While reading news online, too often I come across titles like Karlie Kloss follows in future sister-in-law Ivanka Trump’s steps by converting to Judaism before marriage to Josh Kushner, Karlie Kloss converted to Judaism to marry Josh Kushner or Zooey Deschanel is Jewish. These three women changed their religions for love too and I must admit that I find it infuriating.
First of all, I have serious doubts that converts decide to go through the conversion process just because they want to please a Jewish partner. Converting to Orthodox Judaism requires commitment, dedication and serious changes to one’s lifestyle. Furthermore, many converts argue that despite the life-changing element which comes with conversion, the process can take intimidating turns. In this context, downplaying the decisions of the converts and devaluing their convictions by interpreting their action as merely an expression of marital loyalty is denigrating the whole process.
And second, conversion for marriage to a Orthodox Jew is a choice of love which requires not only spousal love, but also love for the Jewish culture and identity.
Asserting that someone has made this life-changing decision simply in the name of matrimony, or because they want to please the Orthodox Jewish partner or the in-laws is disgracious, and it deprives the Jew by choice of free will. The commitment, hard-work and time investment that go into the process deserve respect instead of a counterproductive attitude which denigrates and creates adversity.
In a world where anti-Semitic incidents are seeing a sharp increase, the media has a special responsibility to protect the Jewish citizens (including converts) instead of promoting divisive concepts and social hostilities in which we advocate for a Us vs Them mentality. The Jews by choice are no different that any new Christians or those who decide to embrace any other religion that the one in which they were born, thus they deserve the same profound respect and consideration as any other group.
Furthermore, the Jews by choice aren’t enlisted in some secret or elusive club which requires total submission from the non-Jewish spouse, an argument proved even by statistics as intermarriage rates soar. According to the 2013 PEW survey Overall, the intermarriage rate is at 58 percent, up from 43% in 1990 and 17% in 1970. Among non-Orthodox Jews, the intermarriage rate is 71% .
Finally, if we understand the threats to Judaism and want to confront the crisis of the Jewish continuity, we need to embrace converts by celebrating their achievements, and commitment to the Jewish identity and values.