As a potential convert, I wanted to know what Jewish tradition says about the relationship of a convert to his parents who are not Jewish and who are not interested in conversion. Are they still considered his parents after the conversion?
Our sages say that when someone converts, it is as if he or she becomes a new person, now charged with a Jewish mission. “A convert who converts is similar to a child being born.”
But while this is the case spiritually, the physical facts must also be taken into consideration. There are biological parents who gave birth to and raised that individual. The fact that someone has the opportunity to convert is due to what those parents did for that child. Practically, according to Jewish law, one should honor his or her biological parents.
It can be difficult for parents to see their child choose a path so different from their own, and it is important to remain sensitive to their feelings.
Leaving a certain life behind you while still respecting those who got you there can be tricky. Finding the right balance is something to discuss with the rabbi you would be working with on your conversion.
Let me know if this helps.
Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar
Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org
Dear Rabbi Cotlar,
It was a pleasure to receive such a prompt response to my question. Moreover, it was wonderful to receive such an enlightened, considerate, well thought out, sensitive opinion. Judaism is a beautiful religion, and the Jewish people comprise a nation of “menschen” because of spiritual leaders such as you.