Visit the Weekly Torah Commentary at Tikkun Magazine. read more
delighted to learn of your interest in exploring conversion to Judaism and
joining the Jewish people.
"Conversion" doesn't quite capture what we are
talking about when we do this conversion process--because what we aim at is more
like joining and taking on a whole way of life, a history and a people. It's a
big deal. We are very excited about the possibility of your joining our people.
In our view, some of the most creative energy coming into the Jewish community
in contemporary times comes from people who were not born Jews who are choosing
to become Jewish. Yet joining is a process that involves learning, spiritual
growth, and commitment to a people and to a community.
IT'S NOT ABOUT
NEGATING WHO YOU ARE OR IN ANY WAY SAYING THAT YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN INADEQUATE,
ANY MORE THAN TAKING ON A LIFE PARTNER MEANS SAYING THAT YOUR LIFE ISN'T GOOD
ENOUGH BY ITSELF WITHOUT SOMEONE ELSE. BUT MAKING THIS KIND OF CHANGE IS REALLY
A CHANGE, and It takes time.
You may already be on the path, and in some
sense you may experience yourself (and others may recognize you) as already
having a Jewish soul. And nevertheless the process takes some time and
We want you to know what would be involved if you do this
process under the supervision of Rabbi Lerner at Beyt Tikkun
I. Study of Judaism
You should become familiar with Judaism, Jewish history, and Jewish
religious and cultural practices. This requires an immersion in reading and some
course work. You should enroll in whatever courses are available directly
through Beyt Tikkun and check out what other courses may be available through
Lehrhaus Judaica or at local Jewish study programs. Once you've gotten a
foundation, we will tailor some of the specific study to your specific
situation. If you have already mastered a great deal of the intellectual
foundation, the course work may focus more on development of spiritual skills.
For most people in the conversion process, it makes more sense to get a specific
tutor who will supervise your work. Many of our members have worked successfully
with Patty Moscovitz in Foster City--she is an excellent guide in the process.
You can contact her at 650-349-1222 or email Putins@aol.com You may find
another tutor, but s/he must be approved by the rabbi. The tutor will provide
weekly supervision of your studies.
We do not expect that you will master
the Jewish tradition while studying conversion, but rather that you will get a
solid foundation and develop a taste for this central Jewish mitzvah: the
mitzvah of Jewish study. We ask that you commit yourself to continuing this
study throughout the rest of your life.
II. Taking on Jewish
You should become religiously observant
in a way that corresponds to the kind of Jewish life you intend to lead in the
future. From the standpoint of Beyt Tikkun, the most important part of this
practice is to be observant of Shabbat: to create a weekly 25 hour period of
spiritual focus, joy, pleasure, celebration of the universe, celebration of
freedom, cessation of work in all its various forms and subtle claims on your
consciousness, and abandonment of all forms of "control over." These are
described in more detail in the Beyt Tikkun Shabbat Guide, which lays out our
minimalist view of what Shabbat observance should be. Of course, it may take a
while to develop this practice as a weekly event in your life, but doing so is
essential for conversion.
III. Creating a Personal Spiritual Practice On a
daily basis, you should create a spiritual space in which you reconnect with
your own deepest spiritual truth and understanding. For some people, the best
form is prayer. For others, it is meditation. For still others, it is connection
to nature. Whatever form it takes, it should be a regular part of your
IV Becoming a member of Beyt Tikkun and participating our activities
and in building the community.
Come to services, volunteer, become involved in community activities. Do not
wait till after conversion to feel that you have a legitimate place to be
involved in making things happen at Beyt Tikkun and we welcome your
participation. Of course, it may take time to become acclimatized to the
specific ways we are doing things here in this community, and you should allow
yourself to learn from Rabbi Lerner about why things are being done in the way
that they are but your volunteer help is needed and encouraged. Membership in
Beyt Tikkun costs 1% or your gross income (of your family unit) but not less
than $200/yr for an individual or $300 for a family. Rabbi Lerner is not
available to help with conversions for people who have not already joined Beyt
Tikkun synagogue. This fee is negotiable for people who have shown a
commitment to Beyt Tikkun through active attendance at each Beyt Tikkun
Shabbat service and volunteering to help in other aspects of the community
(e.g. in the building of support for the Tikkun Community and its national
Rabbi Lerner will on occasion work with someone outside the area.
Click here for further details about this
IV. Learn to Read Hebrew
This can be the last
stage, and it need not require a huge expenditure of time. Consult with your
tutor to ensure that his is part of the learning plan. It is important to be
familiar enough with the Hebrew letters that you are not intimidated when we
read or daven in Hebrew, and this will make your participation in services
easier. Of course, in the final analysis what is most important is what is in
your heart when you pray, not your specific skills level. And of course, your
prayers are acceptable in any language if they flow from your heart. But having
this skill will be empowering. Many people who are intellectually successful in
other areas of their lives and have earned great respect for their competence
sometimes feel infantilized in synagogue (shul) because they don't know the
rudiments of the prayer book and of Hebrew. So getting some basic Hebrew will be
an important step, and you can follow through by actually learning to read and
speak the language (at a pace that feels comfortable for you, and not as a
requirement for conversion).
