Converting to Judaism? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 12:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am considering taking Jewish education courses in the possibility of converting. I am interested in Judaism due to my distant Jewish ancestry and for other personal spiritual reasons.

So far, the few Jewish people I have spoken with about attending Shabbat service and education courses have all asked me the same question right away: "Why are you interested in Judaism?" They seem very surprised.

I know that it is somewhat unusual to convert other than due to marriage. Can anyone give me some advice as I begin this journey?
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#2 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 01:20 AM
 
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As you begin your journey, this question will be posed to you many more times. It isn't surprise so much as curiosity, I think. Conversion is not something to be entered into lightly, and don't be surprised if the Rabbi turns you away at your first or even second meeting. This is also tradition, unless you are converting to Reform Judaism, then you might not be turned away at all. It is a way of testing your commitment to the study of Torah and to your willingness to uphold traditions, customs, and to be an active scholar of Judaism. There are others here that are much wiser than I and am sure will be able to offer better guidance.

The road to conversion is definitley a challenging one, but well worth it.

For me being Jewish isn't so much as how I believe, it is central to my entire self. I know I am not a perfect Jew and I am not always as observant as I should be, but that is okay too. Of course, I do say that from the perspective of the Reform movement. Hopefully BelovedBird and amyrpk will respond to your questions.
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#3 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 01:30 AM
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My mom is in the process of converting....again.

She converted when I was 3. I also converted.

She is now becoming more interested in attending more orthodox services. The problem is - apparently she converted wrong.
So now she is having to do it all again. Study, and sessions and so on.
It is costing her a lot of money. Approx $3000 to convert to Orthodox Judaism.

And her Rabbi has been fairly hurtful about it.
He went behind her back and told some of the member sof the congregation who were born Jewish not to associate with her. He basically told her that "real jews" would never accept her. The rabbinical council in LA that she has to meet with, even told her that the next meeting was for them to determine whether or not this was right for her.

The only reason I am telling you this is because this whole process has hurt my mother hugely. She has been studying Judaism since she was 16. She has wanted to be a Jew for ever and them some. She thought she had already converted, and now she has to do this all over again. Be very sure of your congregation, be very sure of what "level" (reform, conservative, orthodox) you wish to convert to.

This is not meant to deter you in any way. I would say the same thing to anyone converting to any religion I had personal experience with.
As with anything I guess, do all your homework. Good luck!!!

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#4 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 02:30 AM
 
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My husband converted and I know many others who have converted. The only thing we had to pay for was a mikvah.

Once someone converts to Judaism, they are Jewish. This is my understanding as well as my own personal belief.

I don't quite understand converting wrong. The Orthodox do not consider converts to Reform or Conservative Judaism to be Jewish, this is probably what your mother has come across, AdinaL Incidently, I would think twice about any Rabbi where he "went behind her back and told some of the members of the congregation who were born Jewish not to associate with her. He basically told her that "real jews" would never accept her. The rabbinical council in LA that she has to meet with, even told her that the next meeting was for them to determine whether or not this was right for her." A convert to Judaism is a REAL Jew.

Adina I am so sorry your mother has been going through this. She should talk to other Rabbis
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#5 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 03:35 AM
 
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What a horrid rabbi, Adina. I would leave that schul immediately if I heard something like that. I mean, not if I were your mom, if I were any other member of the schul. I would resign and send a letter explaining why. When the LA rabbinical council said they were "determining whether this was right for her" could they have been reconvening to decide whether her original conversion was already kosher? Because in many cases, even if the conversion was performed under non-Orthodox auspices, the actual conversion process might be considered kosher by Orthodox rabbis if they considered the beit din (rabbinical court) kosher because the members were observant. Of course that depends largely on the relationships between the rabbis involved--in the case I'm thinking of, it was because the Orthodox beit din knew the Conservative rabbi who supervised the conversion observed halacha (Jewish law.) In places where the rabbis of different movements (I would never say "levels") don't get along at all, your conversion by a Conservative rabbi won't fly with an Orthodox beit-din.

It's also possible to have supposedly Orthodox conversions questioned--ESPECIALLY if the av-beit-din (the rabbi convening the rabbinical court) asked for a $3K fee from a prospective convert! What was that about! Sounds like a bribe to me! Incredible! But even without such a blatantly immoral action, some rabbis disagree on what makes a kosher conversion. It should be, as Mirlee put it, that once you convert, you convert. But the realities are less spiritual and more political than that.

