Manual Converting to Judaism: Choosing to Be Chosen : Personal Stories

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Furthermore, many rabbis will not recognize online conversion. Read more — including suggestions on how to proceed if you do not live near a synagogue — from Rabbi Robert Orkand. Modern-day Reform Jews wholeheartedly welcome those who have chosen to convert to Judaism, recognizing that our Jewish community is made stronger by those who actively seek to become Jews. As more and more Jews-by-choice enter the Jewish community and as public discussion of such choice grows more commonplace, Jews-by-choice have found that their acceptance in the Jewish community has grown. In fact, the Reform Jewish community, as a whole, is proud of its many congregational leaders, as well as a number of rabbis and cantors, who are Jews-by-choice.

Reform, Reconstructionist, and, under certain circumstances, Conservative rabbis recognize the validity of conversions performed by rabbis of all branches of Judaism. Most Orthodox rabbis, however, do not recognize non-Orthodox conversions. Your sponsoring rabbi will discuss with you any implications of conversion under his or her guidance.

Conversion to a new religion does not make you into something altogether new, nor does it require you to sever family ties or memories. Most Jews-by-choice maintain warm relationships with their family of origin. Some converts to Judaism find, however, that, especially initially, their family may be hurt or confused by their choice. Such feelings often stem from misunderstandings or a lack of knowledge about Judaism and are, therefore, perfectly understandable.

Patience and a willingness to discuss your choice openly with your family will be important throughout the conversion process. Your rabbi should be willing to discuss this will you, as well, as he or she has likely had similar conversations with Jews-to-be in the past. You are not alone! The more you learn about Judaism, the easier this will be for you. Many Jews see such parents as the givers of a precious gift and as a blessing to the Jewish people.

History of Conversion - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion

Most Reform and Reconstructionist congregations, as well as some Conservative and Orthodox congregations, warmly welcome interfaith families to participate in synagogue life in various ways. Shabbat services are held on Friday evening and Saturday morning, but you should call the congregation during the week to find out specific times of worship. This is a very sensitive issue, on which there is a broad range of opinions. First, seek out a rabbi with whom you feel comfortable so that you can have a thorough discussion about your options. No matter what kind of wedding ceremony you have, the Reform Jewish community considers itself a portal to Jewish life for intermarried couples.

Through organized outreach programming and a general atmosphere of openness, interfaith couples will find Reform congregations welcoming in a myriad ways. Here on ReformJudaism. The following books are also a great way to learn more about Judaism and the conversion process:. Making a successful holiday dinner can be an overwhelming, frantic experience. If you're curious about Judaism, thinking of converting, or know someone who is, here are some excellent resources to learn more about Judaism.

You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God--you tribal heads, you elders, and you officials, all of the men of Israel, you children, you women, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer… - Deuteronomy Want to explore Reform Judaism but have no in-person opportunities to study? This class is for you! Reform Zionism is a continuation of the early Zionist dream to foster a living, breathing national culture that represents the highest ideals of Jewish peoplehood. I say reluctantly because I firmly believe a Jew is a Jew if they have a Jewish mother or converted according to Jewish law.

Choosing Islam - Converts Tell Their Stories 1/3

All of these other divisions are extremely harmful to the cohesiveness of the Jewish people. At first I heard it applied to sexual orientation, gender, or political stance. But I have increasingly heard people apply this paradigm to religion and even race. Identity has nothing to do with it.

I think this stems from a larger trend of radical individualism that is such a prevalent attitude nowadays. It pains me to hear about those in the Jewish community who feel excluded. And this is certainly something that needs to be addressed. But the tension described by readers Abby and Lekha between their Jewish identity and their beliefs is an outgrowth of this philosophy, which, when taken to the extreme, falls closer to the antithetical side.

Converting to Judaism: Choosing to Be Chosen : Personal Stories

In Jewish practice, there is a balance between the rights and experience of the individual and the obligations that the individual has towards the community. When you swing too heavily to one side or the other, problems start to arise. But there is another aspect. Take for example the commandments surrounding the laws of kashrut keeping kosher.

They are given no explanation in the Torah. Later commentators have explained them in context, adding depth and breadth to their significance, but at their core, they are not meant to be understood by human logic. Another example is Shabbat observance. Jewish law prohibits driving on Shabbat due to the prohibition of lighting a fire. The collective observance of this law ensures that all members of the Jewish community live within walking distance of the synagogue, and thereby each other.

