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I am currently married to a Jewish woman who is non-observant. I wish to convert to normative Orthodox Judaism and be observant. My wife is agreeable to study with me and keep a jewish home. My wife does not agree to head coverings, Orthodox dress, not driving on Shabbos etc.

Would ANY Orthodox Rabbi allow a conversion in which the convert's spouse is Jewish and largely non-observant?

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    John PB, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for bringing your questions here! I edited your post a bit to highlight the first question and distinguish it from the background. I also took out the second question, since it opens a whole different can of worms than the first; I encourage you to post it in another question post. (You can retrieve your original text from the edit history.) You're welcome, of course, to edit further. I hope your religious journey is rewarding. – Isaac Moses May 24 '17 at 13:24
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    I'm really doubtful that anyone would object to this arrangement. Conversion really involves you, not your spouse. No one can guarantee anyone's level of observance - whether it's yours after you convert or your spouse's after marriage. The one "problem" that may occur, here, is that you and your wife may have to remarry after your conversion, since while your wife was Jewish, she married a non-Jew. – DanF May 24 '17 at 13:41
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    On the other hand, her refusal may make it more difficult for you to keep the mitzvos properly and could also put a strain on your marriage. You should look up information on what happens when one of a couple becomes religious and the other does not. – sabbahillel May 24 '17 at 14:01
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    @Loewian product-recommendation??? – Monica Cellio May 25 '17 at 15:08
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    "Would ANY Orthodox Rabbi allow" is a low bar. – msh210 May 26 '17 at 6:07
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Greetings and welcome to J.SE.

Many born-Jewish couples have worked out agreements whereby one spouse's level of observance is higher than another's. Some of the biggest questions involve matters that affect both of them; most significantly, taharat hamishpacha ("family purity" laws, which will affect both of you), and anything involving children -- at what level of observance will they be raised? How will the variation between Mom and Dad be explained to them? So expect those questions to come up a lot; hopefully you and your wife have already had some of those conversations.

These come up often in couples where both are born Jewish and over time, one decides to increase their level of observance; it can be done, but it takes a lot of clear communication, understanding, and patience.

Most Orthodox conversion rabbis will expect the conversion candidate to move within walking distance of an Orthodox synagogue; even if your wife drives on Shabbos, can you make that work?

RCA policy document:

At a minimum, the candidate must have ongoing, reasonable accessibility to the institutions of Orthodox life; e.g., a mikveh, an Orthodox day school through 12th grade, kosher food, and live within walking distance to an Orthodox minyan that meets regularly each Shabbat and Yom Tov.

I would start off having some of these conversations with your wife; once you feel you have answers that satisfy both of you, I think you can explain your situation to a rabbi and it will be at least worth some serious consideration.

Here's how the Rabbinical Council of America words their policy (note the nuance):

When a candidate is previously intermarried or is converting for the sake of an individual Jew (as per above), the spouse’s observance level and attitudes must be consistent with the present and future Torah observance of the candidate and not be a source of conflict or opposition to the convert’s adopting a halachic lifestyle. The Beit Din should also consider whether other significant individuals in the candidate’s life such as parents, or any existing minor children, will have an impact on the success or failure of the process and the aftermath of conversion.

So be prepared for some tough questions about how it will work ... but I wouldn't say it's impossible.

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    Nice answer. For OP mainly, I would add that the biggest challenge of observance-level differences will occur once you have children. It is possible to have a variety of levels within the family, but, that works once the kids are mature - about mid-late teenager. Young kids need to get a consistent message from both parents on how to act and behave. If your levels are dramatically diverse, you can expect major problems with your kids' observance and emotional behavior. So, it's important to deal with this aspect as early as you can. – DanF May 24 '17 at 15:38
  • Re beginning of 4th paragraph - living within walking distance to shul - Is that actually a typical condition for conversion that most Orthodox rabbis have these days? BTW, looks like you're next in line for the 100K mark. Go go go! – DanF May 24 '17 at 15:41
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    @DanF It is required so that the person can go to shul and be part of the community on Shabbos and Yom Tov. This is also a practical matter so someone can continue on the path. – sabbahillel May 24 '17 at 16:49
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When my husband inquired of the orthodox (RCA) Beit din, he was told that conversion would not be permitted unless I (a born Jew) agreed to become halachically observant as well. Truthfully, the Beit din appeared to be more concerned about my level of committment than his because I used to be frum and went "off the derech" and married a non-Jew. I agreed to return to the path, and my husband did convert and we are now both completely observant.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya Lana! Thanks for the answer! – mevaqesh May 30 '17 at 2:49
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you might have to convince te beis din that your conversion is not merely "to keep your Jewish wife" since this could prove problematic

  • Good point; usually that's an issue with a boyfriend/girlfriend. Here they've been married for years and she's not interested in his increasingly-religious shift. (But still ... be prepared for that question.) – Shalom Jun 8 '17 at 0:18
  • thats what makes the question even stronger. since you've been married could it be that the marriage is the motiv – rabbi Jun 8 '17 at 6:16

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