So if you want to convert, you have to take a lot of factors into account. You want the conversion to "count" with the community you want to enter as a Jew. If you want to enter a Reform congregation, then a Reform rabbi and beit din are okay--if you want to be considered Jewish by the most Jewish people, then you want a very strict, standing, city-wide Orthodox beit din. If you think it's immoral to exclude women from the beit din, that will also shape your decision, because an Orthodox beit din can only have male members. You should also want to work with an ethical teacher, a really good model. You *want* your main teacher to attempt to turn you away, because that is part of the ritual of conversion! In an ideal world, the people in your congregation should not be taking on that turning-away role!

If I were converting, I would want to learn to read Hebrew, the basic rules for keeping kosher, the cycle of the Jewish holidays and the Jewish lifecycle, and what happens in Jewish services. I would want to know what people mean when they say "Torah" (not as simple as you think!) and how to get access to Torah study.

There is a lot to know, but the main thing is to establish if you want to enter into a covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people that is mediated by divine commandments in the form of Jewish law. (Mediated is a very clinical word--you have to imagine that "mediation" as a person dancing with a Torah scroll, or kissing a Humash (bible) -- that will give a better picture!) I don't think it's a very easy process, having watched other people convert. For me it was a big spiritual high to see some wonderful people decide to chose my life-long religion because they believed in it, and to welcome them.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#6 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 04:48 AM
 
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I am a convert, and I never heard of a Rabbi telling ppl not to assosiate with a potential convert I am not disbelieving that that happened to you Mother but saying that it is horrendous and highly unusual. I can probably find her some good contacts in LA. Does she have internet access, there are some good sites out there. Why would it cost 3000$ to convert?:

-BelovedBird

Mom of 5 boys- 13, 10, 8, 2 : and newbie Aug. 24th, '09 . babywearing advocate . Cook, baker, homemaker, wife to a man with another woman's kidney (live altruistic, unknown donor).
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#7 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 04:50 AM
 
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Also, I think the realities are spiritual and very minimally political- according to halacha the specifications of what a conversion is and are not are very specific. I will not enter in a debate here, PM me if you want to discuss this with me further.

-BelovedBird

Mom of 5 boys- 13, 10, 8, 2 : and newbie Aug. 24th, '09 . babywearing advocate . Cook, baker, homemaker, wife to a man with another woman's kidney (live altruistic, unknown donor).
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#8 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 11:45 AM
 
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Not a convert, but some of my best friends are ...

Also have to chime in to say that this rabbi/$3K thing and all that he said sounds highly unusual.

You know, rabbis are like everyone else; some good, some bad. Sounds like your mother should go find a good one. And LA has many good ones.

- Amy
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#9 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 01:47 PM
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Thanks guys!

I talked to my mom about all of this - because none of it seems really right. I personally think her rabbi is an ass. But she seems to love him...why I am not sure.

Part of the problem with my mom converting is that she lives in Denver. There are no councils to assist her with her conversion...hence the council in LA. The $3k come from 30 hours of tutoring at about $40/hour to get a good tutor (i.e. one that her rabbi approves of), flights to anf rom LA to meet with the council, and for the actual conversion. And then I think there was an application fee, too.

Plus, this is the only Othodox shul that will really accept her. The other one that I know of is very closed to anyone who has converted. that is kind of the way the Jewish community is here in Denver. I used to get picked on for not being "jewish" when I was a kid. So she will stick with the one she is in.

I am sorry to hijack the thread. I just wouldn't want anyone to go through what my mom was going through. It is hard for her and she wants it badly enough that she doesn't want to tell them all to take a flying leap. She even called me yesterday after having gone to the Rabbi's house for lunch after shul. I guess he likes her - as long as no one else associates with her? I dunno.

Thanks again all.


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#10 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 04:39 PM
 
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Beloved Bird, I'm sorry for my use of the word "political". I needed something more neutral there. But it's hard to be neutral about communities rejecting converts! I think it's very BAD. My understanding, and you can correct me, is that there is halacha against even referring to someone's status as a convert. I read Maimonides' famous letter to Ovadiah the convert in which Maimonides says that converts are considered to be children of Abraham. So I can't deal with a rabbi who tells his congregation not to associate with a convert or a potential convert.

I see that there are a LOT of reasons why that happens, not only differences in ideology between rabbis. There *is* a halacha of conversion. The problem is that it depends not only on the knowledge and the committment of the convert, not only on the mikvah, but also on how the community accepts the people on the beit din, whether they regard the beit din as kosher. Which is why I, a non-Orthodox Jew, would advise most potential converts to seek not just an Orthodox beit-din, but a standing one, preferrably in an urban center, with a very strong reputation. Even though I personally would consider a conversion kosher even if it was not through an Orthodox beit din (if it met basic halachic norms), that would still be my advice.

Since you did convert and I have only observed other folks converting, I want to acknowledge your superior expertise on this issue.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#11 of 27 Old 01-19-2003, 09:58 PM
 
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Well I didn't convert, I was born Jewish, but I just wanted to wish you well and offer you congratulations and a warm welcome.

