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Goyim and a question on Judaism

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
post #2 of 17
We have no concept like "saved".
Goy literally means "nation". Goy is used to mean a member of any other nation. Plural is goyim. People may say that it is similar to a slur, it is not. Among jews, it is used like saying "gentile".

We do not encourage converts, sending someone away three times is a function of that.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
post #4 of 17
Hi Muslimomma,

There is a perception that Judiasm has no interest in seeking converts, but actually, ancient Jews actively sought converts, believing that G-d sent Jews into exile to bring people to Judiasm. Despite the fact that conversion was illegal in Rome after it became Christian, and also in Muslim communities, it persisted. However, by the late middle ages the Jewish community was discouraging converts because the danger was too great.* One thing we are encouraged as Jews is to "multiply like the stars in the sky" -- I think this idea of building the ranks can extend to a welcoming of converts.

In present day, there is debate whether or not people should be allowed to convert unless they are willing to practice as fully observant Orthodox Jews -- but most conservative and reform rabbis require less to varying degrees -- largely a sincere committment to living as a practicing Jew, raising a Jewish family, circumsicion for the male (Which most in the US are anyway), some level of education in the history, laws and language, and a ritual bath.

Abraham entered G-d's covenant at 99, and there is also a saying that converts are dearer than the Jews who stood before Mt Sinai - because they did not require "proof" -- or because they actively choose to be part of the faith, as opposed to being born into it. *

Growing up, we were taught that converts are as Jewish as the rest of us born into Judiasm, if not more so. Now, whether or not converts are treated as such is another story. And while "goy" is not a slur in itself, it can be used as such. As any word can, I suppose. It does carry the stigma of being an "outsider" in any case (IMO), but it may vary from country to country?

*most of this paraphrased from the book Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Telushkin

I am not sure that converts are turned away 3x -- but I would assume it is to ensure that they are sincere and committed to the conversion and not acting on whim. Isn't there also a tradition of apologizing 3x for an act? Or offering a gift / food / etc. to a guest 3x before it is actually considered "refused" in Eastern cultures?

In any case, apologies for the long response. Hope it helps!
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
post #6 of 17
The custom of turning someone away 3x comes from Ruth, who was the prototype for converts. She was told to return 3x by her MIL Nomi.

There is not a tradition for seeking converts in Judaism, b/c there is a belief system (the 7 Noachide laws) for non-Jews. In the Jewish religion, one does not have to be Jewish to attain closeness to G-d or eternal reward. So there is no reason that one would have to convert. But if one wants to convert b/c they find depth and meaning in Judaism, and perhaps a closer relationship with G-d, them they are instructed for conversion.

Conversion is discouraged b/c Judaism has many restrictions and the rabbis don't want to convert someone who might not fulfill the obligations of Judaism. So in essence they would be creating a Jew who doesn't keep the commandments, which would not be a spiritual benefit for the person. The reasoning is, "better this person should remain non-Jewish and keep the 7 commandments of Noah and attain reward than to become a 'sinning' Jew and reap divine punishment" [sorry, I can't think of a better translation than 'sinning Jew' - not great, but it will have to suffice for this purpose].
post #7 of 17
to me, as a gentile who interacts with Jewish friends a lot, I think the distinction is that converts are not *actively solicited*, but converts are certainly encouraged if they are dedicated and sincere. In my area anyway, many synagogues have classes for converts, spouses of jewish people, and nonpracticing jewish peope to learn more about judaism. Pom was very thorough, but I just thought a little expansion of the use of the word encouraged might be in order...since I think that can be interpreted in a few ways.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
post #9 of 17
The 7 Noakhide laws, and a general overview of the Jewish attitude to "goyim" can be found here ...


... Would this mean that anyone, of any religion who followed these 7 laws would reap the same worldly and eternal rewards as a devout, commandment-abiding jew?
Precisely. Yes.

Next, Reform Jews, according to Orthodox Jews, are absolutely and completely Jews. Reform converts, though, according to Orthodox Jews, haven't actually converted because they haven't undergone the procedures that halakha (Jewish religious law) requires. A very basic answer.

And I don't know if this next link exactly answers the question about Reform conversions, but it is a really thorough background to the different denominations in American Judaism.


