What does a conversion to Judaism (Giyur) involve?
Conversion to Judaism involves significant changes to one’s life and lifestyle, and can only be justified by a sincere desire to embrace the people of Israel, their faith and practices. In its essence, Judaism affects every action a person undertakes during the course of the day from the moment he wakes up (Mode-ani) until the moment he lies in bed (Kriat Shema al Hamita). As Jews, we live in the presence of G-d and all our activities should be viewed with this perspective. The conversion to Judaism is likely to affect family relationships, this is important to know, as well as significantly alter one’s outlook on the world.
How long does a conversion to Judaism take?
The minimum time to convert to Judaism will be around one full year as the candidate will have to cover a full cycle of the Jewish calendar and its fests (Chagim), in which the conversion candidate will have to consistently study about the Jewish faith and practices. In most cases two years of preparation for a conversion to Judaism is strongly recommended, and if the Rabbinic court of conversion (Beit Din) finds it necessary, they will extend the process to a longer period of time and will follow closely the candidate’s commitment and advancement in his faith and practices. For some Jewish converts it has taken several years until the Rabbinical court of conversion gave their approval, nevertheless, if the Beit Din is convinced that there is a sincere intention behind the conversion, they will do their best to help the convert grow and strengthen his/her faith and reach a certain level of maturity upon his conversion.
Conversion to Judaism in Israel: An Orthodox Jewish conversion program in Israel has a duration of 10 months and includes 400-450 hours of studying. In addition to the 10 months you should expect some extra time for the application (if you are not Israeli Citizen). For more information about read my article about conversion to Judaism in Israel.
Can I learn and prepare independently for my conversion to Judaism?
In some cases you can prepare independently for the conversion to Judaism, it depends on the local rabbinical court of conversion as they might require the conversion candidate to undergo preparation with a local recognized Rabbi or a certified Jewish conversion preparation course. Not all Beit Dins have that restriction, and if you don’t have a Beit Din in your home country (find a list of countries with approved Best Dins below), you could study independently for your conversion to Judaism, however studying with a Rabbi will always be advised as-well. This does not exempt the necessity of integrating a local Jewish community and participating in their events.
In Israel, a person who wants to convert to Judaism will be requested to go through a full year preparation course with one of the recognized organizations.
Do I need to join a local Jewish community? What if there is no Jewish community near me?
An important part of the Jewish life is community based. The ability to socialize with other Jewish families, walk to synagogue (Beit Knesset) on Shabbat and Jewish High Holidays (Yom Tov) and take part in community activities, Simhas (celebrations e.g Bar Mitzvas, weddings and Brit Mila) and learning, is essential for any Jew. Living by the Torah and keeping Jewish traditions as a community strengthens its members in many ways, and is often practical to all.
For a conversion candidate, a good, active community can really have a positive impact on the conversion process to Judaism and is likely to help to adapt and live a Jewish life with a deeper understanding of the Jewish approach not only to the individual, but to a community as a whole. A candidate’s involvement in a local Jewish community demonstrates strong commitment to the process and will have serious weight when standing in the Beit Din.
Jewish conversion candidates who don’t have a standard Orthodox community next to them need to have an ongoing reasonable access to the institutions of Orthodox life (Synagogue, Mikveh, Jewish schools, etc.) and live within walking distance to an Orthodox Shabbat Minyan that meets on a regular basis on Shabbat and Yom Tov, as one can’t learn and absorb Judaism and Torah living at a distance. Jewish observance must be experienced on a daily basis.
What are the first steps to convert to Judaism?
One of the first steps to convert to Judaism is learning more about living as a Jew, and ask yourself 1000 times if this is really what you want, and more importantly, WHY? You can live a happy and spiritual life as a non-Jew by simply observing the " Seven Mitzvot Bnei Noah", the seven commandments that were also given to non-Jews.
If you insist of going the extra mile, you need to understand that converting to Judaism comes with a great deal of responsibilities and a heavy weight of duties which is in itself the ultimate privilege to be able to fulfill them, but at the same time, can be very-to-extremely hard to commit to on the long run. The conversion process to Judaism is not a simple task, it requires a 100% dedication and can often be very long (several years in some cases). After the completion of a conversion to Judaism, there is no turning back, you cannot resign, cancel the membership or anything of that sort meaning that if at some point you go back to old habits and break loose from Jewish practices, there will be consequences. So again, before making a decision be sure to consider all the aspects necessary and remember that you don’t need to be Jewish to have a good life and to serve God. Matter of fact, Jewish people complain more about everything then anyone else :)
Still want to be Jewish? You will have to look up the closest Orthodox Beit Din L’giyur (rabbinical court for conversion) which has to be recognized by the main rabbinical authority in Israel and by the State of Israel (Find a list of the few counties that have their own recognized Best Din below). Contact the Bet Din and communicate your intention to convert to Judaism. If there is no Beit Din in your country, contact us for help!
Find out your local Bet Din's requirements for a conversion to Judaism in your country. If you haven't done it yet, look up the closest Orthodox Jewish community to you and get in contact with the office or the Rabbi. Arrange a meeting with the Rabbi in order to tell your story and to communicate your wish to convert and contact one of the Rabbis of the community, tell him your story, ask about lessons and prayers as will have to start attending these on a regular basis. Note that all of the above won’t be easy, unlike other religions, in Judaism there is no interest in converting as many people as possible, there are no Jewish missionaries.
