Marrying Into a Jewish Family? 9 Things to Know About Converting to Judaism
When it comes to Judaism, there’s much diversity within the world, but even with all the diversity, there are still millions of Jews even here in the United States.
Thinking about converting to any type of religion needs some time and consideration. It’s not a choice you wake up one morning and decide to pursue! This is especially true if you’re marrying into a Jewish family.
Converting to Judaism is not an overnight process. Find out how to convert to Judaism and what that entails below before your marriage ceremony.
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Converting to Judaism: 9 Steps
Are you ready to learn about Jewish conversion? Here are 9 things that are important to know about converting to Judaism.
1. Studying And Time
Converting to Judaism means first studying its culture, religion, and history. You’ll learn the Torah, Jewish law, and probably some Hebrew. Some people do this with a class – either online or in-person – at synagogues or other Jewish locations.
You’ll likely have the opportunity to speak to a rabbi about your sincerity in becoming Jewish. A rabbi is a Jewish teacher. They will ask you questions about your reasoning and desire to become Jewish and determine whether or not you are ready.
You might be asked certain questions like:
- Do you have any experience with Judaism?
- Why do you want to convert to Judaism?
- Will you raise your family in the Jewish face?
- Are you ready to put in the work it takes to learn about Judaism?
It’s important to remember that studying for Judaism takes time, sometimes even a year or two. Once you have the approval of a rabbi, then you can begin your studies.
While you are studying, you might notice differences in the Jewish faith or the people who practice. This is great! There’s much diversity in Judaism and it is to be celebrated.
Many people are Jewish who live out their Judaism in lots of different ways. Learning from Jews from all walks of life is encouraged, both in liberal and conservative circles.
For male Jewish converts, circumcision is part of the Jewish culture. This was and is an ancient sign of the covenant of Israel with God and Judaism.
If the male is already circumcised, the rabbi will speak to you about a ritual known as hatafat dam brit. Hatafat dam brit is where a rabbi will take a drop of blood in place of circumcision. A mohel is someone who is trained in this ceremony and will do it for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about circumcision or hatafat dam brit, as they are both physical representations of your commitment to Judaism.
4. Ask Questions
Judaism has been around for centuries as such there is much material and learning to glean from. There will likely be times where you are confused or stuck on a concept.
Don’t worry! There are plenty of rabbis and even other Jews who would be happy and eager to answer your questions.
5. Come With Sincerity
One of the main reasons rabbis want people to convert to Judaism is a genuine desire to live out the Jewish faith and belief in God and the Torah. The Jews take what they believe very seriously and want everyone who wants to commit to understanding why and what that means.
Even if you are simply coming because you want to marry someone Jewish (in which case you’ll need a ketubah text) most rabbis insist that you convert wholeheartedly for your own sake. Ancient tradition said that if someone wanted to become Jewish, the rabbi would turn them away three times to test their sincerity.
Today that’s very rare, but sincerity is still a desirable trait when it comes to converting to Judaism.
6. Choose A Hebrew Name
After your conversion, you might receive a new Hebrew name. The purpose of this Hebrew name is to identify with Judaism and symbolically says that you align with its beliefs and practices. It’s essentially taking on a new identity since a new convert is seen as a newborn.
However, receiving a Hebrew name is completely optional. What is not optional is parental identity. Jews believe that Abraham and Sarah are the founders of Judaism, and so the new convert will adopt Abraham and Sarah (based on gender) as their spiritual parents.
7. Beit Din
The Beit Din is a court of 3 people consisting of a rabbi and 2 other people that are knowledgable in Judaism conversion. Once you’ve completed your studying and preparation, you’ll appear before the Beit Din and they’ll ask you questions to determine if you’re ready for full conversion.
Don’t think of it as a test, but an evaluation to see what you have learned and how it’s impacted you.
A Mikveh is a holy Jewish bath in which you submerge yourself in water once you’re ready to begin your life as a Jew. It symbolizes rebirth into Judaism and the submersion itself is called tevillah. Once your tevillah is complete, you’re officially a Jew!
A conversion would not be complete with a full-on celebration! Some people choose a small celebration with family and rabbis, while others prefer a larger gathering. It’s completely up to you!
Are You Ready to Convert?
Converting to Judaism is a wonderful choice, even though it takes time and commitment. Judaism offers a beautiful worldview and family combined with a life-long love of learning more about Judaism and the world.
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