Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Jewish Boy Denied a Bar Mitzvah in Australia


I have posted this letter here because it may never see the light of day through the Jewish News.

Dear Editor

I would strongly suggest that the Honourable Judge is in error, because by effectively barring the boy from making his bar mitzvah, he is not allowing the child to celebrate a rite of passage that holds cultural significance for his Jewish family and the community as well as the boy’s Jewish peers. It is a clever way of effectively isolating the boy and highlighting the fact that he is somehow ‘different’ from his Jewish peers even in the youth group he is allowed to attend.

I should elaborate on my position. I am totally against mixed marriages, even though and perhaps because my own son is from such a union. There is no such thing as a ‘successful mixed marriage’, because if both parties hold strong religious beliefs and practise their cultural and religious traditions, then disaster is waiting around the corner when children are born.

You cannot bring up a child in two faiths. No matter how ‘liberal and open minded’ you may be as parents, it is TOTALLY UNFAIR to the children. If indeed there are couples out there on this path, then I would suggest a pre nuptial agreement that clearly states how the children should be raised and in what religion.

Children of a Jewish mother are halachically Jewish, no matter what religion they are brought up to observe. They can thump bibles all they like and say umpteen dozen Hail Maries or whatever else orthodox Catholics say, they are still Yidden.

Children of Jewish fathers and non Jewish mothers are not Jewish and cannot be Jewish until they undergo a full orthodox halachic conversion. It does not matter if they are raised in B’nai Brak and have peyot down to their ankles and wear a kapote, until they have a fully kosher conversion, they are simply goyim or non Jews.

It is confusing enough for children of mixed marriages to have to cope with relatives on both sides of the family being radically different in their religious practice and cultural outlook on life or indeed lifestyle, but to place the burden of choice on the child or children and in addition to burden them with two sets of radically opposing religious doctrines throughout their childhood (goodness knows what sort of psychological pressure is being put on the child by this sort of madness) is insane.

Then, when the child does choose to follow a religious path and way of life, one parent or both parents will always be hurt or feel rejected. Unless both parents are ardently secular and have very tenuous ties to a religion and do not care to live a life devoid of many rites of passage or festivals, it is not going to work.

I feel most sorry for the boy. That father must feel extremely threatened by a bar mitzvah to go to this extent. If there was the equivalent rite in the Catholic religion, would the judge withhold the boy’s participation in that and in say a ‘confirmation ceremony’ and stop him from going to masses?

This story just shows the sort of mess you can get into with a mixed marriage. My son has had enough to deal with, even though his non Jewish father has very little if any contact with him, from the attitudes of some other non religious people and sad to say, a few, only very few, (B”H) religious people. It is not easy being Jewish, but with judgements like this, this it becomes even even harder.

I would appeal if I was in the position of the mother. With a good lawyer, this ruling should be overturned.

It is not fair to the children to tear them apart between the parents’ different religions and my guess is the result will effectively turn them off both religions. It is up to the parents to be sane and sensible and have the best interests of their children at heart. Choose one or the other and stop confusing the children who are the real victims in all this mess.