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Question

I have been with my girlfriend for almost five years now, and we want to get married. Unfortunately, we have encountered a problem. I am a Cohen. My girlfriend's mother converted (in an orthodox way) while she was between 2-3 months pregnant. Rabbis have told us that she has the same status as a convert, therefore I can not marry her. However, they regard this as a very difficult subject - one that they haven't seen/heard/read about previously. They tell us that it is not possible for us to get married but if somewhere, someone has dealt with such an issue and has found something written anywhere (a loophole of some sort), they are open to hearing it. We are sending this email to you to please tell us if by any chance you have ever dealt with such a case or heard of anything similar to it.

Answer

First of all mazal tov on the wedding you would want to see occur - and which I believe should occur.

A child born to a mother who has converted is Jewish, without reservations of any kind. Even Haezer 11 is the majority opinion.

The fetus is not considered to be a person yet, according to Jewish law. We have laws concerning abortion, still-borns and mourning the loss of a child in the first 30 days of life based on this belief that the fetus is not yet a person.

I have seen opinions that if the child was conceived before conversion and she was born after her mother's conversion, then the Kohen cannot marry her - or to use the legal terminology, the marriage must be dissolved.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement has written responsa that permit a Kohen to marry a young woman in your circumstances.

And, there is an Orthodox position that is quoted by Maurice Lamm citing a responsa of R. Moshe Tendler that if the Kohen's mother in any way - even once - had a relationship with someone prohibited to her in marriage (e.g Gentile, mamzer, "outside the Kohen status") then the young Kohen could marry without any restrictions.

It seems to me that given the world in which we live today and the above citations, we would do well to encourage a Jewish marriage, a Jewish home, the raising of Jewish children who find in Judaism a loving, warm, life-forming society.

If you are Orthodox, or if your Rabbi has ruled that he cannot or will not perform the marriage, then his opinion is the final decisive word for you, and my comments are only information - not judgements or pronouncements or legal opinions. Best Wishes,

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)

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