Conservative Conversion

By InterfaithFamily

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Return to A Resource Guide to Jewish Conversion.

Until quite recently, it was the policy of the Conservative movement to encourage the non-Jewish partner in an interfaith couple to convert. This policy has been tempered by more recent discussions of being more accepting of interfaith couples as synagogue and community members. Nevertheless, the former policy is an advantage to people who are interested in conversion. Several Conservative communities have created Conversion Institutes, which provide systematic study for prospective Jews by choice and a standing rabbinical court, or beit din. Talk to the rabbi at your Conservative synagogue for more information about what resources are available to you.

The Conservative movement is a halachic movement, like traditional or Orthodox Judaism–it follows Jewish legal precedent set in the Talmud and rabbinic codes. It is also a reform movement—one that takes a reformist position toward Jewish law. To remain cohesive as a movement, a Committee on Law and Standards makes decisions on Jewish law that define which positions are acceptable for Conservative rabbis. Within these positions, Conservative rabbis make their own decisions. This bears on conversions. It means that like rabbis in other movements, individual Conservative rabbis performing conversions have lattitude on certain decisions.

Conservative conversions must have circumcision or hatafat dam brit (the shedding of a drop of covenantal blood) and ritual immersion in a mikveh. You will find differences between Conservative rabbis on other issues, like who can serve on the rabbinical court for the conversion, and what kinds of questions the court will ask before approving the conversion.

Introductory Reading

The Conservative movement rabbinical organization has an introductory reading list for people interested in conversion on the Rabbinical Assembly website. I see that the titles include some that are also on the Orthodox list and at least one that is published by the Reform movement press. You should consider only the beginning, since there are additional texts you’ll read as part of an introductory course at a conversion institute or with an individual rabbi.

The Book of Jewish Belief, by Louis Jacobs (Behrman House, 1984).

The Book of Jewish Practice, by Louis Jacobs (Behrman House, 1987).

Embracing Judaism, by Simcha Kling, revised by Carl M. Perkins (Rabbinical Assembly, 1999).

Choosing Judaism, by Lydia Kukoff (UAHC Press, 1981).

Becoming a Jew, by Maurice Lamm (Jonathan David, 1991).

Your People, My People: Finding Acceptance and Fulfillment as a Jew by Choice, by Lena Romanoff with Lisa Hostein (Jewish Publication Society, 1990).





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About InterfaithFamily

InterfaithFamily is the premier resource supporting interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our new InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative providing coordinated comprehensive offerings in local communities. If you have suggestions, please contact network at interfaithfamily dot com.