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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. there's Judaism and there's Jewishness, and the two are not one and the same.

Judaism is…

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.

Jewishness is…

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.

And You Can Take One Without the Other

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 hyper-mobility. 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 andG‑d decides who you are, and the best you can do is discover it. 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 is the bearer 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. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Anonymous Highlands Ranch January 11, 2018

I was told by a Rabbi that most people convert "much younger." Is she 64 too old to convert and to lead a Torah-observant life? Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles via December 24, 2017

Menachem, i agree with you but I do believe the conversion must be through an orthodox conversion. Then they will have no on questioning their "jewishness" except the ultra-orthodox. It was interesting to learn that if you convert through an orthodox process, the belief is your soul literally becomes a Jewish soul; not a better soul, just a different energy. So like a religious or observant Jew who stops observing, the belief is their soul still has the potential to go back to observing. My personal belief is that there has to be a line drawn in the sand; that the Orthodox are who have kept our people alive, through Torah and Mitzvot for all these years. Without the Orthodox, our nation would no longer be. So for me, any conversion must be all the way or not at all. Reply

Patrick Texas December 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Why does it have to be orthodox? Is there the brit the deciding factor? Just curious. Reply

Jacob gold Los Angeles via December 26, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Again, just my opinion but the religion has sustained for thousands of years through Torah study and observence if Mitzvot. In order to remain strong you must have people committed to mitzvot. Otherwise people should just become noahides and thus experienced the beauty of Judaism and Torah without all the other commitment. Reply

Menachem Cano December 21, 2017

I'm Sorry, I dont agree with this.
If one does not feel at ease in other religions if the person found himself or herself in Judaism regardless of the parents they should be welcome with open arms, as likely they have a Jewish soul. As jews we should welcome those who are willing to convert become jewish, join our tribe.. Reply

Jeremiah Bond Bridgeport via December 24, 2017
in response to Menachem:

That's beautiful and thank you. Reply

Meira Shana San Diego November 14, 2017

No one is forced into becoming a Jew. If you choose to accept the Jewish faith, do it, no matter what. No one but you has the key to your problems, but you.

Christians forced Jews to accept Jesus or be murdered and/or thrown out of their respective countries.

I'm all for all Christians wearing a Jewish symbol for a year and see how you are treated by your friends and family. Then check with your clergy about your findings.

Or, get and watch the movie "Gentleman's Agreement". Reply

Jeremiah Bond Bridgeport via December 24, 2017
in response to Meira Shana:

I'd do this in a heartbeat. I can tell you that being Jewish would be more difficult but not by much. I'm already far from the tree. Reply

Anonymous October 23, 2017

I grew up thinking --- everyone --- wanted to convert, like me, but were afraid to ask, and now I know it's kind of rare, and that people are sincerely against Judaism - but it looks like a kindergarten class that is being shoot at by maniacs - and I panic, but I still want in, even orthodox because you can't fake Sinai, and the music reminds me of the meaning of life. Reply

Esther Herat October 20, 2017

Thank you Rabbi Freeman - what can i say. I am a Jew in a gentile body. I know I am. HaShem seems the hunger I have to be recognized as a Jew - in my case, a converted Jew. Reply

Menachem Cano Montreal December 21, 2017
in response to Esther Herat:

Esther, a Jew is a Jew, converted or born into it. I know a lot of Jews that were born Jewish that are horrible people, eat pork, etc... and people who decided to become Jewish on their own and are the total opposite. No one is "more Jewish" because was born and no one is less because they converted.
I was born jewish, my father was a "hippie Jew" we didn't follow anything, I study many religions, and just like someone who converted I made a choice to embrace even more, my religion because I know what is out there. Reply

Patrick Texas September 21, 2017

There is a tradition amongst Orthodox Jews to dissuade you from conversion. Supposedly, they deny you three (or at least three?) times before considering you for conversion. SO, if you really want to be a Jew, then keep trying. Reply

Ali New York State August 30, 2017

I cried reading these comments. I feel like I am a Jewish soul stuck in a Gentile body.

When I was a child, I remember crying in school when we learned about the Holocaust: "Why would they do this to us?" I asked the teacher. Her response: "You are not Jewish; they didn't do this to you!"

When I was old enough to read, I would take the same book out of the library in my small town. I would renew it every time. It was about Orthodox Jewish life. I was obsessed with learning about it.

When I was in college, I desperately searched my family tree for any hint of Jewish heritage. When I found none, I cried. My heart was broken.

I married a man whose father is Jewish. So my husband is not. But his grandmother passed down Challah and Matzo recipes and I always wondered and wished I had that family history.

