We welcome both Jews and non-Jews to our website. People are interested in becoming Jewish for many reasons. Being saved by believing in Judaism as the only true religion is not one of them.
Please explore the various articles on our website and feel free to ask questions. Indeed, if you do not have a questioning spirit Judaism is not for you. Many people find blessings through becoming a part of God's covenant with the Jewish people. Others find they are coming home. You may be attracted by your contact with a Jew or your study of Judaism. However you come to us we welcome you.
INCREASING ONE'S LIFESPAN
If my wife hadn't influenced me to study Torah with the Rabbis I would not have become a Jew. She enriched my life in ten different ways. I have been blessed to see our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren raised to study Torah and to do Mitsvot.
When I sit at the table on Shabbat and Yom Tov and watch all the generations of pure and holy Jews who have issued from my union with her and with God, I know both a joy and a peace that surely prolongs my life.
Who are these four groups of people who will shall receive the spirit and blessing of God? The Avot d'Rabbi Natan says those who surname themselves by the name of Israel are non-Jews who convert to Judaism i.e. female converts who marry Jewish men and thus acquire Jewish names. What about the other three groups?
The second group, who long for and belong to God, could be converts who become Jewish all on their own without any romantic attachments.
The third group, who speak or read in Jacob's name, could be converts who are drawn to Jews and Judaism and then discover that they have Jewish ancestors. Their souls are gilgulim-reincarnated souls of Jewish ancestors who were cut off from the Jewish people several generations ago and yearn to return home. Their gilgul calls out to them to return.
The fourth group, whose hand (activities) writes for God, could refer to those non-Jewish men who actively support their Jewish wives in raising their children to be loyal and active members of the Jewish community. All four of these groups bring spirit and blessing into the Jewish People.
Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, Judaism does not have much of a
missionary impulse. That is why there are so few Jews in the world.
Mormons, who very actively seek converts, already outnumber Jews even
though they have been around less than 200 years compared to more
than 3,500 years for Jews.
lacks a strong missionary impulse because Judaism is a pluralistic
religion. Judaism teaches that the Jewish way is right for us, but
good people in other religions also have a place in the world to
come. Correct behavior in society is more important than correct
beliefs about God. Thus, while Jews welcome non-Jews to join us, we
do not have a urgent motive to 'enlighten' or 'save' them.
the missionary impulse of more universalistic religions, Jews react
to potential converts in varied ways, ranging from wariness to
encouragement. Practical community concerns guided many of out Sages.
Some like Rabbi Helbo said that converts are an irritation like an itch, a sore or a scab.
Perhaps Rabbi Helbo felt that the enthusiasm and idealistic expectations of converts irritated too many born Jews, who take their Jewishness much more casually.
Or maybe he agreed with Rabbi Isaac who said “Evil after evil comes upon those who receive converts”. Both these Rabbis lived in the early 4th century when the Church was vociferously attacking pagans who choose to become Jews rather than Christians. Perhaps they feared Christian anti-anti-Semitism if Jews were openly receiving converts.
the other hand, Rabbi Simon ben Lakish proclaimed that a convert is
more beloved to God than all the Jews who stood at Sinai. This seems
rather extreme. Perhaps he was reacting to those who claimed
Jewishness was in their noble genes.
Equally amazing were Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat and Rabbi Johanan who both taught that the forced exile of the Jewish people among the Gentiles, was really a God given opportunity to influence Gentiles to become Jewish.
Rabbis tried to test the sincerity of potential converts by making
great demands of time and effort from them. Opposing this, Rabbi
Johanan advises that you should push potential converts away with
your left hand and draw them close with your right hand. Since most
people are right handed if you actually push away more than a few you
are being too negative.
the greatest of our Bible commentators, taught that Jews started
seeking converts from the very beginning, when he interpreted a verse
that states that Abraham made souls in Haran, to mean that Abraham
and Sarah made converts.
And the Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) condemns those who push potential converts away by relating that Isaac and Jacob pushed away Timna the sister of Lotan who wanted to become Jewish. She then married a son of Esau. One of her descendants was Amalek who attacked Israel shortly after they escaped from Egypt. If, instead of being pushed away, Timna had become Jewish, Amalek would have been on our side, and not one of our enemies. A more practical view is hard to imagine.
Rabbi Johanan says the Jews were oppressed and enslaved in Egypt
because Abraham didn't try to influence some captives that he rescued
to become Jewish. Even failing to encourage potential converts is
wrong according to Rabbi Johanan.
And several of our Rabbis felt that discouraging converts in the past had brought troubles upon us. These are practical, not theological, reasons to seek converts and not to push away those who might be interested. Rabbis today should welcome potential converts and not discourage them. We may not be saving souls, but we should not be making future enemies by rejecting people who want to be Jewish.
The recent attempt by some Haredi Rabbis in Israel to retroactively dejudiaze thousands of Jews who were converted according to Halakah is an shameful example of what not to do.