And no one mentioned another important part of becoming a real Jew: the need to know a good brisket recipe. I'll be happy to post this if you need it!

By the way, I am Reconstructionist and absolutely love it. I would urge you to look into all of the sects of Judaism (Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox) to see which is the best fit for you. I was brought up Reform, my DH was brought up strict Conservative (non-Egalatarian) and we both found a home with Reconstructionism.

Good luck! I'm really not trying to sway you in any direction because it is a very personal decision.

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#12 of 27 Old 01-20-2003, 03:37 AM
 
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A good lokshen kugel helps, too ...

Now Orthodox. Brought up Conservative, played around in any variation of denomination, flirted with the rabbinate ... ( ... that means I flirted with the idea of becoming a rabbi, not that I flirted with a whole lot of rabbis :LOL) and finally found a rebbe. And ended up (if the world insists on denominating me : ) very happily Orthodox. My rebbe left the world but his influence remains.

My point of this ramble, though, is the find-a-rebbe part. Meaning a rabbi who speaks to your heart. (Which is the difference between a rabbi and a rebbe, by the way ... rabbis are for your head & rebbes are for your heart ... though there are many that do double-duty )

It's actually advice given in the Mishna, to go find someone to be your rebbe. And sage advice it is ...



Good luck ...

- Amy
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#13 of 27 Old 01-20-2003, 02:04 PM
 
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My experience as a convert has been that once you convert you are welcomed into the Jewish community, you live joyously as a Jew, and the subject should never come up again.

I have done just that, and I have never looked back.

Sorry about your mother's experience.

I converted b/c I wanted to be a Jew, not for anyone or anything.
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#14 of 27 Old 01-20-2003, 10:55 PM
 
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b'h

there is just one thing i want to clarify for those who are unfamiliar.

when g-d gave the torah to the jewish people on mount sinai, He didn't say - conservative stand there, reform stand there, and orthodox stand there. there were just Jews. i mean, was moses orthodox? a jew is a jew is a jew! i hate labels!

and who is a jew? a jew is someone whose mother is jewish or who converted according to torah law.

conversion to judaism is generally discouraged. when a rabbi sees you are really sincere about it, and really want it and are not letting up, then he will agree.

to convert, in a nutshell, it's too much to get into here, you are accepting upon yourself to fulfill all the laws of the torah. the same torah that was given at mount sinai is the same torah we have today, and none of the laws have changed, we have to keep them as they were kept then.

something sounds weird with the $3000 thing though.

hope this is helpful,
and good luck
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#15 of 27 Old 01-22-2003, 05:13 PM
 
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bs"d

rosiesmama- Hatzlacha (success) in your spiritual journey!


AdinaL- I just wanted to add a few comments, but first I want to say that I wish you mother hatzlacha (success) on her path to becoming a Jew.

I have heard of people being charged to do a conversion. The figure I personally heard about was $800. This was charged to compensate the rabbis for thier time, to provide the mikvah with a donation, and to provide tutoring. A born Jew might have recieved such tutoring for free, however, it seems that the rabbis consider a convert an opportunity to get fund for other endevors.

I am sorry that your mother has gotten the message that she will be rejected by the community. There are some Jewish ritual laws that can intensify this feeling of rejection for many who are in the process of conversion. I feel it is important that a person who is in that process know about these, so they can understand why certain things are happening. Your mother probably knows these things already, but I just wanted to list them, in case she doesn't. Non-Jews cannot touch (or according to some even see) uncooked kosher wine if it is to be used by Jews. Even if a non-Jew keeps kosher strictly, Jews cannot eat food cooked in thier home. Many Jewish communities are very tight knit, and word that a person is not Jewish or is a convert can spead quickly, even when that person does not tell people herself. Despite this, my experience is that once a person is converted they are accepted into the community with open arms. I hope this is the case with your mother!

everything should be well with you!

AMYRPK- are you a Chabadnik? just checking (no, really i'm a member of the yechi police! HA!)!
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#16 of 27 Old 01-22-2003, 05:23 PM
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Thanks guys. You have been great.
I just hope that the situation with my mom does not continue to be unpleasant. Because when she is upset - it makes me and my sis upset and it is hard. This is a woman who has truly become a Jewish scholar. She reads constantly, and has a ton of information - you should see her house it is like a library! And it is hard to see her told over and over that she is doing something right. But like I said I have issues with her shul.


Thanks again ladies!

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#17 of 27 Old 01-22-2003, 10:46 PM
 
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T

Torie ... not Chabad, though my rebbe was a ben bayis (regular) at the home of the freierdike (previous/next-to-last) Lubavitcher rebbe, and his smikha (ordination) was through Lubavitch ... our family are chassidim of R' Shlomo Carlebach z'l. And yes, there really is such a thing as Carlebach chassidim ...