I am happy to see there are others like me: no Jewish heritage. My heart aches to be a part of the Jewish tribe. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles via September 17, 2017
in response to Ali:

Jewish Souls Sounds like a Jewish soul to me. Maybe somewhere in your mother's lineage there is a Jew. Reply

Esther Herat October 20, 2017
in response to Ali:

Jew in a gentile body I appreciate your comments Ali - I am where you are; A Jew in a gentile body. I am a Jew in thought, in practice, in every detail i possibly can.

Thank HaShem for everything Reply

Menachem Cano Montreal December 21, 2017
in response to Ali:

The body fades and dies, the soul is forever.....If you feel in your heart in your soul the need to come to Judaism, then follow it. Chabad or not.
There is a mis-interpretation of the "conversion"( dont like the term). I cant recall now if it is in one of the books of the Zohar but it says that when G.d creates a soul that may end up in a non Jewish body but that soul will eventually feel the need to return "home" to Judaism, so there is really no conversions, because if your soul is Jewish, then you are returning to Judaism, not converting. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles via July 16, 2017

I have found that many people I've met who have become Jewish or converted later found out that they were already Jewish because somewhere on their mother's side, a grandmother, greatgrandmother,some matriarch was Jewish. They were drawn to Judaism because their souls were already Jewish. There is a very interesting video on YouTube; type "from Christian Pastor to Jewish Rabbi". Reply

Anonymous CA July 14, 2017

Sometimes converts will discover that they have a Jewish ancestor. What is the spiritual meaning behind a person's desire to convert? Only Hashem knows. And while it is custom to discourage a convert at first, sometimes Hashem will seek a convert. So after discouraging, please remember to be welcoming and encouraging as well. After all, loving the convert is one of the most-often mentioned mitzvahs in the Torah. Ultimately, the decisions of the convert are a reflection of their individual relationship with Hashem. Reply

Anonymous San Diego July 10, 2017

The question is ok to ask but not of others - ask it of yourself. Only you know your answers.

To me, the question could be as if I asked 'Should I become black?' Reply

Jake Boston July 12, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

How is becoming Jewish like becoming black?

It is impossible for a non-black person to become black.

It is possible for a non-Jew to become a Jew.

OK so that's not it.

It's difficult to belong to any minority. The prejudice is hard to take.

Maybe that means you would not want to become either black or Jewish.

Is that it?

If not, what is it that becoming black and becoming a Jew have in common?

Fess up, now. Reply

Joseph Vinegar October 19, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Judaism is an ethnoreligious identity - It is intertwined in genetics, but you can join. BTW, from what I have heard, the Nivkh are the same way. Reply

Anonymous Montreal December 21, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

That is the most ignorant comment I've read. Judaism is not a race, it's a religion. Your comment is offensive also to the Jews who are black as well. Reply

Anon Co June 15, 2017

I have been following this thread for two years. It's impressive that it has been continuing for so long!

It seems like the tone of the thread has changed. Originally most of the responses were in support of the idea that one should stick to religion they were born into. Now it's moving towards more of an acceptance of conversion. Very interesting.

I think this idea of having a Jewish soul is a key one. The hard part is that it is something that one cannot prove, and some people may spend years second guessing themselves. It's nice to say people should just know, and not take no for an answer, but what about the fact that people have different personalities? A stronger personality with more confidence may "just know," not question themselves, and keep pushing past opposition. For someone who is more insecure or over analyzes, that's not the case. They could get turned away, making it so that new converts are mainly those with strong personalities. I wonder if that's what happens. Reply

Julia Düsseldorf July 9, 2017
in response to Anon:

I think this is exactly what is happening. And also how much your mind tries to rationalize things. Thank you for sharing your point of view. Reply

JDV June 4, 2017

I am some trouble processing "I Jew, You Jew." Nonetheless, it is 2017 and shouldn't people adjust to the times while still honoring classic beliefs/ Reply

Jonathan Boston July 11, 2017
in response to JDV:

What does the year matter? It is difficult to be a Jew, the same as it always was. The first difficulty is in doing the commndments. The real difficulty is in being different from the surrounding culture. We were always different from other cultures and we still are and it was difficult then and it still is. The difference is that lately so many Jews WANT to be the same as other people and are no longer willing to make the effort to endure being different. We have a different calendar. We eat different foods. And so on. It means living Jewishly means always swimming upstream. That has always been part of Jewish life, and it still is. The fact that this is 2017 is irrelevant. Reply

JDV Paramus July 24, 2017
in response to Jonathan:

It is true that many Jewish people I know want to be like everyone else. What ,makes one think that being like everyone else is so great? i don't know how I would survive without my Jewish connection. Reply

Anonymous May 30, 2017

Honestly, it feels to me that what creates a people is a common destiny, shared beliefs.

