Journey to Judaism
The journey process begins when a person considers the possibility of becoming Jewish. The reasons why people become Jewish are varied. Many are involved in a romantic relationship with someone Jewish and wish to unite the family religiously. Others are on a spiritual search and learn about Judaism through such means as reading, hearing a lecture, attending a Jewish religious ceremony, and so on.
CHOOSING THE RABBIS, Rabbi Michael Raab – Rabbi Robert Silverman – Rabbi Stephen Spiegel
FOR YOUR JOURNEY TO JUDAISM
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If, after the initial consideration, a person wishes to explore conversion more fully, the next step is to find a rabbi. This part of the process can be difficult for several reasons. In general, though, rabbis are extremely dedicated people who are both intelligent and religiously sensitive. Rabbi Robert Silverman, Rabbi Michael Raab and Rabbi Stephen Spiegel are experienced in all aspects of the conversion process. They are three of Judaism’s gatekeepers.
When a person speaks with them, they can authoritatively answer questions about conversion. If the person has already decided to convert, the rabbi will ask a series of questions about that decision.
A decision has been made to study Judaism, and a rabbi has agreed to oversee that studying. A person might not yet be fully sure that a conversion is right, but the initial steps of exploration will continue. A typical course of study will include basic Jewish beliefs and religious practices, such as prayer services, the history of the Jewish people, the Jewish home, the Jewish holidays and life cycle, the Holocaust, and Israel, as well as other topics. The study of Hebrew is also included.
The period of study varies greatly. In general, the range is from six months to a year, although there are variations.
Usually during this study period, a rabbi will ask that the person begin practicing Judaism according to the understanding of the movement. This can be a worthwhile time to explore Judaism.
THE RELIGIOUS COURT
The Religious Court, or Bet Din, most often consists of three people, at least one of whom must be a rabbi. Often it consists of three rabbis. The Bet Din officially oversees the formal conversion. Individual rabbis will provide guidance about how the Bet Din works. Because it takes place after learning, one part of the appearance will be to determine the Jewish knowledge of the conversion candidate. There might, for example be a question about the meaning of the Jewish Sabbath or about the Jewish belief in one God. These questions are not meant to trap candidates. Obviously, candidates are nervous during such questioning, but in almost all cases the questions are simply meant to assess the sincerity of the candidate and to make sure the conversion was entered into freely.
Rabbis require both male and female conversion candidates to immerse themselves in a ritual bath called a mikveh. This ceremony is called tevilah. The mikveh can be any body of natural water such as a lake or ocean. The candidate wears a loose-fitting garment. Blessings are recited and the person goes and submerges into the water.
CHOOSING A NAME
You will be asked to pick a Hebrew name. Some male choose the Hebrew name Avraham as their new Hebrew first name and some female choose Sarah or Ruth. Since the use of Hebrew names includes mention of the parents’ Hebrew names, and you had no Jewish parents, it is common to add “ben Avraham Avinu,” or son of Abraham, our Father. Therefore if a male chooses the Hebrew name Avraham, that male’s full Hebrew name would be Avraham ben Avraham Avinu. For women, the addition is “bat Sarah Imenu,” daughter of Sarah, our Mother. The naming ceremony includes a blessing.