No More Church, No More Friend

By Aliza Hausman

When I was converting to Judaism, I asked a rabbi if I could walk into a church again. I wasn’t planning on returning for services but I had my sights on visiting the Sistine Chapel someday. It was also a question that bothered many of my Christian friends, particularly my friend, Cynthia.
going back.

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8 comments on “No More Church, No More Friend

  1. Is c”v anyone really itching for an excuse to enter a church? Some Jews by birth (frum or not, evidently) just don’t understand that many geirim DO have issues with entering a church, and DO view the ‘artwork’ as iconography. (And actually, I found the list very interesting.)

    My uncle passed away two weeks after my halachic conversion, and then my grandmother (his mother-in-law) passed away three days later. My other beloved grandmother passed away 18 months later. I did not attend any of these funerals, but my family (on both sides) understood – I explained to them in advance that I could not, and B”H I was able to spend time with my grandmothers before they passed, and say my goodbyes in a meaningful way.

    I also missed my little sister’s wedding. I made it clear that I still loved her, and wish her and her husband only the greatest happiness together. I did it in such a way that conveyed much love, yet sadness that I could not join her. (It was in a Greek Orthodox Church – her in-laws’ – how could I set foot in such a place?!)

    Friendships are lost over lesser things than strength of conviction – for the sake of Heaven no less – and it is clear she did not arrive at her decision lightly.

  2. Nathan,
    You are going to have to relax there with all of the mephorshim lists. Did you not read the comment that stated different rabbeyim have different outlooks? Everybody’s situation is different, and slapping a list together of rabbis and mephorshim who all say “ASSUR!” is not helpful. Humanity is created in all shades, not just black and white. We as frum jews are so quick to rely on what is assur or “not in the spirit,” that we skip the nuances and people get hurt. This essay beautifully expresses the author’s still-fresh pain of losing a dear friend. It was not about asking readers their halachik opinions.

  3. Hearing that you refused to step into a church, and gave up a chance to go to St. Peter’s really puts my craving for my mom’s chocolate chip cookies into perspective. Often times, what scares people off from becoming more religious is they think of all the things they have to give up. I try and focus on all the things I am getting; such as becoming closer to HKBH.


    {1} Babylonian Talmud, tractate Megillah, page 15B, first of thickest lines on page:
    Rabbi Levi taught: When she [Queen Esther] arrived at the House of Idols, the Divine Presence [Shechinah] departed from her.

    {2} Avot DeRabbi Natan, Chapter 8, Paragraph 8:
    The camels of Abraham would not enter a house that contained idol worship.

    {3} Shulchan Aruch, Chelek Yoreh Deah, Siman 142, Sif 10:
    It is forbidden to stand in the shade of a house of idol worship.
    NOTE 1: Since even standing in the shade of a house of idol worship is forbidden, how could entering inside permitted?
    NOTE 2: Also see Shulchan Aruch, Chelek Yoreh Deah, Siman 149, Sif 1.

    {4} Sefer Charedim, Chapter 22, Paragraph 3, page 106 of menukad edition:
    It is forbidden to look at images associated with idol worship…

    {5} Kav HaYashar, Chapter 53:
    We must not study words of Torah in houses of idol worship.

    {6} Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 167, Paragraph 7:
    It is forbidden to look at an idol or its decorations, as it says (in the Bible):
    DO NOT TURN TO IDOLS. And it is necessary to stay at least six feet away from a church [literally, house], and how much more so from the idol itself, and NOT go there.
    NOTE: In the previous paragraph the Kitzur Shulchan hints that Christianity is idolatry.

    {7A} Rabbi Rafael Abraham HaCohen Soae:
    One is NOT allowed to enter a Christian church because of the presence of crosses which are actually bowed down to. It is forbidden to refer to a church during a tour or as a meeting point.
    SOURCE: Page 38 of Travel in Halacha, 2002, Israel, The Aharon HaKohen Institute.

    {7B} Rabbi Rafael Abraham HaCohen Soae:
    One is NOT allowed to enter any site in which a non-Jewish religious or mystical activity of any nature takes place.
    SOURCE: Page 42 of Travel in Halacha, 2002, Israel, The Aharon HaKohen Institute.

    {8} <>
    SOURCE:, 09-16-2005

    {9A} Rabbi Jonathan Blass:
    It is forbidden to enter a church even for purposes that are not religious in nature. The prohibition is an expression of Judaism’s total opposition to anything that preserves elements of idolatry (Maimonides, Commentary on the Mishna Avoda Zara I 4; Shach Yoreh Deah 149 1; Tzutz Eliezer 14 91).

    {9B} Rabbi Jonathan Blass:
    A Jew, American or otherwise, SHOULD have a halachic problem entering a church. It is prohibited by Maimonides (Peirush HaMishnayot Avoda Zara) and by all later halachic authorities (Shach Yoreh Deah 149,1; Tzitz Eliezer 14, 91 who cites numerous sources; Iggrot Moshe Yoreh Deah III 129,6).
    The problem is not one of melting. A Jew should find morally offensive the elements of idolatry that remain preserved in Christianity and certain other religions (Hinduism etc.). Abraham, our first forefather began his career by destroying his father’s idols. We, his children, who have seen all the evil that idolatry and those who have inherited its traditions have brought the world, should not be tolerant of it.
    SOURCE:, 3 Adar II 5763 and 28 Iyyar 5763.

    {10} Rabbinical Council of America (the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical association):
    The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Council of America, in accordance with Jewish law, is that participation in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited.
    SOURCE: Article by Jacob Berkman, The Jewish Herald, 2009 January 23, page 21.

  5. Personally in your situation I would have stalled and said “We’ll talk about your wedding when you have one.” Questions like “Can I enter a church” have one answer as a general rule, and another one for very specific situations.

    A lot also depends on the hashkafa of your rabbi, and you were certainly correct to take the question to yours. My wife has a heter to enter church for her immediate step family’s weddings and funerals due to consideration of shalom bayit. Lots of other people’s rabbis have given the opposite psak for similar situations. To paraphrase Rabbi Shalom Zalman Auerbach z’tl “I’m not meikel on avodah zara, I’m machmir on shalom bayit.”

  6. I truly feel your pain, and always wonder if I have to do specific tshuva because “I’m glad I was in Rome before I became frum”. As someone who was an art major and who has always particulary enjoyed Renaissance art, the Sistine was a hightlight of my trip to Europe many many years ago.

  7. Nice post.

    Your conviction to give up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see St. Peter’s puts one’s craving for cheeseburgers in perspective.

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