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Ask the Expert: Can I Convert to Judaism and Still Be Christian?

Judaism and Christianity profess beliefs that are incompatible with each other.

Question: Can I convert to Judaism and still be Christian?
— Jennifer M.

Dear Jennifer,

I appreciate your desire to convert to Judaism and understand how hard it is to give up what you were raised with. Our childhood memories and practices help make us who we are today, and they can be hard to relinquish. 

There are many points of intersection between Judaism and Christianity, including the values of loving your neighbor as yourself, feeding the hungry, helping those less fortunate and honoring the image of God in all people. But if you choose to convert to Judaism, you will not be able to remain a Christian, mainly because Jewish and Christian theologies are incompatible. Jews believe in one God and most Christians believe in the trinity. 

Jews also don’t believe that Jesus is the messiah. We believe that Jesus was a human being who was a rabbi and a healer. Mainstream Jewish theology does teach that a messiah will come someday, but that this day has not yet arrived. When it comes, there will be peace on earth and justice will prevail. A quick look at the front page of a newspaper shows us that sadly we are quite far from this vision.

Rabbi Daniel Siegel, the founding rabbinic director of ALEPH Canada and the Integral Halachah Institute, notes some additional differences between Judaism and Christianity that would make it hard to embrace both:

Where Christians focus on correct belief, we tend to allow for more options (which Christians also do if we look at all the different churches as part of one whole). Where Protestants at least believe that faith itself is all that’s needed, we tend toward putting beliefs into practice through ritual and ceremonies in order to support our commitment to ethical behavior. And, while Christianity is ‘catholic,’ meaning that a person from any national or ethnic background can become a Christian, Judaism is still tied to a particular people with all the range that comes with (including non-believers, active heretics and so on), which is why becoming Jewish means being adopted into the tribe.

If you still find yourself drawn to Judaism but are unable to renounce your belief in Jesus, I invite you to find a Jewish community where you can participate as a Jewish ally or supporter of the Jewish people. It is a challenging time to be a Jew and having friends helps us feel less isolated. And if you decide that you want to convert to Judaism, without maintaining your Christian beliefs, we welcome you.

Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah is a rabbi, author, spiritual director and mother. She was ordained by Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and received a master’s degree in Jewish education from Hebrew Union College.

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