both parents, and then insist that the youngster be provided with a Jewish education.

This responsum cites Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 468.7 for a child being able to reject a conversion at the age of bar/bat mitzvah.

As noted above, the CCAR is the North American rabbinic body, so it's possible that rabbis in other parts of the world follow different requirements. In practice, though, I've never heard anybody mention another Reform rabbinic body; I suspect policies elsewhere won't vary on this point.

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Technically speaking, the children of converts are non-Jewish and remain so unless they convert.

Should the mother want to covert them when they are little, there's a procedure, which - IIRC - is reversible by the child when they turn Bat/Bar Mitzva (12 years old for girls, 13 years old for boys.)

So there would seem no reason to raise these children as Jewish, since they are not.

But keep in mind that once you are Jewish you will not be allowed to in a relationship with a non-Jew, nor be secluded with non-Jews; laws known as Yichud would apply.

(I am not addressing the Halachic aspects of conversion by Reform, nor issues involved with living in a mixed-religion household.)

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