Twenty years ago I underwent a reform conversion in England involving a year-long course of Jewish study and attendance at synagogue. It was a wonderful and enriching experience which required the participation of my Jewish husband-to-be. Since then I have made aliyah (on my own merit because my conversion is recognized by the State of Israel), married my prince, given birth to three kids and live a happily secular Jewish life in Israel.
We don’t keep kosher, observe Shabbat or go to synagogue; but my son was circumcised and celebrated his bar-mitzvah. We celebrate the Jewish holidays and our kids go to Jewish schools and learn Tanakh. In short, we are like any other secular Israeli Jewish family.
The fact that many of you are now dismissing me as a goy and my children as not Jewish hurts, but not enough for me to want to undergo an Orthodox conversion which involves embracing a way of life that is just not right for me – and I’m not willing to pretend that it may be in order to be rubber stamped with the title of ‘halachic.’
I do know how to keep a kosher kitchen, welcome the Shabbat and what’s involved in being ritually pure and I can see the beauty in living a religious lifestyle if that’s what makes your soul shine. It’s just not for me.
I have learnt many remarkable things living amongst Jews, the most important for me personally are the sense of family, the generosity of spirit and the constant nurturing of the intellect – and those are the things that I practice in my daily life.
In the most profound way, I have chosen to throw my lot in with the Jewish people and soon I will send my first-born to the army; if he has his way, to an elite combat unit. I will be able to live with whatever happens there, because it is a choice he will make for himself and he is willing to live or die by that choice. What I cannot stand is the idea that sometime after the army, he will hopefully fall in love with a girl who may, once she knows that he is not considered Jewish by the Rabbinate, reject him. But at least if my son chooses to marry a Jewish woman his children will be considered Jews, my two daughters will have a harder time – and it is my fault.
I take the responsibility — I chose Reform, I chose to marry a Jew, to come to Israel, to bring my children up feeling Jewish in the Jewish homeland, expecting to marry and live here with the same rights as anyone else – I am guilty as charged. But at the same time I ask; if Israel wants to call itself a Western democracy, where is the right of every citizen to marry whomever he chooses? How can we, the righteous amongst nations, tell our countrymen that they may be born, educated, serve in the army and live within our borders, but they are not fit to marry within them — so go to Greece and do it there? It’s absurd. It needs to change and it will.