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CONVERSION AND MARRYING A COHEN
February 2006
Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg

Question

Dear Rabbi,

I apologize in advance if my questions are disrespectful in any way. I am a divorced American woman who is in the process of an Orthodox conversion to Judaism. I have just started preparing for conversion. My fiancé is an Israeli Jew and a Cohen. He and his family are Conservative. My first question is : 1) Can we can marry after my conversion is complete? We plan a civil wedding in the United States followed by a move to Israel to register as a married couple. Then we hope to have a Conservative wedding ceremony in Israel. Question #2) What happens if I become pregnant before my conversion is complete? I am hoping that as long as I am a convert and we marry before the baby is born, the baby will be Jewish. Is there a prohibition against a Cohen marrying a pregnant convert? To make things even more difficult, I am 14 years older than my fiancé. Waiting one more full year after conversion decreases our chances of having children biologically. This is why timing is an issue. We are committed to adopting children as well. Thank you very much.

Answer

There is no reason to apologize. Your questions are to the point and of course you ought to know where you stand when you plan such major events in your life as conversion and marriage. So here are the answers.
1) The Conservative movement recognizes a marriage between a convert and a Cohen. (as you were not Jewish when you divorced, this does not intervene). If you come to Israel as a convert and with a civil marriage license, the Interior Ministry will register you as Jewish and married. There will not be a problem having a Conservative wedding in Israel. In any case, you could not have an Orthodox wedding since the Orthodox do not marry Cohen and convert.
2) If you complete the conversion before the birth of your child, he/she will be automatically Jewish, because Jewish Law views an unborn baby as a part of the woman's body. If, however you complete the conversion after he/she is born the baby will have to convert which is not at all problematic for a baby. A boy would undergo the regular circumcision but it is called a circumcision for the sake of conversion, and when you finish your conversion process, you would be required to take the baby -- boy or girl -- with you to the ritual bath. This being said, you should be aware that the Orthodox Rabbis doing your conversion may ask questions if you are visibly pregnant, and may hesitate to convert you if they learn that the future father is a Cohen. A solution would be to do a Conservative conversion, which would allow you also to register as a Jew in Israel. In either case you will not be able to marry at the Rabbinate.

I hope I answered your questions.
Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg
February 2006

 
 

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Jerusalem Campus: Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies:

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