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Why Not Make it Easier to Convert?

Why Not Make it Easier to Convert?

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Question:

I often hear rabbis complain that the Jewish people are shrinking due to intermarriage and assimilation. But it is you rabbis who are the major obstacle to Judaism growing! If you would make conversion a bit easier, many more non-Jews would join us. Why do you stubbornly insist on a long and difficult conversion process, when you are closing the door to many potential converts?

Answer:

I would like to nominate you to be the next prime-minister. You have come up with a brilliant formula that could greatly benefit the world.

You argue that the Jewish people would grow if only it were easier to become Jewish. If we apply your logic to some other scenarios, most of society's problems could easily be solved. We could reduce the number of people living below the poverty line by simply making the poverty line lower. And we could have many more millionaires around if you didn't need so much money to be one! The crime rates would drop dramatically if we just legalize criminal activity. And if we dropped the average life-expectancy people would live so much longer!

Either Judaism is truth, or it is not. If it is truth, then truth can't be saved by diluting it. And if it isn't, why bother saving it at all?

The road to conversion is a challenging one. I have seen the hard work sincere converts put in to become Jewish. They inspire me and I am proud to know them. And I have seen the sad consequences of "quickie" conversions too. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, how could someone respect a religion that bent the rules to let them in?

Perhaps the conversion system isn't perfect. That is something that the rabbis should indeed be working to improve. But we can only fight assimilation by presenting pure, unadulterated Judaism in an accessible and relevant way. That is a Judaism that can be respected - by Jew and non-Jew alike.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (116)
June 19, 2016
The process is not as hard as one would think......BUT
The process of learning and applying is very easy. Or maybe for me someone who grew up with zero religion in the home and has only known Judaism through years of individual learning and this awesome website. I never had to reprogram my thought process, I never had to pull way from family, but trying to fit in. But finding a community welcoming has been the hardest. This is not true for the Reform community or most of the Conservative community where I live but completely true for much of the Orthodox community near me. So one tends to go to the friendliest community only to be consistently told that conversion would never be "real". And I get it trust me, weed out those who are not sincere. But when the community is so small and everyone questions or judges the other for not being authentic this pushes converts and other Jews even further away from everything even Torah. So no let's not make conversion easier by shortening the length or material. But it should be more welcoming.
Anonymous
Texas
m.chabadoncampus.org
February 28, 2016
Live as a Jew
By all means, become a Jew. My suggestion is to first live as a Jew, make sure everyone you know knows you are now a Jew, wear symbols so people outside of your immediate family and friends will see that you are a Jew.

Then let us know if you notice a difference in how you are treated - and, if so, how you feel about that difference.

Just curious.
Anonymous
Vista, CA
February 26, 2016
In reply to John S, (Practicalities)
To be Jewish is to be included in the convenantal relationship the Jewish people have with the Almighty. Potential converts to Judaism should not worry too much about rabbis, a beth din, or study and practice. Rather, one should begin talking directly with the Almighty - just as one would discuss things with his or her closest friend. Talk with Him in the morning upon waking up. Talk with Him in the afternoon. And talk with Him in the evening, before going to bed. And if one can remember the Almighty before and after every meal, then that's a tremendous accomplishment. Ultimately, Jew or not, one is alone in his or her encounter with G-d. Each of us is forever alone in that awesome, enduring confrontation.
Anonymous
Honolulu, Hawaii
February 25, 2016
Practicalities
If a person dedicates him or herself to the study and practice of Judaism, the it would follow that the person is Jewish- religiously speaking. On the other hand, unless they are officially 'welcomed into the tribe' though whatever process, it follows that they are not 'a Jew'.

Can a person be Jewish but not be 'a' Jew? Objectively, one would think so, although there would obviously be a great issue with not being allowed to participate in various functions and activities with (tribal) Jews.

In going this route, one could plausibly point to Ruth and just 'be Jewish' by declaration and then proceed to live as the Torah commands. I know this flies in the face of centuries of Jewish practice of the Beit Din- but for all practical purposes, if a person subscribes to and follows the tenets of a faith then they are OF that faith, whether they belong to a specific social group or not.
John S
USA
chabadofalabama.com
February 11, 2016
Standards
I have worked with several Batey Din and would like to add:

Even if a Beith Din were to publish its academic and social requirements, there are still personal issues that can sway them to require more or less from a given candidate. Thus publishing exact standards might lead to other issues. The main questions include asking themselves if the candidate is ready for conversion and ready to dedicate her/his life to Torah and Mitzvoth.

That said (and would make the following a bit more difficult) it would be nice for the various Batey Din (both RCA and Haredi) to unite on establishing a minimum standard which would then be published. Batey Din will have to option to require less on an individual basis but would be bound to report the percentages of their candidates who got a pass. It would also be published that this is the lowest common denominator and that virtually all Batey Din have additional requirements. There is something like this in "The Gerus Guide".
Rabbi Aryeh Moshen
Brooklyn, NY
June 5, 2015
Easy? Of no value.
If we are to hold dear the Hebrew bible, then where does G-d say things will be easy and, therefore, with value?

I have learned that when someone doesn't work for something, they don't value it, even as a gift. The value comes from far deeper than 'easy.'

How many people here who have children made their children's lives easy and without problems and responsibilities?
Meira Shana
San Diego
May 7, 2014
To Preston
As I wrote earlier - call Rabbi Zvi Romm. Don't assume.
Rabbi Aryeh Moshen
Brooklyn, NY
May 6, 2014
CONVERSION
I am a 71 year old male who has been trying to convert to judaism for a number of years! it is totally impossible! the reason being is that at my age it is totally impossible to absorb all the books that you expect people to learn! i was no good at studying in my younger days let alone all this! other jews have told me that even they don't know all these things you would expect a convert to know. Reading the torah and believing in G-d the way i do should be more then enough! in other religions it usually is. why not this one? Eventually i will find a no frills Rabbi to convert me with little or no fanfare. I Will get a certificate and that will be it like 3 people i know. if anyone has any insight on this i would love to hear from you. G-D bless you all!!!!!
PRESTON M.
NEW YORK CITY
May 6, 2014
19+ years so far..
I have been trying to convert for 19+ years. I have been welcomed into the extreme liberal groups with open arms. I have even been acting (the only one there willing to do it even if unofficial) layleader for Bagram airfield for the US troops.

I don't live in an active Jewish community and probably never will be able to. But that don't change how Jewish I feel every day and my efforts to keep as frum as I can and follow the mitzvot.

I'll never give up.
I just wish I could get orthodox to throw me a bone.

Sigh...
David
apo
April 29, 2014
To Preston
Friend, forget about conversion. It's like falling hopelessly in love with someone who is never going to love you back. It will break your heart in the end and will leave your soul hurt and alone. You say you cannot read and retain information. I tell you truly it would not matter even if you knew everything there is. It would not help you. It would not make you a Jew. No one will help you. Your destiny is a burning loneliness - an unbearable abode. They say there you may encounter the Lonely One - blessed be He. They say it is a covenantal privilege, an exacting and sacrificial role.
Anonymous
USA