Online Conversion? Online Classes?

This morning I had a comment from a reader that he deleted before I could reply to it. The gist, as I recall: Why shouldn’t a person take online classes as part of preparation for conversion? Reading it on my smartphone, I realized that I’d communicated something poorly. I flagged the question to answer when I got to my laptop – but then it was gone. I am grateful that this person’s question has prompted me to clear up some confusion.

I’ve come out pretty strongly against online conversion to Judaism in two separate blog posts: Can I Convert to Judaism Online? and Online Conversion, Revisited. The very short version of my reasoning is that conversion to Judaism isn’t a private matter; a candidate needs to have a local community of Jews with whom to live Jewishly. Ideally, that community will have a rabbi with whom a candidate can work towards conversion.

The process of conversion normally includes at least a  year of living Jewishly, an Introduction to Judaism class, pastoral counseling and study with a rabbi, and significant Jewish involvement before one moves to the mohel, the mikveh, and the beit din to fulfill the requirements for conversion. The reason it takes so long is that once a person becomes Jewish, they and the Jews are stuck with one another. Kol Yisrael aravim zeh l’zeh: All Israel is responsible, one for another. This is a very big deal, not to be entered upon lightly.

Anyone is welcome to take an Introduction to Judaism class online or offline. Taking the class is not conversion; it can be a step towards conversion, no more. I strongly recommend that anyone who wants the class to “count” towards conversion find the rabbi first and get their approval on it, lest you wind up having to take yet another Intro class, spending more time and tuition.

I will confess to having a stake in this, since I teach an online Introduction to Judaism class.  I will make announcements on this blog before the next class begins.

I have had students who work with Reform, Conservative, and Renewal rabbis take my classes. If your rabbi would like to talk with me to consider whether the class is suitable for their process, I am happy to do that.

However, I don’t sponsor candidates for conversion online. I’m not a congregational rabbi, and I firmly believe that it is best to convert into a Jewish community, not just “to Judaism.” If you are seeking a rabbi with whom to convert, be sure and check out their credentials. The acceptability of your conversion in various Jewish communities will depend on your rabbi’s credentials. There is no “ultimate” conversion: even if you go through an Orthodox conversion there will be some communities that do not recognize it. However, what you want is a rabbi whose credentials will qualify you for the Jewish community with whom you want to live. An ethical rabbi will explain to you the realities of conversion with that rabbi.

So that’s the story. I teach Intro (I love teaching Intro!) and I do teach it online. My class is suitable for people studying for conversion provided their rabbi approves it, and it is also suitable for anyone looking for a basic Jewish education. If there is a synagogue in your area, check with them about Basic Judaism or Intro classes – they may offer live classes, and you’ll get to know the rabbi into the bargain.

I hope this clears things up. And I do hope that the mystery questioner returns, because it was a very good question!

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

19 thoughts on “Online Conversion? Online Classes?”

    1. About a third of the people who take my classes are born Jewish or with a Jewish heritage of some kind but never received a Jewish education.

      However, for someone who has had a basic Jewish education, the class can be a bit boring, with the exception of the Spring unit, which covers materials most basic classes don’t: History and traditions of the Ashkenazim, the Sephardim, and the Mizrachim, as well as American Jewish history.

  1. Rabbi Adar, We (my husband and I) are working with Rabbi Singer at Temple Beth El in Riverside who has recommended the 3 series intro classes. We would need to take the online courses but the question is: May we sign up for the “Isreal and Texts” class even though it is almost over? If the classes are recorded, there will be time for us to catch up and still register for the April class. Also, may both of us take it together and is there a certificate issued when it is completed? Thank you. Katherine and Michael Vesey

    1. Katherine and Michael, I have several couples who take the online class together. The catch is that their access to the Dropbox folder I use for class handouts is through whichever email is registered for the class.

      As for signing up now, sure! Once you are enrolled your email will come up on my class mailing list, and I will send you the list of recordings from past sessions.

      Glad to have you, and please give my best to your rabbi!

      1. We registered for the “Isreal and Texts” online class on Tuesday. How long will it take for the registration to appear on your list so you can send us an email list in order to access the lectures? Thank you.
        Katherine and Michael Vesey

          1. Links received and now taking the sessions. We absolutely LOVE your teaching style and lessons very interesting. We sent an email to the address you sighted during the first session and we included an intro of ourselves per your request. We also had 2 questions. Hoping you have a chance to read it. Thank you. Kay and Mike Vesey

            1. Greetings Rabbi Adar; Mike and I completed the essays for the Isreal and Texts class and have sent them back to you as an attachment to your email. We are looking forward to meeting you during the next on-line class.
              Have a great Purim Holiday!

            2. Hello Rabbi Adar. We hope your holidays and Shabbat were as fun as ours. Just a reminder that we visit Rabbi Singer tomorrow. What may we tell her about the class we just finished? We have Skype and look forward to seeing you on Sunday. Kay and Mike Vesey

            3. Check your email – the letter about access should be there. Keep it for future reference – that link will be good for all the meetings.

  2. Hi Rabbi Adar – In my case, Skype was the only way for me to convert since I live on an island (Kauai). Our Jewish community meets monthly, has no Rabbi (except at High Holidays) and no classes/instruction for conversion. It turned out to be a great experience working one-on-one with Rabbi Bill on Skype. With his help, I learned to read Hebrew, chant from the Torah and also studied many Jewish writings. After a year of mentoring, I met with Rabbi Bill Kurry in person at the Westside Mikvah in NYC and the Beit Din of three rabbis to complete my conversion. It’s been an incredible journey so far being active with my community and recently co-leading my first service with Rabbi Bill’s tutoring. I’ve been a member of our Jewish community for over 10 years and married my Jewish partner 2 years ago. By the way, we enjoyed going to Shabbat at Temple Sinai in Oakland last May. There was a community Siddur written for that evening with special readings and music. Take care and I’m glad that I found your blog. Aloha from Rob

    1. Aloha Rob-I know your comment was written 2 years ago but I just wanted to add my 2 shekels.

      I live in very rural Japan-there is a Rabbi in Tokyo but none here.
      Long story short-I have hidden Jewish ancestry, but before I even found out I began to be drawn to Judaism. I’ve been studying on my own and pretty much live a Jewish life-style-because I want to. Because I know inside- I am a Jew. I attend synagogue via Livestream – it’s the only way for me. I’m part of groups online…etc. It is the only way for me to do this. We can’t move.
      I think that there are some cases that should be considered. I’m praying that the Rabbi in Tokyo will agree to this arrangement so that I can die a fully converted Jew. If not- then I will continue to live out the rest of my days walking the Jewish path but not having been given the opportunity to have a halachaic conversion.
      Sad but that’s the way it is for some of us.

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