Women ‘devastated’ by conversion annulment fears

By Robyn Rosen, January 14, 2010

Three converts have spoken about how the controversy is affecting them.

Mrs B converted in America and has a six-year-old daughter. “This throws up a lot of questions,” she said. “It’s awful to know that someone could rethink my conversion.

“What could it mean for my daughter? To feel that the rug could be pulled from beneath her at some point, I think it’s outrageous.

“This is people’s lives we’re talking about. This is the sort of thing that could shatter families and the lives of children who really have done nothing wrong. What can be wrong with wanting to lead a Jewish life?
“In my mind, once you’re Jewish, you’re Jewish. You can’t reverse it on a born Jew, so why a convert? During my conversion, all the rabbis I came into contact with emphasised the responsibility of being Jewish because you can’t reverse it. That was a central premise of the conversion experience.

“I don’t cover my head with a hat or wig but now I’ll be nervous because some rabbi could say they’ve moved the goalposts and that’s the deal breaker. There are a lot of grey areas. Do you penalise for not putting tefillin on every day or saying your birkat hamazon [grace after meals]?

“The rabbi you convert with is someone you are close to and they are able to judge your integrity at the time. If some other rabbi pops up and makes a judgement, it’s so disrespectful.

“I wish somebody would have the guts to stand up and work out some sort of uniform standard.”

Miss A, who converted five years ago, said she was worried about what reasons could be given for reversing a conversion.

“It really scares me. Who is going to set the standards according to which I have to live? I don’t see how this can help anybody.

“I don’t have children but knowing this will hang over them is a great concern.

“When I think about the day I want to get married and someone may say I’m not good enough, that’s very scary.

“I’m slightly less observant now than when I first converted. I think the more comfortable you feel about Judaism, the less you feel you have to keep every single thing.

“Everyone in my community would agree that I’m completely committed to Judaism but when I look at me today, I don’t look the same as I did when I converted. I wear trousers now. It’s worrying to think someone can question my Jewishness based on that.”

But Mrs M said the announcement did not worry her as she had faith in her conversion.

“It doesn’t bother me because I converted with the London Beth Din and I know it’s genuine and I won’t have any issues with it.

“If you have converted genuinely with someone reputable, you shouldn’t experience problems. I don’t have anything to hide. You can’t revert somebody’s conversion on the basis that they are less religious.

“But my understanding is that if somebody converts under false pretences and was being dishonest about themselves at the time of conversion, that is the only circumstance a conversion can be reversed.

“I have a lot of sympathy for that because people shouldn’t be false,” she said.

“I know of lots that do that and some information comes out afterwards. I know of people who have converted for not the right reasons.”

Last updated: 3:31pm, January 15 2010