V. Keep a Journal
Your journal should include two parts: one, a formal record of what you
have been doing (what courses you attended, specific books you read, lectures
you attended, skills you developed, conversations you've had with others and
with your family, etc.), and two, a personal account of your inner spiritual
struggles, your doubts and your honest self-reflection. Please bring your
journal to meetings with Rabbi Lerner
VI. Meeting with Rabbi
Once you have been accepted for conversion study
with Rabbi Lerner, you should meet with him once every month to review the work
that you are doing with your tutor, and receive guidance about additional
readings. The central goal of these meetings is to discuss the process, how real
and deep it is for you, emotional or spiritual obstacles you undoubtedly will
encounter and any other issues relevant to the conversion process. When you have
satisfied the requirements above, Rabbi Lerner and you will jointly decide on a
time for the actual conversion ceremony. It is not unusual for this process to
take 2-3 years, and virtually impossible, no matter how much previous knowledge
you have, to take less than a year (in which you will go through the full cycle
of Jewish observance during that year). Those who are seeking a "quickee"
conversion for the sake of getting married as a Jew are advised to go
elsewhere--this is a serious process that cannot be fit into a schedule having
to do with an upcoming marriage
VII. Conversion Ceremony
a. Beyt Din
The conversion requires a Jewish court (Beyt Din) of 3
Jews who will ask you a set of questions about the course of your study and
conversion, and then sign conversion papers indicating that they have agreed to
be witnesses to your conversion.
This is NOT a test of how much material
you have learned, but rather a moment for you to describe your process, both in
terms of your spiritual development, your religious practice, and your learning
about Judaism. Nevertheless, it is a good idea for you to be able to situate
your own development in terms of some of the important Jewish thinking on the
following kinds of questions:a. What is your understanding of mitzvah or
mitzvot, and how does it apply to you and your life? Here you might want to be
familiar with writings of David Hartman, Abraham Joshua Heschel and the
discussion of these issues in Rabbi Lerner's Jewish Renewal. Be prepared to talk
about which mitzvot you've taken on and how your religious practice is going. b.
What is your understanding of the virtues that Judaism seeks to promote--and
which of these are priorities for you in your life and how?Here you might want
to be familiar with writings of David Cooper and Rami Shapiro. c. What is your
understanding of God and how does it connect to the understanding developed in
the Jewish tradition? You might want to be familiar with how these issues are
discussed in the writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Daniel Matt, David Cooper,
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Arthur Green, and Judith Plaskow. d. What are the
religious, spiritual or theological issues with which you are still
struggling?e. What kind of commitment have you made in your own life to tikkun
olam and how does that manifest in your actual life practice?f. What kind of
commitment have you made to building Beyt Tikkun community and how that manifest
in your actual life practice?g. What exactly does it mean to you to join the
Jewish people?(Here you should show that you have read at least one serious book
on Jewish history--though nobody is going to be testing you on any details).In
what ways are you prepared to take on responsibility not just for a set of
theological ideas and spiritual practices, but for being part of a people and a
community with a 3500 year history?
After discussing some
or all of the above questions with you, the Beyt Din will witness your mikvah (submergence
for a moment in flowing water) and your saying the appropriate prayers
(approximately 4 sentences in Hebrew). Men are required to have circumcision,
and if already circumcised, to have hatafat dam, a drop of blood from the
VIII. Community Welcome
We will have an annual ceremony to
welcome new converts to the community on Shavuot. In addition, we will have a
ceremony for each individual convert at the nearest possible Shabbat to the
conversion or, if possible, immediately following the conversion. You will be
asked to create a ritual that makes sense to you, and to describe some of the
experience and what it has meant for you (at whatever level feels comfortable
a. Private Tutoring and/or special classes: these costs
will vary with the fees of your tutor.
b .Monthly meetings with Rabbi Lerner: at $140/hour--unless you really can't afford that, in which case tell Rabbi
Lerner what you can afford.
c. Synagogue fee: Beyt Tikkun will charge a fee for the
conversion process. Sliding fee scales: From $3000 (for annual family
incomes above $100,000 a year) to $200 (for annual incomes below $25,000 a
year), depending on your income.
We do not like having to charge you any
fee, but unfortunately , we do not yet have enough monies to hire Rabbi.
Lerner on a full time basis, so when we provide these additional services
we have to charge.
You should tell Rabbi Lerner what you think you can
afford (and you don't have to know the full picture on this till months after
you've started). Some members have agreed to pay this amount of money over the
course of several years, others have paid in two or three lump sums. We do not
want you to worry about the money--we will work out something that feels
comfortable to you--and you can take your time before deciding how much you are
planning to pay. These fees are in addition to whatever your annual membership
fees have become.
If, after reading this, you want to
proceed, we suggest you call Rabbi Lerner at 510-528-6250 or 510 644
1200 and set up a first meeting. .