(Closed) Jewish Converts

posted 7 years ago in Jewish
Post # 3
Member
941 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

I am Jewish, so this is more of a second hand sharing.  But…I was raised in a conservative synagogue with a very liberal bend.  Recently I went home to visit family among other things and my fiance and I went to meet with the rabbi.  (Fiance currently identifies as athiest more than anything).  Well, the rabbi does happen to be very liberal and open minded, though I guess something that he said struck a chord in my fiance and he decided to convert (I was shocked).

Anyway…from what the rabbi outlined, the conversation process (at least in HIS form of doing it) is very open and informal.  There are specific ceremonies that need to be conducted but as  far as in between…he gave my fiance a huge book that is basically an overview of everything Jewish you woiuld need to know (the bible, holidays, traditions, Jewish history both old and modern, etc).  And he told him to read whatever he finds interesting and discuss it with him.  Since Judaism is a religion of learning and constantly growing, I think that’s the approch the rabbi is taking.

That being said, to convert to orthodox Judaism, or even likely other forms of conservative Judaism, it’s very likely that the process would be more rigid and structured.  I think the rabbi of my parents’ synagogue happens to be much more liberal in his approach (which I personally like), and I think that’s what’s allowing my fiance to feel comfortable with converting…having the ability to really focus on the aspects of Judaism that call to him, at least initially. 

So, I know that wasn’t a super detailed account.  But hopefully it can give at least SOME insight into what the process can possibly look like.  πŸ™‚

Post # 5
Member
941 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

I think it’s good to consider what about Orthodox Judaism appeals to you, and also consider whether it’s achievable in other types of Judaism, especially if you’re seeking out more of a liberal approach.

Possibly because (or rather very likely because) I grew up in a conservative and liberal synagogue, this really resonates as meaningful to me.  I loved the fact that women and men had equal role and power in the synagogue, were given equal levels of respect, and that LGBTQ members were very much included.  That all being said, there was still a strong connection to religion and tradition.  There is the 4 (5?  I hope I’m not failing here!) service conducted in Hebrew, the reading of the Torah portion and haftorah, etc.  And in Hebrew school there was discussion about the stories and meanings behind them.  So for me, it feels like a good balance. 

I’m not SO familiar with the differences between Orthodox/Conservative/Reform Judaism besides dedication to the level of commitment.  I know there are more and I just don’t remember.  For me personally, my experience with Orthodox Judaism has left me feeling excluded because I’m a woman (for Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur services, I attended Orthodox services–the first time was an accident, the second time not really), and being traditional, men and women were separated and men lead the service.  I definitely respect the difference there, though having grown up in such a gender inclusive synagogue, it left me feeling uncomfortable and not as “important.”  I definitely respect the reasons for gender separation, and I’m sure that can be very appealing.  Just not for me. 

I think the nice thing about Judaism is that there are many different ways to practice it.  If there are things about Orthodox Judaism that appeal to you, it’s very possible to find a Conservative or even Reform synagogue that follows your beliefs.  (I remember attending a Conservative service awhile ago that had a gender separation, which may be worth thinking about, if it’s something you find meaningful and important).  And being Conservative wouldn’t  REQUIRE (though would likely recommend) staying Kosher and following rules. 

I’d say shop around and find a synagogue whose beliefs mirror your own.  And then speak with the rabbi there who I’m sure can explain their conversion process.  πŸ™‚

Post # 6
Member
4137 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

i’m converting to conservative judaism. fi grew up orthodox, but we both feel conservative is personally a better fit for us. it’s true though that an orthodox jew and the state of israel will not consider me or my children jewish, so that’s something to consider for you.

i take weekly conversion classes with a group and meet with my rabbi weekly to go over the torah one-on-one. i’m also learning hebrew. we’re required to eat kosher during the conversion process, which takes one year. it’s really not hard to eat kosher, just a little more expensive

you definitely have to shop around for a shul where you feel comfortable. there are definitely some more liberal orthodox synagogues, but i can’t imagine any that wouldn’t encourage/require you to eat kosher or that would sit men and women together/let women participate in the services. there are also more traditional conservative shuls. any rabbi will tell you before converting with him to go to different services to find the best fit for you. i have a friend that converted to orthodox at a more liberal modern orthodox synagogue, and it took her 2 years of meeting with the rabbi there.

Post # 7
Member
178 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

I’m a conservative Jew, but from what I hear from Orthodox Jews only Orthodox conversion counts. Also, I heard it’s a really hard process. It’s so awesome that you want to convert, we need more Jews πŸ™‚

Post # 8
Member
1645 posts
Bumble bee

@bestbuddies: Hi!! I’m currently in the middle of the conversion process, so I’ll chime in with what I know. I’m doing a reform conversion, as SO and his family have belonged to a reform congregation for four or five generations. SOs father actually was an orthodox convert, and I looked heavily into that process, because of the whole “they won’t accept you if you don’t do an orthodox conversion” thing. Ultimately I decided against it, not because it would be “harder” (although it definitely would be!!), but because I have no intention of leading an orthodox lifestyle. SO and I will not be keeping kosher, we definitely don’t cease all work and activity on Sabbath, and we’re not able to make it up to temple every week. Not to mention the fact that I am an actress–and that’s one profession that I don’t think would go over well, both in schedule and practice. I couldn’t go through with that kind of process, and make those promises and statements when I know full well I’ll be doing something else. That, to me, was more important than being accepted by every old Jewish man out there. Plus–who is really to know? You don’t have to advertise your conversion if you don’t want. For me-when I am Jewish I will simply be Jewish. Yes, there are records kept, but you don’t wear them around your neck! 

