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Conversion to Judaism

warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,494 Super Moderator
edited August 2011 in Parent Cafe
Has anyone done it? How long or difficult a process is it? I am primarily interested in Reform Judaism.

I've been toying with the idea for a while, and I've always enjoyed tagging along with friends to Shabbat. Lately I've been considering it more seriously.
Post edited by warblersrule on

Replies to: Conversion to Judaism

  • ellebudellebud Registered User Posts: 2,328 Senior Member
    You have so many options if this is the way you want to go. Hillel at UCLA could probably give you advice. A friend of ours converted at Stephen Wise, which was a ten week program I believe. Other reform synagogues in the area are Isiah (on Pico) and ....sorry the one on Sepulveda right before Stephen Wise.

    I know, from three friends who converted, that a rabbi is suppose to turn you away three times. One friend explained that initially she was shocked. The rabbi later told her that it was to make sure that she was sure (she converted at Stanford).

    Good luck in your search. I truly hope that whatever you select you will be happy with your choice.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    I did this. I became interested in Judaism in the '80s. I finally converted in the '90s, before the birth of our first child.

    No rabbi I talked to turned me away once, let alone three times. There are rabbis who will do this. I would not only bet, but even lay odds that very few of them are Reform.

    Expect the process to take a year, or more. Almost all rabbis will want you to experience an entire cycle of holidays before you convert. Expect to study with a rabbi, and also, if you live where there are enough Jews for this to be possible, expect to participate in an Introduction to Judaism class (they used to call them "conversion classes," but that term is now out of favor) under the auspices of the area board of rabbis. (EDIT: Oh, UCLA? You do live where there are enough Jews.)

    Is it hard? Well, honestly, yes. The business part of the religion takes part in another language. More than that, there's a lot of Jewishness that isn't strictly religious; it's cultural. It's possible to change religions, but as my wife says, it's really hard to convert to being eastern European.

    The thing that surprised me most is how long the process is. Not just the year or so of studying, but the process after that. It was years more before I felt as if I had legitimate Jewish credentials. Nobody ever said to me, "Hey, Sikorsky, you're actually kind of a fraud," but I still felt like a bit of an impostor for quite some time.

    Warblersrule, I can talk about this topic endlessly. I welcome questions. I enjoy talking about this process with people who are exploring Judaism--whether they eventually convert or not. Consider it a standing invitation.

    P.S. Converting to Judaism isn't going to help you get into Princeton. (Or even Brandeis.)
  • sorghumsorghum Registered User Posts: 3,326 Senior Member
    Well, just remember that a reform conversion won't be recognized by Orthodox, and won't get you into Israel.
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Registered User Posts: 40,488 Senior Member
    There's little need for any Reform Jew to care whether Orthodox recognizes them / their conversion.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    I can think of some reasons why a Reform (or any non-Orthodox) convert might care about this matter, but I don't know very many who actually do care.

    A woman might care that her children would not be recognized as Jews by the Orthodox. But she might also decide that if this is a problem for one of her children, he or she can convert under the auspices of an Orthodox rabbi.

    And I did once know a man who converted under the supervision of a Conservative rabbi, and subsequently he and his wife became baalei t'shuvah (that is, they adopted Orthodox observance when they had not previously been Orthodox). The Orthodox community couldn't say with confidence that his Conservative conversion was halachically valid (that is, valid under Jewish law), so he began learning with an Orthodox rabbi, and he converted again. Problem solved.

    As for Israel, Sorghum, your wording almost suggests that Reform converts can't go to Israel. They can go to Israel. They can even become naturalized Israeli citizens. They just don't qualify automatically for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. And, again, I don't know all that many Reform converts who converted because they wanted to get on the fast track to Israeli citizenship.
  • bookreaderbookreader Registered User Posts: 1,912 Senior Member
    Yes, but if you want to know ALL the facts before making a decision, then this fact needs to be included as well. The more facts you know in advance, the fewer surprises there will be later.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    Well, yes. But I still just don't get why it needs to be the first response to the question.

    For one thing, it's not as if anyone here is going to convert impetuously. There's plenty of time for a prospective convert to discuss this issue with his or her rabbi at greater length than a 50-word post on an internet message board. And, seriously, any rabbi that the OP might choose would discuss this issue with him or her.

    For another thing, it just doesn't seem responsive to the OP's actual question:

    Q. "I'm thinking about converting to Judaism. Does anyone here have any experience with this? Is it difficult? Does it take long? I'm thinking about a Reform conversion."

    A. "The Orthodox won't accept you, and you can't become an Israeli citizen."

    If a kid asks about West Point, do we respond that the Naval Academy won't like him, and he can't be commissioned as a Marine?
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Registered User Posts: 40,488 Senior Member
    Haha, Sikorsky, you nailed it.

    My children aren't considered Jewish by the Orthodox. That's a big so-what -- if one of my kids decides to marry an Orthodox Jew, they can convert using an Orthodox rabbi at the time. Til then eventuality occurs, there is zero reason for me to care.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    Oh, warblersrule, I realize I don't know whether you're a woman or a man.

    If you're a man, of course, there's one other...er...fairly personal question you'd have to address on the road to conversion. But I shall refrain from asking it here in public. I'm perfectly willing to discuss what's required, if you wish, but I would never pry.
  • tsdadtsdad Registered User Posts: 4,035 Senior Member
    Fie on the black hats.

    My wife is a convert to Reform Judaism. She did it right before my son's Bar Mitzvah. My wife studied with the then then associate rabbi of our temple, a young woman in her early 30s, when we lived in Northern Virginia. She is now the senior rabbi. Then had numerous meetings and discussions. My wife had to write a paper, and they talked a lot about Jewish cooking and the philosophical implications of keeping kosher. The rabbi had not done that growing up, but she was marrying an Orthodox Jew from England and had decided to keep a kosher household. As part of the conversation ceremony my wife did go to the mikva in DC.

    We decided to move to what I refer to as being semi-kosher. We do not eat pork, shellfish, or bottom feeders either in or outside the house. It has was hard on my wife since she grew up in Massachusetts, a real Yankee, and had lobster, crab, scallops, and clams as a regular part of her diet. We have never attempted the dairy/meat thing nor do we keep separate plates and silverware. I do it not so much for religious reasons but as a way of honoring the 6,000,000.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    I know where tsdad goes to shul!
  • DeskPotatoDeskPotato Registered User Posts: 1,329 Senior Member
    For what it's worth, the Law of Return actually has been amended so that the spouse of a Jew or the child of a Jewish father has privileges under the law of return. tsdad, your wife and children would qualify under those provisions.

    However, privileges under the Law of Return are really not a consideration for most American Jews. (Unless it turns out you might be good enough to play professional basketball in Israel--it's much easier to make the team if you can fill one of the Israeli citizen spots on the roster.)
  • tsdadtsdad Registered User Posts: 4,035 Senior Member
    I know where tsdad goes to shul!

    Not since 2004 when we moved to Madison.

    As an aside, I once met a then cc regular (Dudedad?) in the parking lot at the Dunn Loring Metro stop when he saw the USC sticker on my car and asked me if I was tsdad.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    The Internet just isn't as private as we'd sometimes like to think, is it?

    A friend recently quoted to me an opinion his wife had read online about a college. She had read it on CC; I had said it.

    They should probably rename that web site postsecret-unless-you-can-figure-out-who-I-am dot com.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,494 Super Moderator
    Thanks for the information, all; it was very helpful. As some of you guessed, I'm not really concerned with being recognized by Orthodox Jews, and I definitely don't plan on moving to Israel anytime soon. This is more of a personal thing.
This discussion has been closed.