My boyfriend is becoming Orthodox and it’s scaring me, what should I do?

Hello,

My name is Joanna and I am needing your insight or guidance to what I’m trying to understand. My boyfriend David, has just recently told me he is submerging himself in Orthodox Judaism, but not to the point of black hat and black coat as he puts it. Basically, this is a man who I’ve known since 6th grade here in the United States . . . I am not Jewish, however I enjoy learning about the religion. He was sent to Israel for two months to go through the Yeshiva program in Jerusalem and visit family. Two months then became ten months . . . . Our relationship is still very much growing thanks to e-mail, aim, and  skype. Going there he said he was only going to observe the religion not convert to the Orthodox ways, then a month ago he mentioned he was being pressured. Finally, last Saturday evening we got on a topic about when he gets home things will be different and there will be rules he will be observing more than what I have to.

Not understanding I teased by asking would I have to cover up. He said, yes, if we were married and I’d also have to wear a wig. For me, with my background of the christian church religious pressurings that my parents made me do, I got scared. We discussed it calmly on the rules he mentioned but not my background (am writing a letter to him explaining my history and thoughts), which is also something I love about him, we can actually talk vs argue. I cryed for 3 days thinking I’ve lost him to religion, but my boss at work has said a few things that eased my mind and I believe he is the same man, but with different beliefs now. Things will be different when he comes back, and I’m hopeing in a way that he leaves some of Israel in Israel, but I hate to think that.

I would like to understand more. I will be going over there in July to see him and possibly also do the female version of the Yeshiva program, then we plan on traveling to Europe. He has been teaching me somethings, basic things, which had me thinking I might want to convert to Jewdiasm later, but Orthodox Judaism scares me. I don’t want to be scared, they say being scared is only because you don’t understand. When he said that thing about the wig, the first thing I thought was opression of women. I love this man with all my heart. I want to understand why he chose this route and what it means to be Orthodox Jewish or even Jewish in general, which is why I am seeking online sources to learn. I don’t want to be afraid of it. I do hope that what comprimises or acceptance that I make for him that he makes for me as well. I’m reaching out for guidence on my feelings, thoughts, ways to learn and accept, and to love him the same way as I always have. Any imput or education would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,

Joanna

Hi Joanna –

 

I understand your feelings of nervousness and fear. Growing up non-Orthodox I also thought Orthodox Jews were crazy! But as I started to learn more about it firsthand, I saw how beautiful it was. And David hasn’t “converted” to Orthodoxy – his being more committed to Jewish law is simply him being a Jew who has learned more and is observing more . .. .

I think it’s wonderful that David is getting a chance to learn about his heritage. I’m not in favor of someone being pressured to do something in the coercion sense, but if his rabbis/teachers are debating with him and making strong points – even if they’re less convenient for him – sometimes I think that kind of pressure, the pressure to grow and achieve more than you would have because you were scared, is a good one. Do you see the difference?

In terms of the covering up and wig thing – one thing at a time, lady! It definitely seems like a weird practice and Orthodox Judaism definitely can seem sexist to women from a far – but did you see my blog/video about “Why Orthodox Men Don’t Wear Wigs” (and my video “What to Wear on My Hair”?) Here’s the link

. They will hopefully give you a little more insight as to why these laws are the way they are. But don’t start worrying yourself with wigs quite yet.

At this point David knows a lot more about Judaism and wants it to be a way of life for him. So now it’s your turn – you too should learn and see if it resonates with you. The cool thing about Judaism is that it doesn’t proselytize and say you won’t be “saved” unless you’re Jewish. We believe righteous gentiles have a share in the world to come. But at the same time, it’s not an exclusive club that you can’t join either. But the thing about “joining the club” is that if you’re going to do it, do it for real. Some denominations teach you about the religion, but then don’t actually expect you to practice it. They just tell you to fit it in how you feel like. But that’s not the way a conversion is supposed to be – a person converts because they want to live a Jewish life – a practicing Jewish life. Here’s an article written by a guy who was raised Reform and was trying to understand the differences between the different denominations. I think it’ll be helpful to you.

Also, check out Aish.com and beingjewish.com for great articles to learn more about Judaism in general. And try out the women’s school in Israel. You can only have an opinion of something if you have enough information to know what you’re talking about. So go and educate yourself and see how you feel then and whatever you decide, it will be a knowledge based decision.

Best of luck,

Allison

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