Movement suggestion for conversion?

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This topic has 1 voice, contains 2 replies, and was last updated by  Debbie B. 5 years ago.

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September 4, 2012 at 6:47 pm #7552



I have contacted both a Conservative rabbi and a Reform rabbi about my interest in conversion, and both have agreed to oversee my process should I decide to go one or the other. What I need now, I suppose, is a fresh outlook, since I keep talking about this with the same people. I would like to know: should I go Conservative or Reform for my conversion?

The Intro to Judaism course at the Conservative synagogue is much more thorough in the sense that it covers a lot more topics, and more in depth. (The Reform has 15 classes total; the Conservative has 35).

Would it be viewed upon negatively to do my conversion with the Conservative rabbi, but continue attending and seek membership with the Reform congregation after my conversion?

I feel more comfortable and, indeed, I connect better spiritually at the Reform synagogue. The two cannot really be compared since their styles and sizes are completely different. Nonetheless, I appreciate the sense of community, welcome and joy that I experience at the Reform. At the Conservative, those elements are there, although it’s more difficult to perceive them since the congregation itself is much larger, the services much more traditional and the building’s architecture much more grandiose. Both rabbis are wonderful.

I am an avid LGBT activist. I thrive off traditions (I have just begun exploring Shabbat, and love it!). I believe God exists, speaks to us and answers our prayers. And I believe that God is pushing me, every day more forcefully with an exponentially deepening passion for all things Judaism.

Given all of this, are there any suggestions as to where I should do my conversion? Thank you very much for your thoughts.

September 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm #7566


I’ll offer two general principles from my own experience: (1) (advice from the rabbi who ultimately supervised my conversion): Convert in the Jewish context in which you plan to live. If you definitely plan to live your Jewish life in a Reform context, it would make sense to convert in that context. But if you think you will be moving back and forth between Reform and Conservative contexts, then a Conservative conversion would be appropriate and might in fact be the better choice. (2) Keep your options for the future open. Reform synagogues accept Conservative conversions, but Conservative synagogues may or may not accept Reform conversions. In this case, the fact that you’re likely to learn more if you take the Conservative synagogue’s class also inclines me to think that that course might be a better option; you’ll never regret having been exposed to more information about Judaism, even if you ultimately decide that you prefer to worship in a Reform context.

Good luck!

November 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm #8729

Debbie B.

Re Darcy’s #2: A Reform conversion will be accepted by Conservative rabbis as long as it has all required elements of a traditional Jewish conversion: in particular, circumcision for men (or symbolic drawing of blood for those already circumcised) and immersion in a mikveh or kosher body of water. It is the latter that is most often missing from Reform conversions which causes them not to be recognized by Conservative rabbis. Because of this many Reform rabbis will advise people they work with for conversion to do the above even though it is not required by the Reform movement. Such was the case for my neighbor who did a Reform conversion and used the same mikveh that I did for my (Conservative) conversion. Note that a swimming pool or just any pool of water is not necessarily “kosher” for use as a mikveh.

Do not do a Conservative conversion just because you worry about it being recognized. You will want to develop a relationship with your sponsoring rabbi which you can continue after your conversion. However, I’m sure it would be fine for you to attend the Conservative conversion classes even if you study with a Reform rabbi—just ask the Reform rabbi.

I echo the first part of Darcy’s #1: an important consideration is the Jewish community that you want to be a part of. I would encourage you to attend more services of each and meet with each rabbi individually before you decide. The Conservative synagogue may be less accessible initially, but you may become more comfortable with it in time. I would also encourage you to consider studying with the rabbi that you feel most comfortable with. Conversion is a very personal experience, one that may require discussing intimate details and deep-seated feelings. Even though I had been a part of a Jewish community for over two decades before I formally converted, I felt vulnerable when I took the final steps to convert, perhaps due to irrational fears that I would be found “not worthy”. I was glad that my sponsoring rabbi was a person that I could totally trust.

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