Blood should not matter. Beliefs matter much more. This feels to me like the simple higher truth devoid of preconceived emotional leaning.

The empowering tribalism of the future must place blood - a purely physical construct - last in the considerations of what makes someone who they are. The division between heredities is something that needs to not be strengthened more - it may feed unity within a group, but within the larger whole, creates division.

Yes, dividing by blood is an old tradition. But in the past it has created sides, and today it continues to. We should not judge a person by their blood, but by their individual character (MLK). And character is inextricable from values.

Any tribe of people that wants to strengthen their resolve should inevitably allow and encourage anyone of the same values, regardless of blood, to join in as one of them.

Beliefs are superior to DNA! Reply

Tzvi Freeman June 2, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

For an alternative view, please see "I Jew, You Jew" Reply

Grant Taylor Vancouver June 4, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Yes, very true, but where can people of that belief/knowledge gather - away from hate and tribal beliefs? Where is a safe haven? Perhaps the first colonists of Mars should be restricted to peoples of beliefs that begin with concern for each other first. Reply

Yehudit Boston June 4, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Being a Jew is not about belief. You don't even have to believe in Gd, as long as you are willing to obey Gd's Word, Torah.

Torah requires a set of behaviors which unites us in body, which, while we are in the physical universe, is a stronger union than beliefs. I do not fault other Jews for believing differently than I do. But my feeling of unity with them is greater when I know that they love Torah and are trying to live by it. We are sharing more than mere thoughts. We are sharing physical experiences. We are sharing the experience of swimming upstream in a world with a non-Jewish calendar and non-kosher food. It's difficult to go to services on a different day than the majority. It's difficult to eat differently and to have so few restaurants to go to. It's inspiring to know that others share my willingness to make this effort. It's heartwarming to do all this in order to express my love for Gd, and to know other Jews (of any belief) make the same effort because they love Gd. Reply

Craig And Meghan Schaffer-Hamilton June 5, 2017
in response to Grant Taylor:

Re: Anonymous - The punishing G-d of the prophet Amos’ Gd is mine. Moses’ concept of Divine reward and Divine punishment in Deuteronomy is the G-d my understanding. However, that does not make me a Jew. Why? It’s halacha. I have been in your place before, asking the same questions. Here are some answers. Judaism is more than a faith. It is a religion, and parts of that religion would be lost if Judaism stopped halachic conversions. If you start a belief based religion it wouldn’t be Judaism. For starters, I guarantee you the tefillin would be trashed. A faith based Judaism would probably lose also forget the Talmud. It would be terrible. I view Jews and Judaism as sort of like a compass to the world. If everything is right in the world the sign would be that everything would be right with the Jews. I, as a non-Jew can’t accept the repercussions of the loss of Jewishness and Judaism. Reply

Joseph Newark June 14, 2017
in response to Grant Taylor:

You can say all you want about beliefs. You do not become an American citizen or a British citizen solely on account of your beliefs. Yes, it is necessary to believe in Democracy, but you need more than that. If you have a parent who is a citizen, that is enough. If you are born in that country, that is enough. But if you have neither of these, you can be naturalized as a citizen if you are willing to abide by its laws. Similarly, you can be "naturalized" as a Jew, based on your willingness to abide by Torah laws. The only "belief" required to become a Jew is that willingness to keep the laws, one of which is the law against worshiping other gods and against invoking intermediaries between the self and Gd. (You are not asked whether you "believe in Gd"--just whether you are willing to give up other gods.) Reply

JDV June 15, 2017
in response to Joseph:

Interesting. Is this wy peope are against immigrants? Reply

Joseph Newark May 20, 2017

I have a friend who has American Indian ancestors. He once asked me if I wanted to be an American Indian. I said, "I would be proud to claim American Indian ancestors, but I do not have any. At any rate, I have all I can handle being a Jew."

Before my eyes, his face changed as if a mask were coming off.
Now he looked like an American Indian.
As if my willingness to be what I am enabled him to be what he was.

The difference is that others CAN become Jews IF they really really want to.

Clearly, this man wanted to be what he was--of American Indian descent. But some others resented the fact that they were NOT of such descent.

Meanwhile, most Jews want to be what we are: Jewish. But some others resent this. They accuse us of thinking we are better than they are, even though the Talmud says that "the righteous" (not "the perfect"--basically, decent people) "of all nations have a portion in the world to come" (the next life).

