Working With Converts

Excerpts from the Reform Movement's Guidelines for Working with Prospective Converts

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Communal

4.      Each prospective convert should be required to participate in as much of the ongoing life of both a synagogue and the general Jewish community as is possible.

5.  Each prospective convert should be paired with a haver, or mentor, for the purpose of ongoing support. Providing haverim, or mentors--individuals or families--from among past converts and other interested people, can be an extremely valuable way for prospective converts to assimilate the knowledge they are gaining as well as to experience Jewish life in a much less threatening manner. This system can also provide the opportunity for prospective converts to see Judaism working in a Jewish home as a model for their own homes. Becoming a haver presents a wonderful opportunity for lay people, under the auspices of a congregational outreach oommittee or other appropriate body, to participate in the education and integration of prospective converts into the community.

7. While recognizing that determination of readiness for conversion is a highly individual and subjective decision, rabbis should ensure that prospective participate in a full year of Jewish life prior to completing in order to demonstrate a credible commitment to Jewish living and become part of a Jewish community committed to Jewish life.

Concluding Rituals and Ceremonies

8. Completing the process of conversion has as its purpose both the proclamation of a desire on the part of the convert to be part of the Jewish people and acceptance of the convert by the Jewish community. As such, the following steps are recommended as part of the ritual:

a.       Rabbis should convene a beit din [court responsible for ruling on a conversion] consisting of rabbis, cantors, and/or Jewish educators. Lacking their availability, knowledgeable and observant lay members of the community should be utilized. A beit din of three rabbis represents the most appropriate framework for formalizing conversion. In addition, the use of a beit din can also contribute to a sense of legitimacy as perceived by the prospective convert and it can give the rabbi who has been working with the candidate the opportunity to see the candidate through another set of eyes. The meeting with the beit din is not intended to be an extensive examination of the candidate's specific Jewish knowledge; rather, it should be used to explore the candidate's motivations for conversion, Jewish experiences, general areas studied, reactions of family members to the planned conversion, level of dedication to the commitments [to kabbalat mitzvot], and plans for future life as a Jew. The beit din may also wish to request a "spiritual autobiography" from each candidate as a way to acquaint themselves with each candidate as well as to judge more effectively a candidate's readiness for conversion. All of this notwithstanding, however, it should be noted that the final authority to approve or reject the candidacy of any given individual for conversion rests with the beit din.

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