Two decades ago I met
a recent Russian immigrant who had started an introduction to Judaism
class in Boston. She had to leave the class to move to L.A. with her
husband for his new job. She was six months pregnant and wanted to be
Jewish before the baby was born, because she was the child of a mixed
marriage in the Soviet Union, and she did not want her child to have
a similar experience.
She told me that at age 18 everyone in the USSR had to get an identity card. Since her father was Jewish, and her mother was Russian, the government official told her she could pick either one for her identity card, but she could not change it once it was issued. She said she wanted her identity card to read: Jewish.
The official, and then his boss, spent over a half an hour arguing with her that this was a very bad decision. She insisted and it was done. When I heard that story, I told her that in my eyes she had already become Jewish by that act alone. I was ready to convert her next month. I did.
And I was at the circumcision of her son two months later. The family joined my congregation, and were members for several years, until they moved to another part of L.A.
DO NOT DISPARAGE CONVERTS
By Rabbi Allen S. Maller
One of the great
talents of our sages who were Midrash makers is the ability to take
something bad and derive a good lesson from it.
It is recorded in 2 Samuel 21 that in order to end a three year long famine, King David allowed people from Gibeon who had been attacked unjustly by King Saul, to punish his descendants by killing seven of them and publicly exposing their dead bodies.
Rabbi Simeon ben Yehozadak made up the following Midrash to derive a dramatic lesson from this terrible event. In his spirit I have slightly embellished the Midrash:
strangers who came into the Town Square of Gibeon were shocked to see
seven dead bodies lying there. They asked the local people who the
dead people were. The Gibeonites told the strangers that they were
princes, the sons and grandsons of Saul, the King of Israel. They had
been lying in the town square for many days.
The strangers thought to themselves that the crime of the princes must have been very terrible because to leave their bodies unburied was a sign of great contempt and disrespect. They asked the townspeople if the seven had killed many people or stolen lots of gold and silver. The Gibeonites replied that the princes had indeed done something very bad. They attacked us because we were strangers who…
The strangers suddenly looked frightened because they knew that in most countries people who are strangers are attacked. The Gibeonites told them they didn’t have to worry about being attacked by Jews because the Jewish Torah commanded all Jews to love strangers and to treat them the same way they treated those born in their own home. These princes attacked us because we are Jewish.
were surprised. It didn’t make any sense. Why would Jewish princes
attack other Jews? The Gibeonites explained that they were the
children and grandchildren of non-Jewish strangers who had converted
to Judaism. Almost all Jews accepted the Gibeonites as faithful Jews
except for these seven princes and their followers.
The strangers thought that every Jew should be happy that non-Jews wanted to join their people. But the Gibeonites told them that these seven princes felt that the Gibeonites had converted to Judaism due to improper motives. Also the princes, who felt they were ultra religious, thought the Jews who had converted the Gibeonites had not been strict enough with them, and had not taught them that they had to follow every little detail of the oral Torah.
Of course, that wasn’t true. The oral Torah itself said that if a person wanted to become Jewish, he or she is to be received at once and instructed at once in some of the minor and some of the major Mitsvot. It also says that one should take care not to impose too many Mitsvot on non-Jews who want to become Jewish, nor go into small details about the Mitsvot. (Talmud Yevamot 47a-b)
“If that is
what the oral Torah says why did the princes not accept you as
faithful Jews?” the strangers asked. The Gibeonites replied that
the princes thought most of them had converted for improper motives,
just so they could marry Jews.
It is true that many non-Jews fall in
love with Jewish people because Jewish people are very lovable.
David, who is now the King of Israel, had a great grandmother named
Ruth who was a non-Jew who married a Jew and converted to Judaism.
But marriage was not the only reason that non-Jews become Jewish
since the majority of non-Jews who marry Jews do not become Jewish.
There are always other reasons beside marriage why people convert to
Judaism. Also, in the days of Joshua when the first Gibeonites had
become Jewish, Joshua himself had questioned why the Jews should make
an effort for the sake of these converts. God told him, “Joshua, if
you keep away those who have been far off, you will end up keeping
away those who are near.” (Numbers Rabbah 8:4)
So, if you rebuff non-Jews married to Jews who want to come into the Jewish community you will drive away their Jewish mates who are now part of the community.
strangers realized that the seven had been publicly punished for
attacking converts to Judaism, even though the seven were princes and
ultra religious, they stayed with the Gibeonites and studied Judaism.
According to Rabbi Simeon ben Yehozadak, who told this story in the
Talmud (Talmud Yevamot 79a), the strangers all became Jewish. More
than a thousand years later their descendants had added one hundred
and fifty thousand Jews to the Jewish people, none of whom would have
been Jewish if those who attacked converts had not been publicly
How much more so today, when their are over 200,000 converts to Judaism, plus their children and grandchildren,