Having a hard time to start the process? Feel free to contact us for more help.
How can I convert to Judaism in Israel?
The official conversion to Judaism in Israel goes through the Orthodox Rabbinate of the state Israel. This is the highest accepted conversion in Israel. While Israeli residents have an easier registration process, non-residents who wish to do their conversion to Judaism in Israel have to go through a complex acceptance process through a exception committee, called the Vaadat Charigim. If you are Israeli citizen, you can start your conversion to Judaism without complicated bureaucracy simply by joining one of the official conversion organizations (contact us for a list). If you are not an Israeli citizen you should read my full article on “How to convert to Judaism in Israel as a non-citizen”.
What is the advantage of converting to Judaism in Israel?
I decided to do my Orthodox conversion to Judaism in Israel, instead of my home country Germany. For me converting in a non-Jewish state was not an option because my wish to be surrounded by Jewish life every single day was highest priority. I didn’t want to have only one Jewish day a week. I wanted to be part of the Jewish-Israeli nation as soon as possible. I wanted to be able to be in Jerusalem, the Holy city whenever I feel like and I wanted to be able to say Shabbat Shalom to every single person on Friday afternoon.
When you live and convert to Judaism outside of Israel, you will constantly have to balance between a non-Jewish workplace and non-Jewish friendships and non-Jewish lifestyles and your new Jewish life. Shabbat can feel boring and it can be challenging to find kosher food. You won't be confronted by these challenges if you decide to convert to Judaism in Israel.
Read my article about why I decided to convert to Judaism in Israel here. If converting to Judaism in Israel is an option for you, please be brave and do it. It’s worth it! We are here to support you!
Are my emotional reasons to convert to Judaism valid or will a Rabbi not take me serious when I tell him that I feel my soul is Jewish?
Yes and no. It depends what are your emotional reasons, and you will need to be able to explain these “emotional reasons” with words. So, besides the gut feeling you have and this uncontrollable need of becoming a Jew, try to explain in simplified words WHY and make sure its coherent.
From my experience, the emotional reasons are definitely valid, as long as they come accompanied by rational reasons, effort and determination.
Reform/Conservative/Orthodox conversion to Judaism and why?
Judaism is not a religion where someone who wants to convert to Judaism is supposed to chose a „Jewish denomination“ out of one of those three. Orthodox Judaism is the observance of the Torah, that God gave the Jewish people thousands of years ago. Since that moment Jews have been living the same Halacha, Jewish law, and preserved Jewish traditions over thousands of years until today. That’s why Judaism survived until this time.
Some time ago some groups started to reject and change the old traditions and laws and call themselves Reform and Conservative „Judaism“. The concept of changing Judaism is very critically seen by observant Jews. Jews who were born into Reform and Conservative Judaism, are and stay Jewish because being Jewish doesn’t depend on how you practice Judaism. But a conversion into one of those „denominations“ is not a valid conversion and a conversion candidate will not be considered Jewish, except for by the ones who converted you. Your children will not be Jewish and you will not be able to have a Jewish wedding after a Reform or Conservative conversion. You have to understand that a conversion into one of those groups, is not a conversion to Judaism.
I understand that most non-Orthodox communities are more welcoming to conversion candidates and by that they make it easier to join their community and to start a „conversion“. That should not be a reason for you to take the easy path, but instead to keep fighting for the acceptance into the Orthodox Jewish community because once you are accepted by them and completed the Orthodox conversion to Judaism, you will have gone the way a „Ger Tzedek“, an sincere Jewish convert is supposed to go.
I have heard the argument from conversion candidates to reject the Orthodox path because of their support for the LGBT community. In this matter I still want to encourage you to find answers for this topic in the God given Torah, instead of in a human made group. The fact that you question one single Mitzvah, still means that you support 612 of Gods Mitzvot! 612 reasons to go Orthodox against 1!
Should I start a reform conversion first and then later an Orthodox conversion to Judaism?
Absolutely not! Reform and Orthodox conversions are not combinable and not based on each other. They are two completely different ways of living, of conceiving and accepting Judaism. Different values, different opinions and different sources of truth. If you want to learn the Judaism that has been lived since the giving of the Torah, you should learn the one and only Jewish way to live from the beginning of your journey without shortcuts.
Are Jews accepting of Jewish converts or will they reject me?
Observant Jews who have true faith and know the Torah, will and should accept an honest Jewish convert with the utmost respect. The Torah mentions the commandment to love the Jewish converts seven times, which makes it one of the most mentioned Mitzvot. At the beginning some community members might be careful in order to check your sincere intentions to convert to Judaism, but as soon as you show effort and determination in your process, you will be respected and supported.
During the two years of my conversion I have experienced lots of appreciation and pride from Jews for my conversion, from religious and non-religious Jews alike. After the completion of the conversion process, you will be a Jew just like every born Jew.
Which countries have their own recognized Bet Din?
Austria, Australia, (Belgium), Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, USA.