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Orthodox Conversion

Return to A Resource Guide to Jewish Conversion.

As a general rule, conversions on the right of the Jewish spectrum are accepted by Jews on the left, and Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews have all accepted Orthodox conversions. Right now, seeking an Orthodox conversion is a tricky proposition, as political and ideological rifts between Modern Orthodox and Haredi or Ultra-Orthodox Jews grow wider. Several mainstream Orthodox rabbis have decided to stop guiding conversions because of the relatively recent possibility that the Israeli rabbinate will declare their conversions invalid. An Orthodox organization called the Rabbinical Council of America has been working in cooperation with the Israeli rabbinate to regularize conversion procedures. You can find their statement of principles and standards online.

You have found an Orthodox community that feels deeply authentic and a rabbi of learning and integrity who is willing to perform a conversion. This feels like the Jewish life that is really you. What can you expect from the process of conversion? Your rabbinic authority will guide you through a process of learning about Judaism. If you don't live in the Jewish community, he may ask you to move to a place where you can walk to synagogue on Shabbat, obtain kosher food and participate in an Orthodox synagogue. The idea is to set you up for success in Jewish practice.

One issue you may encounter particular to Orthodox conversion is that your beit din will ask difficult questions about hashkafah, orientation. As a convert, you may find that you are expected to be more stringent than other people in your community. This is the current paradox of Orthodox conversion--it isn't always possible to convert to fit into your own community.

Introductory Reading

I found a reading list on Halachicconversion.org, and it's a lot more comprehensive than the shorter, introductory lists other movements have published to the web. Several of the books on the list must be approached with a guide or teacher. For example, you aren't going to be able to tackle The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in the early phases of learning about Judaism--there is just too much assumed knowledge you'll have to pick up to be able to understand it. (With a good teacher you will be studying like a pro.)

If you are still in the process looking for a teacher, you might want to start with some of the more introductory books from this list, like:

The Orthodox Road to Conversion by Rabbi Marc Angel (Ktav)

A Complete Idiot's Guide to Judaism by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

To Be a Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin

The Jew and His Home by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov

Becoming a Jew by Rabbi Maurice Lamm

The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage by Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Jewish Conversion: Its Meaning & Laws By Rabbi Yoel Schwartz

Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology edited by Rivkah Slonim

Hebrew for "Set Table," also known as the Code of Jewish Law, it is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism, authored by Rabbi Yosef Karo in 1563. Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Rabbinic court involved in matters of Jewish law, including conversion and traditional divorce procedures. The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws. Hebrew for "collection," referring to the "collection of water," is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. Today it is used as part of the traditional procedure for converting to Judaism, by Jews who follow the laws of ritual (body) purity, and sometimes for making kitchen utensils kosher.
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