Forcing conversion on people doesn't work for many reasons. People often have good reasons for not wanting to convert. For some, the weakness of their religious convictions regarding their own faith makes themfeel inauthentic about adopting another faith. Such folks don't feel strongly enough about religion to pledge their faith in good conscience.

Others may feel powerfully drawn to Jews and Judaism, but are unable to convert for personal reasons. They may not be prepared to cause the upset and disappointment that their conversion would produce for parents and siblings. While they may be eager to learn about Judaism and happy to raise their children as Jews, they may still feel the need to protect a sense of their own history and roots.

Adoption of the ger toshav status could provide a non-Jew with the time to experience Jewish life in a more organic way. Without the pressure to convert quickly (and often superficially) for the sake of marriage, a slower process of identification, one focused upon carrying out Jewishparenthood, would nurture Jewish belonging from the inside.

The marriage of a Jew and a ger toshav would not be legitimate under existing halakhic (Jewish legal) frameworks. However, my own work in finding solutions to gay and lesbian marriage has shed light on this issue for me. In this case as well, the traditional ritual would not well serve amixed couple. New rituals for such marriages, rituals that partake of Jewish resources and speak honestly about what is actually happening, are needed.

Exactly what such marriages could mean for the Jewish community, how they ought to be formally enjoined, or how they should be terminated when they end are all questions that call for the exercise of cultural creativity.Maimonides makes it clear that the traditional marital ritual was an innovationwhen it began. Until then, a man took a woman into his tent, and when they came out they were married. If the present form of kiddushin (the format of a Jewish wedding) was once an invention, then innovation itself is not the problem.

If Abraham had two wives and Jacob had four, doing things just like our forebears is also not the issue. If the Talmudic sage Rav would call out on his travels, "Who will marry me for the day?" in order to provide a "day wife" for himself, it must be clear that marriage and family making arealways a part of the larger cultures in which they reside. It is time that we provide a place for the non-Jew in our families in much the same way that the ger toshav, or alien resident, was given a place in ancient Judea.

Among King David's most trusted commanders was Uriah the Hittite. This non-Jew was the epitome of the ger toshav, loyal to David and a fan of the Jewish people. He bears the Hebrew name Uriah, meaning "God is my light," and is remembered as a man of integrity and decency. The Hittite commander was so morally upright that despite David's urgings that he go and sleep with his wife, Bathsheba (so as to obscure the fact that she was pregnant by King David), he refused to sleep in the comfort of his bed while his men were in the battlefield.

It is surely better when two Jews marry and produce children who carry on the covenant of Israel as knowledgeable and proud Jews. But for the great non-Jewish souls who find themselves, like Uriah, drawn to the Jewish peopleand ready to stand up and even fight with us in our battles, we must find a wayto formally recognize them. It is a sign of our success that we ought tocelebrate rather than mourn.


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