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Switch to Forum Live View Answers for a potential convert
7 years ago  ::  May 16, 2008 - 2:55AM #1
JonnyPanic
Posts: 1
Hello, all.

My situation is this; my long time girlfriend found out recently (within this year) that she was Jewish rather than Polish. Further, her Jewish genes are from her mother's side, making her an automatic Jew (our Rabbi has affirmed this). I was very happy with that, since although I'm not Jewish, I've had a disproportionate amount of contact with the Jewish community.

I'm from an academic family and  many of my parents colleagues are Jewish, so I've been to three bar and one bot mitzvahs. Also, a wedding as well as hanging out with their kids, eating dinner, staying the night, etc ,etc. I've been to more synagogues that churches.I have always had the idea of conversion in the back of my head. Judaism seems to me to be the only religion that values intellect and encourages questioning.

As for Jewish culture, I am a reader of all sorts of Judaica from Woody Allen and Judy Blum to "Maus" and ""Night". The point I'm getting at is this: "Culturally" I'm at least as Jewish as my girlfriend, but she got a free pass. Not that I have sour grapes about this, or even about her Birthright Israel vacation.

However, I am now reluctant to go through the steps necessary for a formal conversion, when I see this apparently arbitrary decision based on a bloodline.

My question is this: If I believe the Torah and follow it to the best of my ability, and if I call myself a Jew, can't  I be considered one?

After all, I am planning to marry a Jew( the aforementioned girlfriend) and raise our children as Jews. I love Jewish literature, history, food, and most of all the unique Jewish respect for intelligence and culture.

In terms of faith, I fall between reform and reconstructionist, erring on the reform side; I keep kosher and belief that certain rituals are important psychologically even if they seem unnecessary or antiquated. However, there is only one Synagogue in town, and they are Conservative.

So: What do I need to do to be a Jew?

Talk among yourselves. Thanks to anyone who responds.
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7 years ago  ::  May 16, 2008 - 6:53AM #2
nieciedo
Posts: 5,617
[QUOTE=JonnyPanic;502965]

My question is this: If I believe the Torah and follow it to the best of my ability, and if I call myself a Jew, can't  I be considered one?



No, because Judaism is not a religion. Rather it is, in the words of Mordecai Kaplan, an evolving religious civilization. IOW, Jews are not a religious group but a people and, when joining a people, there are generally formal rituals of citizenship that must be carried out. For example, you couldn't just move to France and start calling yourself a Frenchman. You would need to become a naturalized citizen. It's essentially the same with Judaism.

So: What do I need to do to be a Jew?
[/QUOTE]

1.) Talk to a rabbi
2.) Get circumcised, if you are not already, by a mohel. If you are already circumcised, a mohel will need to perform hatafat dam brit in which a symbolic drop of blood is drawn from site of the foreskin.
3.) Express before a group of three witnesses your commitment to join the Jewish people, to join your destiny with that of the Jewish people, and to accept the Torah as your community understand it.
4.) Immerse in a mikveh

That's the recipe.

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7 years ago  ::  May 17, 2008 - 8:42PM #3
mlarue75
Posts: 1,199
[QUOTE=nieciedo;503076]No, because Judaism is not a religion. Rather it is, in the words of Mordecai Kaplan, an evolving religious civilization. IOW, Jews are not a religious group but a people and, when joining a people, there are generally formal rituals of citizenship that must be carried out. For example, you couldn't just move to France and start calling yourself a Frenchman. You would need to become a naturalized citizen. It's essentially the same with Judaism.



1.) Talk to a rabbi
2.) Get circumcised, if you are not already, by a mohel. If you are already circumcised, a mohel will need to perform hatafat dam brit in which a symbolic drop of blood is drawn from site of the foreskin.
3.) Express before a group of three witnesses your commitment to join the Jewish people, to join your destiny with that of the Jewish people, and to accept the Torah as your community understand it.
4.) Immerse in a mikveh

That's the recipe.[/QUOTE]I agree, with the caveat that step #1 is vital and must be done first, and that you must take the advice of the rabbi about steps #2-4.  Especially #3, it is really much more formal than you might think.  It's called a Beit Din (or Beis Din) and usually consists not just of any old three people but of three clergy (rabbis, cantors).  It is possible that you may be required to take some classes before going through steps 2-4 (which are often on the same day).

I would urge you to talk to the rabbi and tell him or her honestly your concerns about going through the formalities.   Don't worry -- we Jews take conversion very seriously and therefore we take very good care of people who wish to join us. 

Please be of good cheer -- there are many wonderful things about Judaism that you do not yet know!

Mary (been there, done that two years ago)
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7 years ago  ::  May 17, 2008 - 8:45PM #4
mlarue75
Posts: 1,199
[QUOTE=JonnyPanic;502965]
In terms of faith, I fall between reform and reconstructionist, erring on the reform side; I keep kosher and belief that certain rituals are important psychologically even if they seem unnecessary or antiquated. However, there is only one Synagogue in town, and they are Conservative.

So: What do I need to do to be a Jew?

Talk among yourselves. Thanks to anyone who responds.[/QUOTE]
Unless the Conservative synagogue leans heavily toward Orthodox, I don't think you need worry.  Where I live, the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist all pal around together.  How do you feel about the Conservative shul, and the rabbi?  That will have less to do with the denomination and more with the personalities of the rabbi and congregation.  Good luck!
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7 years ago  ::  May 22, 2008 - 5:47AM #5
NaftaliNZ
Posts: 193
All of the Liberal Jewish Movements are accepting of one another, so there's no problem converting Conservative, but still practicing Reform at home.  The only differences really are minhag, custom.

The honest truth is there is no way to shortcut or fast track the process.  I actually think that your girlfriend should go through this with you, as you said she discovered her Jewishness.. but doesn't she have a lot of questions that require answers too?  Could be a fun journey to take together?
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