Conversion in Judaism

TITLE: Conversion in Judaism

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The news story “Judaism Must Embrace the Convert” written by Shmuly Yanklowitz was published on The New York Times on Nov. 23, 2014.

This article begins with the discussion about the arrest of an Orthodox rabbi in Washington. The rabbi was charged for setting up hidden cameras in his Synagogue in order to watch women when they were showering. The author believes that this instance has drawn attention to challenges that are faced by potential converts to Judaism.

One of the most important checks in Judaism is the Jewish conception of chosenness, which is the belief that Jews are chosen to be in a covenant with God. Being Jewish is not a genetic thing but instead it is a complex hierarchy of identity and choice by the individual.

It is argued that Judaism is a religion that is willing to welcome anyone but this seems to be quite the opposite of the reality. In Judaism the Israeli Chief rabbinate has the power to reject conversions that seems un-Orthodox.

A little while ago a new law was passed in Israel that gave the chief rabbinate the control over the approval of conversion certificates and this was suppose to make Jewish conversion easier. All this done, was cause more bureaucratic mix-ups and cause more disagreements about converts and the Law of Return.

The author then discusses the difficulty and pain that he faced when he decided to convert. He discusses how he chose not to share his journey of orthodox conversion because Jews who chose to convert by choice are seen as less authentic than those born Jewish. He says that many converts feel shame to reveal they are converts as he himself was interrogated with personal questions upon conversion.

The author then discusses how trends in the Orthodox conversion seem to be moving in the wrong direction. He believes that the process needs to be performed with transparent expectations and that a small group of homogenous Orthodox authorities should not have the power to determine who can and cannot become a Jew.

He concludes the article by saying “Deuteronomy tells us, “You shall love the stranger as you were strangers in Egypt.” No other commandment is more essential to the moral destiny of the Jewish people”.

In this news article the author says that his father was Jewish and his mother was Christian and as a result he converted twice. Just because he went through an Orthodox conversion later in his life, that does not give others who were born Jewish the right to question his status as a Jewish person. I think that the fact that the chief rabbinate decides who can and cannot convert is ridiculous. If a person decides that they want to convert to a different religion, then he/she should have the freedom to convert and not be restricted to do so, just because an individual with higher authority decides that the person doesn’t have certain characteristics. I believe that the whole conversion process is flawed and I believe that they Israel should pass some new legislation that actually makes the Jewish conversion less difficult. I think that individuals who follow Judaism should be accepting of new converts into their religion and they should work on making these converts feel comfortable instead of ashamed of the fact that the converted.

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One thought on “Conversion in Judaism

  1. History reveals that discrimination within a religion or even within a race is not a novel issue. Coloured people have often discriminated against one another based on the shade of their skin. Lighter skinned African Americans have been treated better than darker skinned African Americans by people within their own race. The negative impact of this betrayal is sometimes considered more restraining than discrimination by outsiders. As the author has pointed out, unfortunately, this is also a reality that many Jewish converts face.
    What is even more baffling is the notion that discrimination is embedded in the religion via its religious leaders. The people that you expect will guide worshippers down the right path are now involved in segregating worshippers from the community. Leaders should be role models that community members and worshippers aspire to emulate. I found it disheartening when the Jewish convert in the article felt that they could not share the fact that they had not actually been born into Judaism for fear of being discriminated against in some way.
    Another human being should not have the right to decide whether or not a person chooses to worship God through any of the great religions of the world. In my opinion, the Chief Rabbinate has no right to reject anyone’s conversion. The blogger wrote that the Chief Rabbinate has the authority to reject an individual’s conversion if they find them unorthodox. I believe that religion is a highly personal matter and that no one has the right or authority to judge as to whether someone’s conversion is unorthodox or not. Religion is between the worshipper and God and when we see people adding their own understandings and translations of religion it distorts the true message which is of acceptance and forgiveness.

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