Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Judaism 101 - Sample Conversion Test

I had already begun this project, but resolved to continue in light of my negative experience last week.

Jewish tradition says we ought to turn away a convert 3 times to test his or her sincerity.  However, rabbis disagree on what form this “turning away” should take.  So do I.

In my opinion, the difficulty of finding your way into Jewish community life, the bravery it  takes to step into a shul or Chabad house or rabbi’s office for the first time – is one POWERFUL force that turns away prospective converts. 

image Perhaps that is as it should be, but I don’t see it as my job to make the process any more difficult.  So if a prospective convert finds his or her way into my life, and they seem sincere, I welcome them – period.

I decided a while ago to put together a Judaism 101 “test” - partly for this woman with whom I’m studying for conversion, and partly because I have a REALLY skewed sense of what’s “fun.”

I wanted to cover the basics of what someone might have to or want to know before deciding to take that final step.

But remember:  I’m not a rabbi, and I’m definitely not a Beis Din (rabbinical court – the folks who oversee conversions). 

I’m not even an authority in anything besides living my own very small and imperfect Jewish life.  This test reflects my own perspective, but I thought others might also find it helpful, so I have shared it here.

Every Beis Din in every city will have its own test or tests. They probably won’t ask you to write it until they think you’re ready.  It might be useful to see mine as a kind of progress gauge:  if everything seems simple, maybe you’re ready; if most of it seems unfamiliar, you may have a farther journey ahead. 

If you want me look over your test, use this editable Word version instead (otherwise, PDF format is better).  I won’t “mark” it, but if I have time, I will look over your answers and try to offer suggestions of where to go next with your learning.

Good luck!  It should be with mazel!

Use this test as you wish, pass it on with acknowledgement of my blog as the source, and as always, send me feedback – happy or sad – via email (remove the X’s to email me), or just leave a comment below! 

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4 comments:

  1. I love this test! Next time I feel like being silly, I'll fill it up with some "answers" for you :)

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  2. Hmmm, I may take you up on your offer and have you go over my test. Just from glancing through it though, I can see that I need to get better at explaining what I (think I) know :-)

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  3. It's sad that you have a section on "Jewish women" but not one on "Jewish men," as if men are the norm and women are The Other.

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  4. @SusanB - I can definitely see your point. However, I believe that throughout this document, the word "we" refers to "Jewish people." There is nothing at all about men, and in almost every way, the details of this test are gender-neutral.
    There are a few mitzvot that are definitely considered a privilege by women who observe them - so in that way, the heading is correct.
    And while it IS true that issues like Tznius, Negiah, Yichud, Taharat HaMishpacha etc apply to men and women equally, I couldn't come up with a better name or heading. "Gender?" "Between the sexes?" Suggestions are welcome!

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