Intermarriage, Conversion, and Non-Jewish Relatives

Intermarried Couples
According to the Halacha (Jewish law), there is no such thing as a half-Jewish child. Therefore, children of an interfaith marriage who are Jews -- that is, children born to a woman who converted to Judaism before the child(ren)'s birth, or children who converted to Judaism -- are mourned as Jews.  

 

Jewish Mourning as a Convert
An individual who has converted to Judaism will likely have close relatives who are not Jewish. The individual may choose to observe shiva to honor the death of a close non-Jewish relative, although he or she bears no formal responsibilities to observe shiva or other customs of Jewish mourning. While the observances are optional, it is recommended that the individual who has converted to Judaism observe shiva and other Jewish mourning traditions as part of his or her mourning process. If a convert decides to commemorate the life and death of the non-Jewish relative by observing shiva, he or she can choose to receive shiva calls. However, because of the possibility of a slightly modified mourning period, the convert may wish to inform callers that the deceased was not of the Jewish faith.


Non-Jewish Relatives
As a board-certified psychiatrist who has dealt with mourning and loss, Dr. Jorge Casariego has come to appreciate the crucial role that structure plays in creating a sense of normalcy for mourners. Non-Jewish relatives who wish to honor the memory of a Jewish relative should respect the Jewish traditions of grieving and the structure and comfort these traditions provide. Dr. Casariego expands, “If the person who passed is Jewish, non-Jewish relatives should honor the Jewish tradition and accommodate the Jewish customs. Non-Jewish relatives should participate in shiva to the extent that they feel comfortable and to the extent the family of the deceased feels comfortable.”