Working With Converts

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

Print this page Print this page

b.      Rabbis should educate concerning appropriate traditional rituals for the ceremonies of conversion, including milah [circumcision], hatafat dam brit [symbolic taking of a drop of blood], and tevilah [immersion in a mikveh, or ritual pool] and should use them as appropriate. While the procedures and practices of the Reform rabbinate do not currently affect the acceptance or lack thereof by the Orthodox Jewish community of converts who become Jewish under Reform auspices, they are relevant in other arenas. The official position of the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative) is that all who become Jewish by means of the traditional rituals of milah or hatafat dam brit and tevilah will be accepted within the Conservative Jewish community. In 1893 the CCAR declared the rituals of milah or hatafat dam brit and tevilah to be unnecessary for conversion. The position of the CCAR since 1979 has been as follows: "Nevertheless, we recognize today that there are social, psychological, and religious values associated with the traditional initiatory rites, and therefore recommend that the rabbi acquaint prospective converts with the halakhic [Jewish legal] background and rationale for brit milah, hatafat dam brit, and tevilah and offer them the opportunity to observe these rites." There are two legitimate approaches to take in the selection of rituals and ceremonies. After first discussing the various practices with the prospective convert, one approach is to allow him/her to make the choice. The other approach is that the decision appropriately lies within the purview of the rabbi. This document presumes a preference for the latter approach while acknowledging that many colleagues may continue to follow the former.

c.    Since public affirmations by the convert and public acceptance by the Jewish community are important parts of this process, public ceremonies of affirmation are encouraged. Public ceremonies of affirmation, frequently held in conjunction with Shabbat services, include such things as the bestowal of a Hebrew name, a public affirmation of Judaism by the convert, or a ceremony of welcome to the community. These ceremonies may at some times represent a conversion ceremony itself and at other times an affirmation of conversion rituals completed at an earlier time.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.