Our ten year old adopted son has Autism and Developmental Delays.

We would very much like him to have an orthodox conversion so that he can have his Bar Mitzvah (and any further involvement and simchas) at the orthodox Shul we belong to.

Our rabbi tells us that we, the parents have to become fully kosher and observant in order to convert our son.

He had a circumcision as a baby but they would not allow us to do the Mikva unless we commit to becoming observant.

We are not Shomrei Shabbat, but we are traditional Jews.

Is there ANYWHERE in the world that would do an orthodox conversion for us that will be accepted by the rabbinical council in Canada, without us becoming fully observant?

  • 6
    Wow, tough situation. I have no advice for you (but I hope others will), but wish you the best of luck. And much respect for adopting, especially someone with autism and developmental delays.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 21:24
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    Hm. If you want the conversion to be accepted by the Rabbinical Council in Canada, specifically, have you contacted them to ask which conversions they would accept?
    – MTL
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 21:52
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    Do you think it's in your son's best interests to be bound to a set of laws that he won't be fully trained to keep? Especially with all the other struggles he will have to work to overcome in his life.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 23:03
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    As a practical matter, you would be teaching him that he would be required to keep laws that you are refusing to keep. You are telling him that the laws and beliefs of Judaism are not really true. Consider keeping kosher as an example, in which you tell him to eat only kosher when you do not. In that case you would be telling him not to eat from your food. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 23:29
  • 2
    I am not an expert in the subject, but I have read that an autistic child must be treated with consistent rules and procedures. Thus, teaching him the halachos of Shabbos (as you use as an example) but then not actually following those rules, is actually bad for his development and could make the autism worse. This is over and above the problems involved in the conversion. I would suggest consulting with an Orthodox expert in autism as well as Orthodox rabbis. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 0:21

1 Answer 1


The question seems to involve several points:

  1. Converting a minor: Generally, a minor - under 13 - can only be converted conditionally. That is, when he or she reaches halachik majority, he/she has the option to (retroactively) nullify the conversion. Accordingly, much a case may be subject to closer scrutiny by a Beis Din.
  2. Converting someone who will not be observant ("Orthodox"): Simply put, a non-Jew has no obligation to eat kosher or keep Shabbos, and suffers no liability from the lack of observance. A Jew, including a convert, does have these obligations, and is halachikally liable for their violation. This is indeed the literal meaning of Bar Mitzvah: being responsible for the mitzvos. Most (responsible) Rabbis would not perform such a conversion.
  3. Autistic / Special needs: Depending on the level of disability or delay, an individual may be said to lack competence (the halachik term may be shoteh or pesi). Such a person is released from many obligations - by virtue of inability - but may also be unable to give the "informed consent" to his conversion, required when he becomes Bar Mitzvah.

There is a good reason your Rabbi - or any responsible (Orthodox) Rabbi - is hesitant or unwilling to complete the conversion. He (ideally) has your best interests - and those of your son - in mind. If, after long conversations, discussion, and consideration of all options, you and your Rabbi cannot agree on a course of action - well, that's a tough situation.

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