Herman Wouk and the Convert

Herman Wouk fascinates me, because not only was he a great writer, he was an Orthodox Jew, and was obviously very worldly wise and open to studying the world around him.

He also fascinates me because if what has been written about him is true, as I have understood it, his situation regarding the woman he fell in love with would not be tolerated today in Orthodox circles.

In 1944 he met Betty Sarah Brown a personnel officer in the US navy while his ship the Zane was in San Pedro for repairs.

They fell in love and while he was back at sea fighting in the Pacific, Betty, a Protestant, studied for her conversion to Judaism.

I understand the reasons why it would not be tolerated in Orthodox Judaism today, but that sends out the message to potential converts today, that back in 1944, people who converted were much more serious about it than Orthodox converts today.

Is that really true?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this.

The Orthodox approach to treating all potential converts as only marrying for “convenience” is wrong.

Maybe it was through meeting a potential spouse that was the catalyst for a deep and longlasting interest and devotion to Judaism. As in the case of Betty Sarah Brown.

I’m not saying we should all go marry Protestants.

What I am saying each case should be taken on its merits, truthful or otherwise.

The divorce rate is rising within Judaism.

Being born Jewish doesn’t guarantee that for sure your marriage to another Jew will last.

That’s a fact.

In other words it’s about marrying the right person for YOU, and Herman Wouk, a lifelong Orthodox Jew believed in her sincerity.

They say behind every great man is an even greater woman.

She became his literary agent.

Imagine if he hadn’t married her .

We might have been robbed of some Great American literature which inspired generations, Jew and Non Jew.

They were married for 65 years, he remained Orthodox all his life, as did she.

Maybe it’s time the Orthodox establishment took note, and tried a different way to stem the increasing number of divorces.

About the Author
Northern Ireland born & bred. Made Aliya in 1990 just before the Gulf War. WUJS in Arad (World Union of Jewish Students) graduate. Worked and lived in Baka Jerusalem since 1992 I'm a Centrist because the distance between Left and Right is too great, and I want to know what they're up to! Whether I'm writing about the state of world politics or a couple having a cuppa, my real aim is to close the gaps between us.
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