We all care about our cultures surviving. Reply

JDV Paramus May 19, 2017

There are many interesting stories on you tube about converts and potential converts. Some of them are charlatans, I'm sure but many are interesting. Reply

Leanne Thomas London May 21, 2017
in response to JDV:

Charlatans I'm not sure what you mean by "charlatans"...Can you explain why you think so? I myself have seen many of these stories on YouTube (probably all of them actually), and I have not come to that conclusion. Reply

JDV Paramus May 22, 2017
in response to Leanne Thomas:

Sometimes people who are not sincere go on you tube or the internet but are not really genuine in their beliefs. However, i don't think this is true of the majority of stories I've seen. Most people seem sincere and should be guided in the right direction and encouraged. I think it is always good to be a little suspicious of the internet. With the exception of, of course! Reply

Leanne London, UK May 22, 2017
in response to JDV:

Ah ok...Fair point. Thank you for clarifying. Reply

Rowland Brisbane May 19, 2017

I don't wish to convert. I am an Anglican. And sort of British.
We have rumours on both sides of the family of Jewish ancestors who, I guess, kept their heads down when things got scary. As working class people and immigrants we have very little in the way of a family tree.

My question is: what can I do (as a Christian and a philoSemite) for the Jewish people and for Judaism? And for the State of Israel? I accept that the actions of various Israeli governments have been less than laudable. But it is the only liberal democracy for thousands of miles in any direction. And After the Shoah, how can anyone deny Jews a home, a place to feel safe?
Sorry for blathering on. Am waiting for a plane flight and came across this discussion.
Shalom and God Bless.
Rowland Reply

Chanah Houston May 19, 2017
in response to Rowland :

You clearly have a good heart.

One thing you might want to do is to object when the conversation gets nasty about Jews (or about blacks or whatever, but you asked about Jews). If Israel were destroyed, Jewish culture & worship worldwide would suffer. Israel does many good things for other countries, such as sending medics when there is a tsunami or earthquake or other disaster. Israelis achieve medical breakthroughs which benefit everyone everywhere. Jewish law requires Jews to behave compassionately to everyone & also requires Jews to defend ourselves when someone is trying to kill us--and there are people trying to kill us, so we must defend ourselves from such people.

Everyone sees the large synagogue where I attend so it gets daily bomb threats. We have a fence around it & we've hired guards to screen people who drive into the parking lot.

My child attended the synagogue school & those bomb threats were terrifying to every parent.

Does that help? Reply

Andi Ziegelman Haifa July 8, 2017
in response to Rowland :

Do a FamilyFinder DNA test with. You will see if you have Jewish cousins. Email me if you want more suggestions. Reply

Andi Ziegelman Haifa August 1, 2017
in response to Rowland :

Rowland, you can find out if you have Jewish ancestors by doing DNA tests. The first to do is the FamilyFinder DNA test at the FamilyTreeDNA company. This shows connections from about the last 250 years. If you want more information and are a man, you can do a Y DNA test that shows your male line to back in time. If you want still more information, you can do a Mitochondrial (Mt) DNA test which shows you the ancestors of your mother. You can see signs of Jewish ancestry via the surnames of your matches on these tests, and you can email any of your matches, and ask whatever you want. People who feel Jewish often have Jewish ancestors. Read on AISH the story of Esther Margaretten about this topic. Reply

arthur yanoff May 17, 2017

the rabbis tell potential converts that it is not easy to be a yid, that to convert one has to feel that his or her neshumah is that of a yid. by birth those of us who are yids ,who come from a long line of yids, have a deep connection to klal yisroel. a convert,especially one with no traceable jews in his or her ancestry has to accept a different reality,however once he or she does convert according to halacah he or she is now an integral part of the jewish people. Reply

Jacob Trenton May 19, 2017
in response to arthur yanoff:

Not only is the convert now a Jew--the convert has always had a Jewish soul. S/he just needed to activate it.

So if you "feel Jewish"--go for it. Activate your Jewish soul.

And if you don't feel Jewish, it's OK. You still have a portion in the world to come. You don't have to be perfect. You only need to be decent.

You may or may not want to check out the Seven Laws of Noah.

Suit yourself. Just know that you are OK without being Jewish.

Wishing you everything good. May all the wishes of your heart be realized in a way that benefits you and the world. Reply

Anonymous May 17, 2017

You forgot to mention the idea of having a Jewish Neshama (soul). If a person has a Jewish soul born into a "goyishe" body, they will inevitably feel compelled to convert, and won't take no for an answer. Reply

Oona Iowa City, Iowa May 16, 2017

Poetically reading, "To be frank, because this Freeman character considers the hyper-identity scheme to be a scam, a mass delusion and a social illness" by the writer, Mr. Freeman. Nonetheless, I love this article. Thank you. Shalom. Reply