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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q18.4.2 TOC Q18.4.4 >

Question 18.4.3:
Fallacy: Reform Conversions take no study, and are for convenience only

Answer:

Reform Judaism welcomes all sincere converts without regard to racial or national origin or to their former religious faith. In Reform Judaism, it is sufficient for the prospective convert (ger) to declare, orally and in writing, in the presence of a rabbi and no less than two lay leaders of the congregation and community, acceptance of the Jewish faith and the intention to live in accordance with its mitzvot. This declaration takes place after a preparatory period of study. The length of the period of preparation is determined by the rabbi, taking into consideration the time needed by the candidate for conversion to obtain the necessary understanding and appreciation of Judaism in order to make a free-will decision with respect to his/her acceptance of the Jewish faith and identification with the Jewish people.

Reform recommends that the period of study be reinforced by requiring and assisting the prospective convert's active participation in the various celebrations, observances, and worship services of Judaism and the Jewish people. It recommends that regular attendance at synagogue worship, as well as evidence of concern for Jewish values and causes in the home and community, should be required. The intent of this is to enable the rabbi and his/her associates to satisfy themselves not only that the candidate has a sufficient knowledge of Judaism, but of even greater importance, that the candidate is a person of sincere and responsible character, who is genuinely desirous of making a wholehearted commitment to synagogue affiliation and to the Jewish faith and people.

Note that the above items (study, attendance at services) are only recommendations. While the authors of the Reform teshuva affirm that such items should theoretically be considered a necessity, this is not necessary in practice if one claims to already have been living a Jewish life. The Reform rabbinate may presume that if such a claim is made, then the person doesn't need such a course.

Reform does not require male converts to undergo b'rit milah (circumcision) or hatafat dam b'rit (the drawing of blood); nor does it require converts to have tevilah (ritual immersion). However, it recognizes that there are social, psychological, and religious values associated with these rituals, and it recommends that the rabbi acquaint prospective gerim with the halachic background and rationale for b'rit milah, hatafat dam b'rit, and tevilah, and offer them the opportunity, if they so desire, to observe these additional rites. In the UK, the ULPS requires circumcision for male converts, but does accept a pre-existing medical circumcision.

Reform does not require kabbalaot al mitvot (accepting Jewish law as normative), especially as "Jewish law" is interpreted by the traditional communities. Reform does require an understanding of the ten commandments, the ethical mitvot, and a general understanding of other Jewish religious obligations.

Note that, outside of the US, procedures may be even stricter. For example, in Vancouver CANADA, students study for a year before being considered for conversion. Converts undergo the mikvah, in the presence of three (3) rabbis. Men are required to to be circumsized, and are also required to undergo the ritual circumcision (letting of the blood).


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.


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