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April 25, 2006 eNewsletter


The Conversion Controversy

If you've converted to Judaism or are in the process--or your partner has converted or is considering it--you know that the decision to convert is a momentous one, and the process is not simple or easy. The last thing you want to hear is that Jewish leaders are saying that converting isn't good enough. But that's exactly what some are doing . Moreover, non-Jewish spouses in Reform synagogues may be feeling pressure to convert due to a new initiative announced by the head of the Reform movement at last November's biennial Reform convention. Now, even the Orthodox are reviewing their stance on conversion of non-Jewish partners in interfaith relationships. In light of all this, we thought we should publish an issue on conversion and, as importantly, share's stance on the issue.

To read our editorial on the conversion controversy, see Enough is Enough .

 Web Magazine

April 25, 2006

Dear friend,

In this issue we share a wide variety of perspectives on conversion, from spouses who have converted, to rabbis who have sponsored converts, to Jewish leaders who think it's the "answer" to intermarriage.

In I Am a Jew , Ellen Bernstein shares what it's like for her now that she's converted: "It means forgetting to breathe as I look with awe at the wonder and beauty of God's creations."

But conversion isn't always as magical a transformation. Now that Bonni Goldberg's husband is Jewish, she's struggling with not being the only Jew in the house--and wonders why her husband doesn't know when to put on a yarmulke. SeeTrue Confessions from a Convert's Wife .

Meanwhile, Gina Hagler has converted but is wary of the Reform movement's new initiative to invite non-Jewish spouses to become Jewish. "I know that if I had encountered anything that seemed to be an expectation or agenda for me to convert, I would have curtailed my participation long before I reached my decision to convert," she says. Read more in A Jew-by-Choice's Thoughts on the Reform Movement's Initiative to Invite Conversion, Plus Interviews with Others .

And for Gail Michaels, coming to Judaism meant abandoning her family's long heritage in the Catholic church--and finding a new spiritually rewarding heritage in the synagogue, in Elaine Markowitz's The Turning Point .

Also in this issue:

In A Service of Welcoming and Inclusion: Welcoming a Jew-by-Choice without Alienating Non-Jews , Rabbi Lev Baesh shares the story of "Simcha," a born Catholic whose Muslim Sufi guide told her to stick with the Torah.

In The Hour: Opening a Door to Secular Judaism , Leonard Fein wonders why there isn't a way for non-Jews to join the Jewish people but not the religion. There is, says Miriam Jerris of the Secular Humanistic Jewish movement, in Opening Our Gates and Arms: Adopting Judaism, Adopting Jews . It's called "adoption," not "conversion," and it's more about identification and study than it is about religious observance.

All converts are not created equal, says the author and sponsors of a new study on conversion. Read Rachel Silverman's New Study Raises Key Question: How to Promote Activist Converts?

Even the Orthodox are starting to reconsider their attitudes on conversion, according to Larry Luxner's Open Orthodox Conversion to Intermarried Couples, Urges Group .

On our discussion board , we ask, "If you want to have Jewish kids, does your partner have to convert?" We'd like to know what you think.


In our March 14 issue we reprinted an essay by our publisher from the New Jersey Jewish News , and his follow-up letter to the editor concerning the views of sociologist Steven M. Cohen. In this issue, we reprint Professor Cohen's response. See Letter to the Editor of New Jersey Jewish News, Responding to Edmund Case .


I'd also like to take this moment to introduce myself and say how excited I am to be working with I'm the new online managing editor, and Ronnie Friedland and I will work closely together to produce the most interesting, illuminating Web Magazine we can offer.

Please come back for our next issue on May 9, on interfaith families and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Warm regards,

Micah Sachs, Online Managing Editor

Write for us! Topics: Handling Negative Comments and Outreach Success Stories

We're looking for writers on two topics:

1) How do you handle it when your kids hear negative things about intermarriage? What do you do when you hear negative things about intermarriage?

2) Are you an outreach success story? Do you know one? Do you know of a person working in interfaith outreach who has made a difference?

If you would like to write for us, please email

Connections In Your Area--Featured Organization  

The URJ (Reform movement) – Northeast Region’s programs for interfaith couples are designed to strengthen understanding and communication about issues that are common to many interfaith relationships, such as raising children in an interfaith family, celebrating family holidays, and staying close to both of your extended families. These groups are very supportive to both partners in an interfaith relationship and offer an opportunity to meet other interfaith couples and learn how they face these important, yet complex, issues.

View Events, including the upcoming "Reclaiming Mikveh"  conference June 4-6.


Network News

Welcome Our New Community Connections Coordinator!

We're pleased to expand our "connecting" capabilities with Amy Rovin, our new Community Connections Coordinator. Amy will help organizations get themselves and their programs listed on our Connections In Your Area system, and will help individuals connect to them. Visit Who We Are/Staff to learn more about her.

PAC News

The audio replay of our third quarterly Professionals Advisory Circle conference call, featuring a presentation by Rabbi Sam Gordon on synagogues welcoming interfaith families, is now available. To listen, visit Professionals Advisory Circle .

Appearances/Events is a national partner and will participate in a "Meet the Author" session at the "Reclaiming Mikveh" conference in Boston June 4-6. For more information, click here .

Ways You Can Get Involved

Support Us.  If what we do helps you or others you care about, please make a tax-deductible charitable contribution in support of our work.


Join Our Discussions.  We want to know what you think--and it's easy to tell us!

Spread the Word.  Ask your friends to subscribe to The eConnection --the more people we reach, the better!




Plural form of the Hebrew word "mitzvah" which means "commandment," it has two meanings. The first are the commandments given in the Torah. ("You should obey the mitzvah of honoring your parents!") The second is a good deed. ("Helping her carry her groceries home was such a mitzvah!") Yiddish for "skullcap," also known in Hebrew as a "kippah," the small, circular headcovering worn by male Jews in most synagogues, and female Jews in more liberal congregations. Traditional Jews were kippot (plural of kippah) all the time. Hebrew for "gladness" or "joy," it is often used to refer to a festive occasion or celebration, like a wedding, bat mitzvah, or bris. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.
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