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Conversion to Judaism

Interested in converting with Beth Shalom?

We're excited to meet you!

Our Approach to Conversion

The Jewish people, and the Beth Shalom community, are strengthened and enriched by those who make the choice and the commitment to join the Jewish people.  We are honored to facilitate the process of individuals learning, taking on Jewish practice, growing into their Jewish identities and ultimately completing the rituals of conversion and becoming members of the Jewish people in the eyes of halakhah (Jewish law), as understood by the Conservative/Masorti movement.  We perform conversions with the expectation that our candidates align with our community’s outlook and values, and will join Congregation Beth Shalom (CBS) officially as members when eligible.

We know that navigating the complexities of Jewish life can be overwhelming, and our goal is to equip our conversion candidates with the basic tools needed to “swim” in the Jewish community and in the words and practices of Jewish tradition.  It would be impossible to teach any candidate everything (we don’t know everything ourselves!), but we strive to enable all of our conversion candidates to confidently keep their heads above water, with the hope and expectation that they will continue to learn and grow after completing their conversion (as we hope and expect of those who are born Jewish, too). 

These guidelines pertain to the conversion of adults; we also do conversion/affirmation of minors in certain circumstances (most commonly, a child with a non-Jewish birth mother and at least one Jewish parent).  Please reach out to us to discuss what this process looks like for children.  

Our Expectations

To help our conversion candidates reach those goals, the components of our conversion process are:

  • Getting approved by a CBS rabbi to make sure we are a good fit (a usual first step is coming to Beth Shalom services to get a sense of our community and introducing yourself to the rabbis)

  • Regular meetings with a CBS rabbi (candidates will be assigned to one of the rabbis when they are approved to begin the conversion process with us)

  • Taking Exploring Jewish Living (EJL), CBS’ intro to Jewish practice class (or, in rare cases, another class, with the approval of a CBS rabbi)

  • Learning to read Hebrew (this may be at CBS alongside EJL, or elsewhere)

  • Attending synagogue for services on Shabbat at least twice a month

  • Building a personal/home Jewish practice in addition to synagogue attendance

  • Celebrating and marking of Jewish holidays (details to be discussed with the rabbis)

  • Getting exposure to a variety of Jewish life cycle rituals

  • Committing to Jewish self-determination in our historic homeland, the Land of Israel

  • Involvement of a spouse/partner when relevant and appropriate (to be discussed with the rabbis)

  • Registering for our “path to membership” (see below) after completing Exploring Jewish Living course, and becoming members of CBS upon completion of conversion (or sooner if eligible by having a partner who is already Jewish)

  • Raising any future children as exclusively Jewish, including providing a Jewish education and timely involvement in all Jewish lifecycle events (brit milah/simchat bat and b’nai mitzvah)

  • Completing all of the ritual steps below (see: “What happens when I am ready?”

When will I be ready?

Generally speaking, the conversion process at Beth Shalom takes a minimum of a year, and can be longer.  Each candidate works out an appropriate timetable with the rabbis.  We believe that our candidates are ready for conversion when:

  • They have an adequate level of Jewish literacy, generally including basic Hebrew decoding skills, a sense of the Jewish calendar, comfort in services and other ritual settings, and knowledge of Jewish practice.

  • They have developed a robust home Jewish practice, incorporating central Jewish values into their lives (for example: celebration of Shabbat and holidays, Jewish approach to eating, charitable giving, etc.)

  • They begin to engage with the outside world from a Jewish perspective (for example: Judaism affects how you read the newspaper, organize your calendar, etc.)

  • They have gotten involved in the Beth Shalom community beyond the Exploring Jewish Living class (for example: taking another adult education class, working with a committee, volunteering, participating in a demographic affinity group, etc.)

  • They have internal sense of Jewish identity and feel ready to convert

What happens when I am ready?

When the candidate and the rabbis are in agreement that the candidate is ready to move forward with conversion, they proceed with the ritual steps of formalizing the conversion in the  eyes of halakhah (Jewish law), as understood by the Conservative/Masorti movement.  Those steps include:

  • Essay: Each candidate writes a personal statement essay about their path to Judaism and their Jewish beliefs, practice, and identity.  The rabbis on the beit din read this essay in advance, and use it as a springboard for the conversation at the beit din.

  • Beit Din: The beit din (literally, ‘rabbinic court’) is a conversation with three rabbis, including at least one (but usually both) CBS rabbis.  The beit din consists of a conversation, not a quiz, and is a chance for the candidate to reflect on their Jewish journey until this point and express their hopes for how their  Jewish life will continue to grow going forward.

  • Hatafat Dam Brit/Circumcision (if relevant): Per the current standards of the Conservative/Masorti movement, circumcision or hatafat dam brit is required for anyone with a penis, regardless of gender identity.  For those who have not been circumcised prior, circumcision is required.  For  those who have already been medically circumcised, hatafat dam brit is required.

  • Mikveh: Each candidate immerses in a kosher mikveh (either in the Seattle Mikvah in the Seward Park neighborhood, or in Lake Washington), and the immersion in those living waters, along with the recitation of blessings (which the candidate will learn), confers their official entry into the Jewish people.

  • Naming and Blessing: After drying off and dressing, each candidate is formally given a Hebrew first name (of their choosing) and welcomed into this new Jewish identity with a blessing.

What you can expect Beth Shalom to provide on this journey:

  • Regular meetings with a CBS clergy

  • Opportunities for learning (both the EJL and Hebrew classes, as well as other opportunities)

  • A mentor family to help support you through this process

  • Opportunities for exposure to Jewish lifecycle events and holiday celebrations (where possible)

  • An open invitation to all CBS events (including a partner, if relevant)

  • High Holiday tickets while enrolled in EJL or registered for our pathway to membership

  • Opportunities for connection to community at CBS

What is our Pathway to Membership?

Our Pathway to Membership is a way for conversion candidates who have completed EJL (and who are not yet eligible for CBS membership) to deepen their involvement in and support of the CBS community as they continue on their path towards joining both the Jewish people and CBS.  The cost of our pathway to membership is set through an individual meeting with the CBS executive director, and brings with it the privileges of continued regular meetings with CBS rabbis, High Holiday tickets, and continued access to all CBS programs.

Mon, May 27 2024 19 Iyyar 5784