The story of Ruth is in the Bible, but at its simplest retelling, Ruth was a Moabite married to a Jewish man. Naomi was her MIL. They were all in Moav because there was a famine in Israel. After her sons & husband died, Naomi returned to Israel, and her daughters-in-law came with her. Naomi tried to insist that they remain with their families in Moav, not return with her, and one did remain. Ruth did not, and insisted on returning with Naomi, using the famous "where you go, I will go; your people will be my people, and your G!d will be my G!d." Naomi tried 3 different ways to get Ruth to remain with her family. Ruth persisted, and remained instead with Naomi.

And Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David.

- Amy
post #10 of 17
Clarity is correct, in that "encouraging" has many interpretations. "Accepting of" is possibly a better a term?

Muslimomma - the one thing that I have always liked about Judaism (and perhaps you can see it here) is that intellectual debate over the scriptures is always respected and encouraged!!

I'm learning so much here, thanks guys!
post #11 of 17
Of course Judaism is accepting of converts!!! Carity, you are correct.
I thought we were discussing whether nonjews are encouraged to convert. We turn nonjews away, telling them the life and responsibilities of a jew can be challenging. Serious converts are helped, and encouraged once they prove themselves to be serious. Changing one's entire life should not be done on a whim. Becoming a jew changes many aspects of one's life.

post #12 of 17
I forgot to mention that my esteem for judaism is explicitly related to the stance on solicitation to convert. I've never had someone stop me on the street and say "can I tell you about the laws of Moses? Have you ever thought of how much better your life would be by keeping Kosher? I have this copy of the Talmud I'd like to leave with you...I'll stop by bext week and we can discuss it!" Instead, their living example makes the best witness to other people. We have several jewish women here that impress me greatly with the depth of their faith. A lot more impressive than the numerous times I've been approached by people of many christian denominations, using a variety of techniques.
post #13 of 17
Seconding BB. Judaism&Jews are very accepting of converts. And our tradition holds them in particular esteem. Avraham Avinu was the first . And our King David was descended from one (Ruth). And the Mashiakh ben David will be descended from her, too. And the descendent of a terrible enemy (Haman) converted & became revered sages (Rabbi Meir, was it?)

Just a few ancient & textual examples.

Encouraging is another story. I know of at least 2 converts who were put off by the "turning aside" efforts of their rabbis. Considering they were aiming for Orthodox conversion and an Orthodox lifestyle, a little more "sticktoitiveness" really would be called for, and perhaps it's best for them that they didn't feel they could do it.

On the other hand, I know of many, many more converts for whom the "turning aside" was just another bump in the very bumpy road of becoming a (traditionally observant ) Jew. One particular man actually converted three times (the first a Conservative conversion, the second through my rabbi ... R' Shlomo Carlebach z'l ... and the third through a more "mainstream" Orthodox rabbi ...) just to ensure complete acceptance by the Israeli Rabanut (the official rabbinate). And yes, the first one included a full bris milah, and the second two the "symbolic" one ... (you could say he really really really knew he had a Jewish neshama to go through all that!!)

- Amy
post #14 of 17
Just a side point but Israeli beurocracy if the most "put offing" experiace and I still made Aliyah. I cannot even count the number of times I have cried in government offices.

My community has a very larger ger (convert) contingent. I am one of them.

post #15 of 17
And yes, the first one included a full bris milah, and the second two the "symbolic" one ... (you could say he really really really knew he had a Jewish neshama to go through all that
WOW - I didn't know you could have a bris when you're an adult.
post #16 of 17
Originally posted by BelovedBird
Just a side point but Israeli beurocracy if the most "put offing" experiace and I still made Aliyah. I cannot even count the number of times I have cried in government offices.
Oh boy, do I know that one! I can't tell you how many times I would try to take care of something, bring in the paperwork that they told me I needed - only to be told I need something else. And berated and insulted in the process, b/c it must be *my* fault, right? Bursting into tears sometimes helps...or having a baby that bursts into tears usually will result in everyone else standing around beginning to berate the official giving you a hard time!
post #17 of 17
... by 3boys4us
... I didn't know you could have a bris when you're an adult.
In the case of the person I was talking about (boy was that grammatically yucky, uhhuh) he was intact until his 1st conversion (through the Conservative movement). The latter 2 conversions (Orthodox) involved the symbolic drawing of a drop of blood (which is what happens when a person who was circ'd as a baby converts, too).

And BB, my community has a high "convert ratio," too. But we have mostly baalei teshuva (returnees to the faith) anyway. And also quite a few born-Khareidim who dropped out completely, and were able to return via the "Shlomo derekh." Lot of women in that psychic space, particularly.

- Amy
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