Oh, and BTW, R' Shlomo was born a yekke. He "converted" to chassidus in his youth ... See, there's hope for you yet ... :LOL

- Amy
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#18 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 02:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by torie
Even if a non-Jew keeps kosher strictly, Jews cannot eat food cooked in thier home.
actually, the law is that the food must be cooked by a jew, which technically means, a jew must turn on the fire. there are those who have (non-jewish) help in the house, who possibly cook for them, they just turn the fire on, and the help can take care of everything else.

Quote:
Originally posted by torie
AMYRPK- are you a Chabadnik? just checking (no, really i'm a member of the yechi police! HA!)!
torie, are you? i see you're in brooklyn.
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#19 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 04:34 AM
 
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T

Quote:
... by chani
... torie, are you? i see you're in brooklyn.
:LOL :LOL :LOL

And I assume that Jews everywhere in the country except Brooklyn are Chabadniks. Brooklyn is the most diverse place Jewishly, I think, outside of Israel ...

Sorry to keep going off topic. I'm feeling rambly lately ...

- Amy
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#20 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 06:16 AM
 
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This is SO totally OT, but hey, you guys started it.

A number of years ago, when I was still in Israel and the whole "the rebbe is Mashiach" business was just coming to a head, Chabad had a large children's event in Jerusalem. One of my husband's teacher's son (who is most definately not Chabad) wanted to go. His father told him, fine, but if they start with the "yechi" business, I want you to leave. So the kid (who I think was around 8 -9 at the time) goes and they raffle off prizes. One of the grand prizes is a trip up in a helicopter, on the spot, around Yerushalayim (you see this would never go in the US! can you imagine - without a parental consent form signed, nothing ). So this kid is one of several that win! So they go up in the helicopter and they circle around. At the end, they have the kids saying pasuking over a loudspeaker from up in the helicopter. They hand the kid a slip of paper and he says his pasukim, from tehillim. Then the last child who goes after him has at the end "Yechi,etc". The kid almost fainted dead away, b/c he thought that had he gotten that slip of paper, he would have had to jump out of the helicopter!!!! His father said he thought the kid was still going to have a heart attack when he got home.
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#21 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 12:29 PM
 
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With deepest sincere (really) apologies to the original poster (really ) I must continue on this off-topic tangent, to laugh loud & long with that poor child in the helicopter and his predicament ...

And to be very impressed with his dedication to kibud av (respecting his father) that he considered actually leaving that helicopter ...

:LOL :LOL :LOL :LOL

- Amy
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#22 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 01:08 PM
 
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bs"d

T

Okay, I'm outing myself-

My name is Binah, and I'm a Chabadnik. Not big on the Yechi thing though. Yechi/Non-Yechi people are split pretty evenly here in Crown Heights. I'll take Moshiach NOW, whoever he is (and I'm sure I don't know who he will be, though it
*would* be great if Moshiach is the Rebbe)!


CHANI: I knew about the turning on the flame thing, but I often find it is difficult to explain halakha succinctly. You did a pretty good job! Yasher Koach!

Mom2five: I like that verb, "pasuking". I'll have to use that one.
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#23 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 02:52 PM
 
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rosiesmama - now you see what happens when you get a bunch of Jewish women together in one place :LOL :LOL :LOL i wish you mazel (luck) and hatzlacha (success) and koach (strength) in your journey!

Adina - oy vey. what can I say that hasn't been said?

everyone else - maybe we should have a new "jewish mamas" thread? LOL LOL

I'm Andrea - I have three boys - 12 year old twins & an 11 year old

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#24 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 04:27 PM
 
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All right, ladies ... I think it's time we members of the Cult of Moses ... and wannabe members, of course ... became a tribe.

I will forthwith open such a thread in the Finding Your Tribe forum (unless one of you have done it already).

And rosiesmama, please come ...

- Amy
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#25 of 27 Old 01-23-2003, 05:09 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by BY
bs"d

Mom2five: I like that verb, "pasuking". I'll have to use that one.
OY! Says more about my typing ability than my prowess in the English language.

I figured you were a chabadnik - hope you weren't offended by the story. No offense meant!
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#26 of 27 Old 01-24-2003, 09:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for responding, everyone! It turned out to be a very interesting discussion.


I will check out the thread in Finding Your Tribe.
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#27 of 27 Old 01-24-2003, 10:28 PM
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sorry i sort of hijacked your thread rosiesmama!!! I didn't mean to!!!! Good luck!

winner.jpg Adina knit.gifmama to B hearts.gif 4/06  and E baby.gif  8/13/12 (on her due date!) homebirth.jpg waterbirth.jpg

 

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