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10 Steps to Take to Convert to Judaism for Marriage
You're considering the possibility of converting to Judaism. In many cases, this is because of a desire to be married to someone who is of the Jewish faith. However, there are many highly personal reasons to consider converting to Judaism. It's a very serious move to make for your life so it's something that should be thought out carefully. Here are ten steps to take to go through the process of converting to Judaism.
- Go through a process of considering the ramifications and implications of this decision. Take some time to yourself to really think about your reasons for seeking to convert to the Jewish faith. This is something that you shouldn't just decide on a whim but that you should really take the time to meditate upon to make sure that you're choosing this path in life for reasons that ring true in your heart.
- Discuss this religious conversion with the people who are important to you. If you are converting for reasons of marriage, you'll probably have already discussed the issue with your future spouse to at least some extent. You should have more in-depth conversations about what this move means. You should also consider speaking with your family and others who are close to you. Telling others that you are planning to convert to Judaism helps move the process from an idea to a reality. Be aware that this may not be easy since people have strong feelings about religion in their families; parents may especially have concerns about an adult child converting to Judaism.
- Do your research. Once you've decided that you're going to convert to Judaism, you need to do a little bit of research into the type of Judaism that will make sense for your life. There are four basic types of Judaism: Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and Reform. Learn more about each of them and consider the differences between them. Decide which one is right for you. This is something your spouse can assist with if you are converting for reasons of marriage.
- Find a Rabbi. After you've chosen the type of Judaism that you're interested in converting to, you are ready to find a Rabbi to assist you with the process. When you first find this Rabbi, you should take the time to ask a lot of questions about the process of conversion and about the Jewish faith in general. This is the time to get more information and the right person to get it from. Choosing a Rabbi is something that can be done in a number of ways. If you're converting for marriage, ask your future spouse about his or her rabbi. Alternatively, seek recommendations from Jewish friends and associates or start looking into Jewish religious organizations in your area.
- Immerse yourself in Jewish studies. In the time leading up to the actual conversion, you will be engaging in studies of the Jewish faith. This is when you learn what it means to be Jewish and how to practice Judaism. There are different methods of doing this, the most common of which is to study directly with a Rabbi or religious group. The process takes anywhere from six months to one year although it can be sped up or extended to meet the needs of the individual who is converting. People who are converting for marriage often time their studies to end with conversion followed shortly by the marriage.
- Pass the test. Many people are very afraid of this part of the process of conversion but anyone who has engaged in Jewish studies shouldn't have anything to worry about. Basically, you go up in front of a panel of three religious people in the community and answer a series of questions related to the Jewish faith. The purpose here is to make sure that you are serious about converting to Judaism and that you know what you're getting in to. Once you have passed this test, you are ready to go forward with formal conversion to Judaism.
- Bathing in the Mikveh. This is a part of the conversion that's equivalent in some ways to Baptism in the Catholic faith. The Mikveh is a ritual bath that people participate in in front of witnesses to the conversion. This is part of the religious ceremony that confirms that private conversion to Judaism.
- Symbolic Acts. There are many symbolic acts that may be a part of the ceremony when converting to Judaism. For example, males who are converted and who are already circumcised may need to go through a symbolic circumcision as a sign of their conversion. (Uncircumcised males may need to go through an actual circumcision.) Likewise, there may be symbolic offerings to the Jewish faith in the form of monetary donations or acts of charity.
- Selection of a Hebrew name. One of the final acts of converting to Judaism is the choosing of a Hebrew name. Your rabbi and religious studies groups can assist you in understanding what is involved in the selection of an appropriate name for converting to Judaism. The selection is typically done in front of witnesses during a time when you sign an oath committing to the Jewish people.
- Have a party! Most people opt to finalize their conversion to Judaism with a celebration so that their friends and family can welcome them into the world as this new Jewish person. In some cases, this is just the marriage ceremony in which the person converting for marriage engaged in a Jewish wedding in front of friends and family. In other cases, it is a separate ceremony, party or other public ritual that allows the person to confirm the new Jewish faith in front of the people they love. This isn't a requirement of conversion to Judaism, of course, but it's a common way to effectively seal the deal and make the conversion complete in terms of the person's every day real life.
Converting to Judaism isn't something that's particularly difficult but it's something that requires a lot of careful thought and the willingness to go through a process to prove your commitment to the new faith.
- Conservative Rabbi - How to Convert to Judaism
Conservative Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner describes how to convert to Judaism.