Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
Kabbalah Online
Kids Zone

Should I Convert to Judaism?

Should I Convert to Judaism?

Is Judaism For Everybody?



I came across your site and wow--I really want to become Jewish. My mother was a fairly devout Italian Catholic and my father an Anglican skeptic who never went to church. I was always so confused. But now your site has really turned me on to Judaism, a real coming home for me. What's my next step?


Your next step is to become a better person. Develop greater faith in your soul, in your destiny, and in your Maker. Do more good, reach out to more people. Learn more wisdom, apply whatever you learn, and make life worth living.

But you don't need to become Jewish to do any of that. Plenty of wonderful people doing beautiful things in the world are not Jewish, and G‑d is nonetheless pleased with them. And if you're worried about going to heaven, Jewish belief is that all good people have a share in the World to Come, as long as they connect their lives to the oneness of G-d and keep the Seven Laws of Noah.

You see, there's Judaism and there's Jewishness, and the two are not one and the same. Judaism is wisdom for every person on the planet and beyond. We call it the Torah, meaning "the teaching," and it's a divine message to all human beings containing the principles that much of humanity has already accepted as absolute truths. The idea that human life is beyond value is a teaching originating from Torah, as is the related concept that all human beings are created equal. So too, the right of every individual to literacy and education was brought to the world through Torah. And world peace as a value and goal was preached exclusively by the Torah and its prophets thousands of years before it became popular in the rest of the world. And of course, the idea that there is a single, incorporeal Being who creates and sustains all of reality, and is concerned over all that occurs with each individual, thereby giving each person, creature, event and object meaning, purpose and destiny--this is a core teaching upon which everything else rests, and the central teaching of the Torah.

This teaching was not only preserved, but unfolded, explained, illuminated and applied in so many different ways by Jewish sages since it was given, over 3300 years ago. They've applied it to serious matters of medical ethics, business ethics, politics, personal enlightenment--every facet of human life. Today it is all readily available for all humanity to partake of and learn from, as a beacon of light and an inspiration to all.

That's Judaism. Then there is Jewishness. To be Jewish means to belong to an ancient tribe, either by birth or by adoption (a.k.a. conversion). It's a strange and unique tribe, because it is the only one to have survived into modernity while retaining most of the characteristics of a Bronze Age tribe. Anthropologist Jared Diamond describes in his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel," how a New Guinea tribesman, when visiting a nearby village of the same tribe, will immediately start the conversation with an investigation of, "So, who are you related to? Do you know so-and-so?" to establish tribal relations. Well, that's exactly what Jewish people do today when they meet one another all over the world. Because, whether living in Manhattan or Joburg, Tel Aviv or Vladivostok, we are still all one tribe.

And for good reason: To preserve the teachings of an ageless Torah for the world, the Jewish People themselves need to be ageless, remaining outside of time, as it were, even while traveling within it.

Tribes have rituals. So do Jews. Males of the tribe wear particular items of clothing, such as tzitzit and kippot. Women keep a certain mode of modest dress and married women cover their hair. Men also wrap leather boxes containing parchment scrolls on the heads and arms every morning, while robed in woolen sheets with more of those tzitzit tassels. In our services, we chant ancient Hebrew and read from an ancient scroll. We have holidays that commemorate our tribal memories and establish our identity as a whole. Certain foods are taboo and other food is supervised and declared fit-for-the-tribe. Nope, you can't get much more ancient-tribal than any of that.

The point is, none of that ritual stuff was ever meant as a universal teaching, except perhaps in a more generalized way. Modest dress--yes, a good idea for all. Why should the human being be reduced to a body icon? A chat with your Maker every morning? How can a human being do without it? And injecting some spirituality into your food consumption--what a great way to transcend the mundane. But as to the particular rituals in their Jewish form, as meaningful as they are to us, there's simply no meaning in someone outside the tribe taking them on. (If you don't believe me, take a look in the source-text, where G‑d tells Moses, "Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them to...")

Now, what I'm saying is not very PC nowadays. We live in a world of hypermobility. Not just because we own our own cars and reserve our own tickets online to go anywhere, anytime--but because we imagine our very identities to be just as mobile as our powerbook. Pick me up and take me anywhere. Today I'm a capitalist entrepreneur, tomorrow an Inuit activist, and the next day a Californian bohemian. And we can mix and match--today, you can be Italian, Nigerian, Chinese and Bostonian all in the same meal. So who is this Freeman character to tell me which tribe I belong to and which not?

