At Beth El synagogue, the formal process of converting to Judaism begins with the Introduction to Judaism class. Beth El’s Introduction to Judaism course is run jointly with two other Minneapolis Conservative synagogues- Adath Jeshurun and Sharei Chesed. The program is a nine month course of study that introduces participants to central Jewish beliefs, practices and texts as well as to the history of the Jewish people. Meeting weekly on Tuesday nights, the class also incorporates Hebrew study into the curriculum.
The following is a brief outline of expectations for those considering converting.
Requirements for Those Who Choose to Convert to Judaism:
- Accept the core beliefs and principles of Judaism.
- Kabbalat ‘Ol Ha-mitzvot (acceptance of the yoke of the commandments)
One must demonstrate an integration of Jewish knowledge and practice including, but not limited to:
- A commitment to Jewish education for you and your family
- The celebration and observance of Shabbat & Holidays
- Kashrut and sharing your bread with those in need
- Establishing a regular prayer practice
- Visiting the sick, giving tzedaka and performing other acts of chesed (loving-kindness)
- Supporting the State of Israel
- Tikkun Olam (repairing the world)
- Be able to read Hebrew and master basic Hebrew vocabulary
- Fluency with a number of central tefilot (prayers)
- Integrate into the synagogue community and the general Jewish community.
- Renounce previous religious commitment and set boundaries regarding participation in non-Jewish religious celebrations.
Final Ritual Steps for Conversion to Judaism:
- Meet with beit din (rabbinical court) convened by sponsoring rabbi.
- T’vilah (ritual immersion) in a mikvah—men and women.
- B’rit milah (ritual circumcision)—men.
Converting to Judaism is an extraordinary journey- a process of study, experimentation, growth, and self-discovery unlike virtually any other experience. Choosing Judaism means taking yourself outside the mainstream of American culture and into a parallel universe, where time moves according to ancient cyclical rhythm, where familiar words have different meanings, where spirituality infuses daily life through blessings for every occasion.
— Anita Diamant, “Choosing a Jewish Life”
People choose to become Jewish for a variety of reasons. Some come to Judaism after a long spiritual search on their own. These Jews-by-Choice see in Judaism sensible religious beliefs that add meaning and beauty to their lives. They recognize that Judaism has brought wisdom and blessings to the world. Among the core values they appreciate in Judaism are the following:
- Judaism introduced the world to the idea that God is one, not many. In Judaism you pray directly to that God as an individual or as part of a Jewish congregation. As a Jew you are part of a covenant, a partnership between God and the Jewish people.
- Judaism does not accept the idea that people are born evil. Instead, people have the free-will and the responsibility to choose right over wrong.
- Judaism encourages religious freedom of thought. It welcomes probing spiritual questions.
- Judaism, has for 4000 years, emphasized a strong sense of family and the value of a close community.
Many people who convert to Judaism have their interest sparked during a romantic relationship with someone Jewish. In addition to the valuing the core beliefs (listed above), these Jews-by-choice seek to share the faith of their partner, to unite the family around one religious tradition and recognize the advantages of raising children in one faith system.
The process of converting involves study and introspection. But more than remembering specific facts or accepting a set of beliefs is necessary. Judaism is meant to be lived day by day. Jewish values and beliefs are to be lived out through the performance of mitzvot (sacred deeds). By experimenting with Jewish rituals, attending Jewish ceremonies and regularly attending synagogue services, “candidates” for conversion can integrate Jewish practices into their lives begin to integrate themselves into a living Jewish community.
— Rabbi Davis
For more information about conversion, the Introduction to Judaism class or to learn more about Jewish belief and practice, check out books in the Beth El Learning Center or contact one of our rabbis or cantor.