 

But back to the process–right now I’m taking a class at temple that’s basically “Jew 101.” It consists of two parts covering both history and tradition. I started in early September and have one more week to go. Then next February/January I’ll spend another four months of so taking part in a small group that deals with the practical aspects and hardships of making such a big decision. Stuff like dealing with anti-semitism, how to handle your family (they aren’t all supportive and accepting, sadly–that Christ thing is a BIG DEAL), and what it truly means to take on a Jewish lifestyle. During and after that time I’ll begin meeting with the rabbi for three or four sessions and much correspondence. When the rabbi feels that I am ready he will convene a bet din–or small court consisting or three people (rabbis/cantor). They will then “test” me. It’s not a test that you study for, nor will the rabbi do it unless he knows you’re totally ready. They’re on your side! Questions are asked, both factual and spiritual. Factual questions like “What was the miracle of Chanukkah?” and spirtual like “Why do you want to be Jewish?” and “How do you plan to lead a Jewish life?”

When they are satisfied you proceed to the mikvah, or spiritual bath, where you are re-born Jewish! You strip down, cleansing yourself of all impurities. You take off EVERYTHING. Jewelry, nail polish, makeup. Nothing must come between the water and your skin. You submerge yourself, rise and say a prayer. There’s a few other things to say, I believe, but then–ta-da! You are Jewish! You take on a Hebrew name that you will be called by at all important events (weddings, births, etc. life-cycle stuff), and for when you are called to Torah. You’re encouraged to pick a name meaningful to you. I have chosen “Miriam” because she too, was a big sister. πŸ™‚ I actually haven’t told SO my name yet…I’m saving that for the day of my mikvah. 

 

All in all it will take between eight months to a year. That’s for a reform conversion. Also–everything I’ve told you is specific to the shul that I am converting at. Requirements differ from rabbi to rabbi, but no matter where you will be doing a LOT of reading and learning. Good luck!! Feel free to message me anytime if you want to know anything else! I could also recommend helpful books and sources! πŸ˜€

Post # 10
Member
13 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: August 2013

Interesting thread. I am not Jewish, but my boyfriend of 3.5 years is. Because of this, and because he wants a Jewish family, I began looking into Judaism if only to better understand it. It has taken me all this time to come to the point that I am considering conversion–not now but possibly in the future.

 

I’m curious, if any of you want to answer: What exactly tipped the scales for you in your decision to convert?

Post # 12
Member
1645 posts
Bumble bee

@Eleutheria: I think the big thing was wanting to have a Jewish home and Jewish family. I want our kids to be Jewish, and for me interfaith just wasn’t gonna cut it. Not to mention I had a serious falling out with Christianity during my teen years and finally found something that felt right. πŸ™‚

Post # 13
Member
1237 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2015

I’m also considering converting. My boyfriend is a conservative Jew but for him and his family, Judaism is more about the culture than the religion. He is very friendly with his rabbi, so we have started to talk to him and his wife about Judaism in general, conversion, and raising a Jewish family. It’s exciting to learn more! We’ll be looking into taking a class together soon.

I’m interested to read about everyone’s experiences! Mrs. Hot Cocoa converted and blogged about her experience, her story was really enlightening for me to read.

Post # 15
Member
13 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: August 2013

@MissHoneyBun: I feel the same way: that interfaith isn’t going to cut it. I used to think that it would work–and even that raising the children in two religions was possible–but as time went on I completely revised my ideas.

@kirabee: My boyfriend is the same way. Unfortunately, he doesn’t attend synagogue at the moment, which I think makes it more difficult on me as the one who is learning about the religion.

Post # 16
Member
11 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: June 2011

Sorry for the late reply, but I figured better late than never! I completed my Conservative conversion in July of last year. I grew up as a Catholic with a liberal Jewish best friend and as I spent more and more time with her family, I realized that my beliefs were reinforced in Judaism. I lived as a Jew for about ten years, before actually converting and met my fiance during that time.  He was extremely supportive of my conversion and attended almost all of the conversion classes with me.

I did want to add that for an Orthodox conversion, from what I understand, the Rabbi will require that you live within walking distance of shul, that you commit to keeping a fully kosher lifestyle, and that you follow other mitzvot prior to even starting to study for a conversion.  My fiance and I are now members of a Reform synagogue although we keep a kosher home and our beliefs lend more towards  strong Conservative or even Modern Orthodox. My point is that really you should choose the branch (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox) that you feel most comfortable in and discuss the requirements in detail with the Rabbi prior to making a decision.

Something else to keep in mind – the state of Israel will recognize a Conservative or even Reform conversion for aliyah as long as certain requirements are met, but only an Orthodox conversion would be accepted for a marriage to take place in Israel and to be accepted by the government. Although you mention that you are married, it’s possible that your conversion could affect your children, should they choose to make aliyah and marry in Israel.

Sorry for the long post, but Judaism is something I am especially passionate about. If you have any more questions, feel free to let me know!

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