Setting aside the philosophical reasons for this law for the moment there is a lot of rich material here , the moment people began to privilege their personal feelings to whether or not they relate to a law over the needs of the public, the communal structure of living next to the people you pray with and go to school with and socialize with collapses. There is so much more nuance to Jewish identity than the strawmen and facile explanations of Jewish law that some of your readers are offering.

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The latter is only the case if you accept one interpretation of Judaism as the only one and assume that the people who have interpreted them have made no mistakes. Under this interpretation, people who have fulfilled the requirements for conversion even under the auspices of the Haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate in Israel can have their conversions annulled decades later, even if most of their ancestry is Jewish—something which simply is not in the rabbinic sources regarding conversion rites and amounts to as much of an innovation as anything else.

Under the former version, the Post-It one, people are expecting to have everyone accept them as Jewish no matter how little of the various traditions he accepts. In a different way, this too is asking your liberal interpretation of Judaism to be accepted by all. And while I agree that this seems to mesh with people feeling at liberty to pick their identities regardless of actual facts and expect everyone to agree, the difference here is that conscience or beliefs are at least part of being Jewish—and those can change, even if who your parents are cannot.

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We ought to make that distinction. Indeed, the majority of the population of the State of Israel is secular. One could argue service in the IDF and an Israeli passport is just as much a symbol of Jewish peoplehood as anything any rabbi could issue. Do these secular Jews who eat non-kosher food and turn lights on and off on Saturday not count? The answer is: each different group will have its own standards for acceptance. All in all, however, this is a luxury that Jews can only afford in relatively safe times. Our enemies have never made such distinctions, so we should probably all give each other a break.

Indeed, I kid her that she should have taken the name Golda when she converted, as my Jewish name is Tovye and we have five daughters between us …. First of all, the Notes section is absolutely amazing. As an Orthodox Jew, I want to add the following point to give context to the discussion about conversion: Judaism discourages potential converts because it does not view being Jewish [as] the only path to a relationship with God and a life well lived.

Being Jewish is to be part of the covenantal relationship that God established with Abraham and his descendants, a relationship that comes with added responsibilities that are not demanded of the rest of humanity. Because this level of observance is not for everyone, we typically dissuade potential converts and recommend the universal means of serving God, unless they are truly committed to Judaism on principle and not for ulterior motives.

That being said, the Bible does repeatedly remind us to love converts and not hurt them in any way, including emotionally. Observant Jews struggle with the tension of leading religious lives in modern society on a daily basis and often wonder how a convert would choose to accept that tension when it would seem much easier to avoid it entirely. I myself often feel like an outsider to Judaism in many ways. My mother is not Jewish; she is a South Asian Hindu. Also, unlike many Jews in this country, I was raised in a small Southern town with a very tiny Jewish community and no synagogue.

I attended a Jewish Sunday school run by the local Jewish group, but I did not have the experience of being raised in a vibrant, large, Jewish community with an established synagogue and lots of opportunities to participate in religious life. This has also left me feeling a bit insecure about my Judaism with respect to others who grew up in large usually Northeastern cities and thus had access to those resources, feel part of an established community, and make other Jewish friends.

Throughout my childhood I only had one Jewish friend, and most of my other friends were Protestants of various stripes who were kind but convinced that my religion was sinfully wrong. This, combined with the lack of community support and being a Jewish person of color, left me feeling very much an outsider to Judaism and Jewish identity—especially when I went to college outside Philadelphia and encountered people who had spent their whole lives surrounded by other Jews, engaging in BBYO, Jewish summer camps, and other activities that reinforced that identity.


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As I got older I realized that my actual beliefs about god s were not in line with traditional Judaism. So in my case, choosing Judaism is not so much a religious choice, but a cultural identity that I was born into, and that I have chosen to reclaim in my own way. I must admit that I often feel confused when I meet Jewish converts.

I think this is because many Jews, especially most of the relatively secular American Jews I know, look on being Jewish as a cultural identity more than a religious identity. I converted to Judaism through the Conservative Movement at the end of my freshman year of college. I was first drawn to Judaism as a year-old girl at Sports Broadcasting Camp.