The covenant made at Sinai included the souls of converts
of later generations. They also were commanded at that moment.
(Talmud Shavuot 39a)
Converts are dearer to God than the Jews who stood at Mt. Sinai. Why? Because had those Jews not beheld the thunder and lightning, the mountains quaking and the sounds of the horn, they would not have accepted the Torah. But the convert, who saw none of these things, came and voluntarily embraced the Torah and the Jewish people. Could anyone be more beloved to God? (Midrash Tanhuma B Lech Lecha 6)
Conversion to Judaism is a wonderful journey and the University Synagogue community is here to make sure that you are accompanied every step of the way, as our Rabbis and Cantor will walk with you down this sacred and holy path. We know that this page will not answer all of your questions, so please, we invite you to come and speak with one of our clergy or to a member of our Outreach committee, some of whom have gone through conversion themselves. Whether you are ready to convert, are thinking about conversion or want to ask some questions, our doors are open to you.
There is no expectation that any non-Jewish member of our congregation will necessarily convert to Judaism. No pressure is ever applied to such individuals. Conversion is a deeply personal decision, made only on one’s own timetable, if at all. Our clergy – and much less the individual members of our congregation -- do not presume to know what is in an individual’s best spiritual interests. They will provide support and warmth and guidance, but never a signpost.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if Judaism is right for me?
The best way is to learn as much as you can about Judaism and begin to practice those aspects of Judaism that most appeal to you. Seek out Jewish friends, family members or a synagogue community for support. As you study and try out things at your own pace, you will gain a sense of comfort and be able to make your own decisions about next steps.
We also offer an Introduction to Judaism class each January. This is a class which helps one better understand Judaism. Enrolling and participating in the class does not mean you are expected to convert.
If I decide that I want to become a Jew, how would I go about it?
First, make an appointment with one of our clergy. We will not only discuss the process of becoming a Jew, but also explore with you your reasons for wanting to do so. This is not a test and we are not looking for the “right” answer. We are looking for the words that are on your mind and the questions that are in your heart. In earlier generations rabbis would discourage potential "Jews by choice," turning them away three times in an effort to determine how serious they were. We do not engage in this practice!
If I convert to Judaism, what would be the attitude of other Jews towards me?
Judaism welcomes those who voluntarily become Jews and considers them full-fledged members of the Jewish community. Here at University Synagogue we embrace all people equally, from the member who was born Jewish to the newest Jew by choice to the non-Jewish member. In Judaism people who convert to Judaism are simply Jews, with the same Jewish status in every circumstance as those born Jewish. The Hebrew Bible, as well as later Jewish texts, include examples of individuals who made this decision.
If I convert with a Reform rabbi, will all rabbis consider me to be a Jew?
Reform, Reconstructionist and most Conservative rabbis recognize the validity of conversions performed by rabbis of all branches of Judaism. Many Orthodox rabbis, however, do not recognize non-Orthodox conversions.
If I become a Jew, will I be expected to separate from my family of origin?
By no means. We encourage close family relations and we would love to be able to work with you and your non-Jewish family to make them aware and knowledgeable about this new chapter in your life. Conversion to a new religion does not suddenly make you over into something altogether new; nor does it cut you off from old family ties or memories. If you choose to convert, we want you to bring us who you really are, in all its fullness.
If I'm not yet ready to convert to Judaism or if I decide not to, what options do my Jewish partner and I have for our wedding ceremony?
Our clergy at University Synagogue welcome all couples to meet with them and discuss wedding options and plans for the future. Some of our clergy officiate at the weddings of a Jewish and non-Jewish partner while others have yet to officiate. Please contact us and one of our clergy will be in touch with you.
Whether we are born Jewish or have elected to become Jewish as adults, ultimately in how we lead our lives, we are all Jews by choice.