A GUIDE FOR THE CONVERSION TO JUDAISM ACTIVIST
Every member of the Jewish community can take steps to increase the number of conversions to Judaism. Rabbis, of course, play the major role in the conversion to Judaism process because they train potential converts and oversee the actual conversion. However, all Jews can contribute to the effort to welcome those who wish to join the Jewish people on its historic spiritual journey. Here are ten steps you can take in order to increase the number of conversions to Judaism.
(1) Learn about conversion to Judaism in Jewish thought and history as well as in contemporary Jewish life. There is an emerging shelf of materials including books, pamphlets, and videos from all the religious movements and more generally from Jewish and other publishers. For a guide to some of this material, speak to a rabbi, Jewish educator, or librarian. Make sure this material is available in your congregational library.
(2) See what in your community is already offered for potential converts to judaism. Check your synagogue, Jewish Community Center, and local Jewish organizations. Is there, for example, an Introduction to Judaism or conversion class open for converts? Is there a support group for converts in your congregation? If there is such a class or group, offer to support such efforts. You might, for example, volunteer to help with publicity. Perhaps a conversion candidate needs a ride to class or some other form of help you can provide. Maybe you can subsidize a conversion student or pay for an ad about the class in a local newspaper. You may have special skills, such as making a video, using a computer, and so on to contribute.
(3) If no Introduction to Judaism or conversion class or support group currently exists, talk with your rabbi, social action chair, membership chair, and other Jewish community leaders about offering such a class or starting such a group, perhaps in conjunction with other Jewish institutions. Volunteer to work on the formation of such a class or group. Rabbis, in particular, are often overworked and may appreciate your encouragement, support, and offer to help. Learn about what the movement in Judaism to which you belong is doing and volunteer to help. Learn about independent organizations such as Kulanu (see the section on "Getting More Information") doing work in the area of conversion.
(4) Discuss conversion to Judaism with those who wish to do so, such as a Jewish partner in an interfaith marriage, or the parents of that Jewish partner. Encourage them to raise conversion as an option. Many gentile partners in an interfaith marriage do not even know that conversion to Judaism is an option for them.
(5) Gather general information about conversion to hand out to people and local institutions such as synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, libraries, and other places where you have asked and are allowed to put the materials. Besides the material from your movement, you can send for free copies of the following pagess: "How to Discuss Conversion to Judaism" and "Should I Convert to Judaism?"
(6) Publicize conversion. Monitor the media for stories on conversion to judaism and write in support of those stories. Suggest such stories to reporters at local newspapers and television stations. Write letters to the editor in support of conversion. If possible, give speeches or encourage others to give speeches on the subject. For example, suggest to a local Jewish organization that they have converts speak about their experiences.
(7) Help those who have converted to integrate fully into Jewish life. Some people need a mentor family. Perhaps you can help new Jews become more familiar with prayers, or Jewish cooking, or Jewish films. Work with the conversion to judaism support group or help start one. Speak to your rabbi about such a group.
(8) Support efforts by the Jewish community to welcome converts. Publicly state that support.
(9) If you belong to a Jewish organization, suggest conversion to Judaism as a topic for discussion at a meeting. Arrange for a local speaker or agree to read a common piece of writing on the subject.
(10) Finally, speak to other born Jews on the subject. Many born Jews were brought up with the mistaken belief that welcoming sincere converts to Judaism was somehow outside the Jewish tradition, or that converts aren't "really" Jewish. It is, perhaps, especially important for Jewish parents of an intermarried son or daughter to understand that if their son- or daughter-in-law converts, the family is genuinely Jewish, and if a conversion to Judaism takes place prior to what would be an intermarriage, then the marriage is a Jewish one. Taken together, these and related actions can make the Jewish community more accepting of converts. Such a welcoming community will attract many people who find in Judaism a congenial world view and a worthy way of life. In return, Jews will get additional dedicated members of our community.