To be frank, because this Freeman character considers the hyper-identity scheme to be a scam, a mass delusion and a social illness. You can switch your clothes, your eating habits, your friends, your social demeanor, your perspective on life and maybe you can even switch to a Mac. But G-d decides who you are, and the best you can do is discover it.

Two friends of mine joined the Peace Corps back in the sixties and were posted in Southeast Asia. Together, they visited a little-known guru in the jungle to whom they announced, "We want to become Buddhists."

"Well, what are you now?" he asked them.

"Nothing," they replied.

"Where did you come from? What were your parents?"

"They were Jews."

"So why are you coming to me?" he asked. "Go and be Jews."

Now it's my turn to return the favor and tell the Southeast Asians, the Italians, the Nigerians, the Inuits and all the rest of humanity this little piece:

I believe that what G-d wants from each person is that s/he examine the heritage of his ancestors, discover the truths hidden there and live in accordance with them, knowing that this is what his Creator wants from her/him. The truths are there because all of human society was originally founded upon the laws given to Adam and to Noah, along with those laws that all the children of Noah accepted upon themselves. These truths are found by examining one's heritage through the light of Torah. The Jewish Tribe are the bearers of that light. But you don't need to become Jewish to partake of it. Light shines for all who have eyes.

Enjoy our site. Help spread the light.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (336)
November 24, 2014
Terrible advice!
I'm a little confused by this Rabbi's interpretation. Do not the sages and Tulmud teach to love the convert?

Jews are suppose to be a light to the world, pointing people to the one true Gd? Telling someone to go and look at their heritage & find yourself ...when the person was asking about conversion is really insensative to me.

My ancestors were pagan and worshiped all sorts of things, should I go and start doing what they did when my soul tells me that isn't the way?

Where would the Jewish people be without Ruth and her defendant King David? She was a convert.... What if her mother in law had said what this Rabbi said????
November 11, 2014
Before converting ...
My suggestion is to attend synagogue services as often as possible, both Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

If you are thinking of converting it would be good to actually experience as much as possible.

All who are interested are welcome into synagogue services.

In fact, try a few different synagogues - Reform and Conservative. Orthodox might be best to attend at a later date.

Loving-kindness to you.
Meira Shana
San Diego
November 10, 2014
I think people wants to be converted to ancients tribe because they knew who they are. No one can stop the lost tribe of Israel to return to its roots. As for me only Judaism teaches the real meaning of the Scriptures, the reason why I want to be convert.
November 3, 2014
Why willing convert to be a Jew, not a holy citizen of God ? We sould think how to keep God's word better, rather than thinking how to convert to be a Jew.
October 30, 2014
About conversion
I think this may help to all who look for conversion. See the video called ( love the convert) right here in the same web, youll get extra light on the subject.
Edgardo Rubio
October 28, 2014
There is a reason why the 'sages' said that before studying Kabbalah one must first be totally familiar with Torah - and then one must be 40 years old.

Kabbalah is not Judaism - it's the mysticism of the religion.

Wearing a red bracelet does not make a person Jewish. Without the background it shows the person to be into the superstition.
October 27, 2014
Heritage of my ancestors
Taking your statements to their logical conclusion along with other general anti-messianic messages that are conveyed by many in the Jewish community, I figure that Jews expect all Gentiles to worship the likes of Zeus and Thor because that's what their "tribe" or ancestors worshipped in the concurrent antiquity of Judaism. When I say to a black man you can't do this or that because of your heritage that is racism. How is this any different?
October 23, 2014
Some people's desire to be Torah-true is so strong that they are willing to be
disowned by their parents and shunned by their friends. They find themselves alone, on the outside looking in at a world they used to be part of. They are shocked and dismayed at this treatment, but instead of returning to their former religion, they nonetheless choose to live a Torah-true life, and so they go into the mikveh.

And so I say to each one of those who have been in the mikveh and experienced the change in soul,

Welcome home!
October 21, 2014
Can I join to Jews If I am not Jew since birth and I do not have family neither relatives who are Jews?
September 28, 2014
converting so hard
As i expressed in my July 2014 post, there should be some special term or status to people interested in Judaism, maybe considering conversion in the future, etc. Read Rabbi Boteach's article in last Friday's Jewish Standard. a lot of people don't like him but I think he is very smart and he speaks to something similar to what I have said.
Show all comments
Load next 50