@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. 🙂 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! 😀