CHOOSING TO BE JEWISH?
Here are some of the most FAQ...
Choosing Judaism is a very important decision for someone who was not born Jewish. Spirituality and the way in which we experience the presence of God in our lives are very important to us as human beings. In this section you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Conversion to Judaism. We are a Conservative Congregation so our answers are, of course, a result of the way in which we approach God, Peoplehood and Theology.
How long does it take to convert to Judaism?
We strongly believe that Judaism is not something that can be learned in a class, from a book or by simply reading about it on line. If one wishes to become part of The Jewish People it is important to become immersed in The Community.
Our year long class is designed to take prospective Jews by Choice through the entire Jewish Calendar and all of its Holy Days and Commemorations. For the most part everyone who enrolls in our class needs to understand that this is not about speed but rather about perseverance and exploration.
Will a Conservative Conversion be recognized in The State of Israel?
In short YES! Absolutely. The way Israeli law works today, conversions performed outside of Israel by Conservative Rabbis, members of The Rabbinical Assembly are 100% recognized by The State of Israel. If you ever find yourself wanting to make Aliyah after the conversion process, the State of Israel will recognize you as a Jew. It is important to mention that anyone wishing to make Aliyah and is a Jew by Choice needs an affidavit from a local Rabbi regarding not only status but also verifying his/her belonging to a congregation for a period of at least a year prior to applying for Aliyah.
The Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel does not recognize Conservative Conversions. They, however, do not recognize conversions done by hundreds of Orthodox Rabbis either. The implication that this has is that if a Jew by Choice makes Aliyah and wants to be married in Israel by an Orthodox Rabbi, in all likelihood, will not be able to do so. There are over 75 Masorti (Conservative) Congregations in Israel with Conservative Rabbis that will be more than happy and will consider it a privilege to help with lifecycle events in the event that you find yourself living in Israel.
Do males need to be circumcised?
All males who choose Judaism need to be circumcised. This is a requirement that cannot be waived under any circumstance. When a person who already has a circumcision wishes to join the Jewish People we perform a ritual known as (Hatafat Dam Brit). Hatafat Dam Brit consists on taking a little speck of blood from the foreskin. This procedure is done regardless of the age of the person.
When a person who seeks to join the Jewish People does not have a circumcision at all, then a full circumcision is required. This principle holds true regardless of age.
Please talk to Rabbi Goodman about this specific subject. Hatafat Dam Brit sounds much more complicated than it is. It is usually accomplished in seconds and without pain.
Will I be sent away three times by The Rabbi?
Not at all... Many of us are familiar with a tradition that consists of sending perspective Jews by Choice away three times before The Rabbi agrees to take them on as students. This tradition has its origin in a Midrash (Biblical Exegesis) in which Ruth is made to reconsider her allegiance to the Jewish People through a number of questions asked of her.
At Temple Beth Sholom we believe in welcoming people, not in sending them away. There are some traditions that simply do not speak to our times in the way in which they spoke to us centuries ago. Rabbi Goodman strongly believes in being a helping hand rather than an obstacle in people's way to realize their dream of joining The Jewish People.
Having said that we must understand that The Rabbi does indeed have the last word on who is accepted into the process of conversion at Temple Beth Sholom. As much as we want to welcome everyone, there may be options within our community that are more suitable for certain people.
What happens at the end of the year of study and immersion in community life?
Rabbi Goodman has to determine that a perspective Jew by Choice is ready to be brought before The Bet Din (Rabbinic Plenum). The Bet Din interviews all perspective Jews by Choice regarding their knowledge of Judaism as well as life experience and motives for conversion.
If the Bet Din determines that a candidate is ready to become Jewish then we welcome that person as a part of The Jewish People. Immersion in The Mikveh as perscribed by Jewish Law takes place right here at Temple Beth Sholom.
Is it possible to speak or meet people who have undergone this process at TBS?
We will be delighted to introduce you to, or put you in touch with, many of the wonderful Jews by Choice that are members of our congregation. These men and women both enrich our lives and challenge us to understand our own Judaism better. You can find them involved in all areas of our congregational and communal life.
Please let Rabbi Goodman know if you would like to speak to someone who already went through the whole process of conversion. This is an extraordinary way to put aside anxieties and misconceptions that arise from not understanding the process.
Our experience is that many people think about Choosing Judaism for many years and take a long time to act upon it. Why? There is a lot of misinformation that comes with a tremendous amount of heartache. All of this can very often be bypassed with just a simple conversation.