Mazel tov. We wish you much joy and happiness with your new child.
Now all the civil legalities have been completed, it would be good to settle your child’s religious identity. Unless you know that your adopted child was born of a Jewish mother, and you have documentary proof to that effect, your child will not be considered to be legally part of the Jewish people unless you confirm their Jewish identity through the Beit Din.
There have been many occasions in the past when adopted children, brought up as part of a Jewish family involved in the community, think themselves to be Jewish, only to find out when they wish to celebrate Bar or Bat Mitzvah or to marry in a synagogue that they first have to convert to Judaism. This can be a terrible shock. It is much better to sort out this issue when the person is young and it is relatively simple.
- The first step is to go see your rabbi who will advise you as to the steps involved.
- You will need to fill out a form given to you by the rabbi. (The Beit Din like all law courts marches to the sound of paper documents rustling in the breeze!)
- The Beit Din does not require the circumcision of a male child between the ages of 6 months and 16 years of age. Though, if you wish the procedure to be carried out, we can recommend a mohel who will be able to help you.
- You will be asked to come to the court with the child and sign a document promising that you intend to bring up the child as a Jew.
- If the child is old enough to be already attending cheder and children’s services and activities, such attendance is expected and the child may be asked to bring along something from cheder so that the rabbis can have a conversation with him. This is not to test him in any way; it is simply part of the Beit Din’s wish to make each child feel that it has been an important day and that the rabbis have taken note of them, and not just their parents.
- After the Beit Din, you will have to take the child into the mikveh. Full instructions will be given by your rabbi or the Beit Din as to how this ritual is carried out.
- When all the formalities have been concluded, your rabbi may want to hold some sort of welcoming ceremony for the child, differing according to the age.
Caveat: As with the conversion of adults, you have to understand that the child’s Jewish status will be recognised by progressive synagogues worldwide, but unfortunately, not by the Orthodox world. If the child is male and no brit milah is carried out then the conversion may not be recognised by Masorti Judaism in the UK or many Progressive communities in Europe.