13-happy-loving-couple-huggingAt Congregation Shearith Israel, we welcome prospective converts with open arms and open hearts. Conversion, the creation of a new Jewish soul, is a sacred endeavor and we take the responsibility to educate, support, and prepare candidates for life as Conservative Jews very seriously.

From the moment potential converts contact our synagogue, they are guided through the process by one of our rabbis. After an initial meeting, if both the candidate and the rabbi decide that our community would be a fitting Jewish home for the potential convert and their family, the rabbi designs a unique path forward for each individual. This means that no two journeys to conversion are the same.

In all cases, however, potential candidates for conversion at Shearith Israel:

Study. Talmud Torah, the study of Torah is one of the most important mitzvot, or commandments, in the Jewish tradition. Most candidates for conversion take Embracing Judaism, a 25-week class that begins in October, taught by our rabbis. The class covers essential aspects of Jewish practice, history, culture, Israel and peoplehood. Though not all members of the class are in the process of conversion, the community created in the classroom is one of support and mutual respect and often plays a key role in helping candidates build connection with our synagogue. Those who have already completed a similar course of study should speak with a rabbi about an individual program of study.

Integrate Jewish Identity into their Lives. The essential work of conversion is creating an authentic Jewish soul. As Jewish identity becomes more present in the life of an individual, one learns to see time, space, relationships, community, and God through the sacred lens of our tradition. This can often be a rigorous and challenging but ultimately rewarding and powerful journey–one that will be facilitated by the caring support of one of our rabbis. Consistent with our values as Conservative Jews, we expect candidates to: develop a Shabbat practice, incorporate aspects of prayer and kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws) into their daily lives, commit themselves to a life of learning and gemilut chasidim (acts of loving-kindness), and build a strong relationship with the state of Israel. Candidates meet with a rabbi on a monthly basis to discuss their progress, receive encouragement, share resources, and discuss how Jewish identity affects family life, work, and other life circumstances.

Fulfill the Ritual Requirements of Conversion. Those ready for conversion meet with a beit din, a panel of three rabbis, who must affirm that the candidate has successful fulfilled the requirements above. Male converts must undergo brit milah, ritual circumcision, or, if they are already circumcised, hatafat dam brit, a very minor procedure to “sanctify” their previous circumcision for the sake of conversion. Both male and female converts then immerse in a mikvah, a ritual bath, as the final step in the process.

Couple in Love Sitting on the Bench

To inquire about conversion at Shearith Israel, please contact us at (214) 361-6606.