“Converting Out”

Question

I am trying to debunk what I think is a myth. When a person coverts to another faith, thus renouncing Judaism, does the family respond as if they had died? Do they have a funeral and no longer consider the person “alive” to them?

2 months

Answers

  1. What you describe is something that many have heard about but, as far as we are aware, is not part of Jewish Law. A Jew who “converts” to another faith is certainly still a Jew, although has a new status of “Yisrael mumar” – and is considered as a non-Jew for certain matters. But even this point is not clear in our days, when so many Jews do not know what Torah and Judaism really are and have not had the proper education in their youth to be able to appreciate the beauty and meaning of Judaism beliefs and practices – and therefore their rejection of it is not true rejection of Judaism as it really is.

    The only practice mentioned in Shulchan Aruch is found in the Rema, Yoreh Deah 268:12, who writes that one who returns to Judaism requires immersion in a purifying mikveh according to Rabbinical law. However, even this practice is not agreed upon by all authorities, and does not appear to be the accepted widespread ruling today.

    So, I am not aware or sitting Shiva, having a “funeral” or saying something along the lines of what of what you mention in the case of a Jew accepting or practicing another religion. Or intermarrying. But having said this, it is not beyond the realm of imagination that there would be a custom in some communities or families to behave in the manner you describe.

    But it is not Jewish law and I don’t think it is helpful either. A better approach would be to remain in contact if possible, and not only pray that the person returns to Judaism, but also to show the person truth, pleasantness and beauty of Judaism.  And who knows? Perhaps the person who “left” will return wholeheartedly to Judaism.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team