…why yes another “tips,” article… but this one is written solely with a potential convert in mind and by someone a couple of months away from conversion now…
So, I am a few months from conversion, 2 classes away from completing the final requirement of the intro to Judaism course, and about a year and a couple of months into the process. My wife, me, and our four kids are all converting together and it has been a tremendously impactful journey for us as a familial unit. Along this journey, I have learned so incredibly much and am offering some tips to help would-be converts here in this article.
Tip one: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! – Unlike other Abrahamic religions, Judaism is all about asking questions, growing, and learning. Having a ton of questions isn’t seen as a lack of faith, but a desire to know and grow in your connection with Hashem and the Jewish people. Questions aren’t just encouraged, they are a major part of the process!!!
Tip two: Read, study, and read some more! – Read the Torah, read the Tanakh, read the Talmud, read books by holocaust survivors, read books on Jewish spirituality, read about Musar, read about Kabalah… read, study, ask questions. In just over a year in this process, my family has a pretty good-sized Jewish library and we don’t see any slow down in the near future (long after conversion). The study of Jewish wisdom is a lifelong and noble endeavor, from Rabbi’s to sages, to commentaries, to history.
Tip three: Jump in head first! – Start celebrating the Shabbat weekly, celebrate and honor the holidays, learn Hebrew, perform some mitzvot, listen to music by Jewish performers, immerse yourself fully into all things Jewish. If you’re in the conversion process, the biggest honor you can do is take it seriously and fully and truly become Jewish.
Tip four: Know, don’t think! – If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t speculate, ask questions to your sponsoring rabbi, research the answer, and KNOW the answer.
Tip five: Know the history! – I have noticed that many converts neglect Jewish history beyond the holocaust, but 3,500+ years of Jewish history is a long time to be relegated to simply the Shoah. It’s important to know where Jews were, to know where we are going and how everything in Jewish life came about.
Tip six: Synagogue is the community meeting place! – A synagogue is different from a church; the synagogue is the community meeting place where public worship, life cycle events, Shabbat services, community events, etc… in a Jews life revolve around. Rabbi’s and Cantor’s aren’t “Priests,” they are teachers, prayer leaders, singers, they fill the synagogue with the proper spirit and intention.
Tip seven: Meet others! – Get to know other Jews in your community and/or online. To truly have the full Jewish experience, you need to know the many views and insights of Jewish people. The Jewish people are diverse and each individual has a different insight into the world around them.
Tip eight: Learn the prayers and structure of services! – Attending Shabbat services and holidays services will teach you a ton, as well as picking up a siddur (Prayer book). Learn the prayers and how the how’s, when’s, and why’s, of the structure of a service. This will allow you to do these things at home and to better understand what you’re doing and when you’re doing it during a service at the synagogue.
Tip nine: Don’t be intimidated! – Okay, the Bet Din can sound intimidating, but they aren’t there to grill you, only talk to you to ensure you understand things and that you’re converting for the right reasons. Also, don’t be intimidated by the amount of stuff there is to learn, remember you’re joining a people, not just a religion.