A reader wrote to me and asked: “Tomorrow I’m going to meet with a rabbi to ask about conversion. How should I prepare for that meeting?”
First of all, you’re on the right track! Meeting with a rabbi is the first step on a path to conversion. You may have been reading and studying, you may even have been going to services, but until you meet with a rabbi, it’s all academic.
As for “preparing” – Just go and be yourself. If you can speak the words, “I’m interested in conversion to Judaism,” that’s good enough. The rabbi can help you from there.
Some things to know:
- There is a very old tradition in which rabbis send a person who inquires about conversion away three times before actually having the conversation. While I don’t know of any Reform rabbis who currently follow that tradition, you may encounter a rabbi who does. On the other hand, if the rabbi says, “I don’t do conversions” then ask for a referral – or just go find another rabbi yourself.
- If you get what seems like a lukewarm welcome, understand that this, too, is part of the tradition. Jews don’t proselytize, and we have been on the receiving end of many efforts to convert us. Therefore we tend to hang back and not get too excited when someone says, “Hi! I want to be a Jew!” You aren’t unwanted. We just want to make sure it’s what you really want. Persist.
- No rabbi is going to rush to sign you up for conversion. It’s a very serious step. This first meeting is just that – a first meeting. Even if you choose to work with this rabbi, you have at least a year of studying and living Jewishly before an actual conversion.
- You do not have to convert with the first rabbi you meet. If you are comfortable with that rabbi, great. If you aren’t comfortable, then maybe this rabbi isn’t the right rabbi. Try another one. We’re all different.
- Questions are OK. Questions are encouraged.
I wish you the very best with your first meeting, and with your journey, wherever it takes you!
11 thoughts on “Meeting a Rabbi About Conversion”
Some helpful info: Chabad is very warm and kind but Chabad rabbis in the USA RARILY do a conversion. I was told this BY my local Chabad rabbi. They refer persistent seekers to the Orthodox rabbis. So don’t feel bad if you are going to Chabad and nothing is happening. Just go to another rabbi.
Thank you, Dawn! Very helpful.
Thanks! I almost feel like I will be walking a gauntlet in the event of meeting with a rabbi to convert. These tips help. I hope it won’t be a difficult experience.
Jacob, I hope it will be a good experience! Here’s a bit of Hebrew for you: B’chatzlecha! It means “Good luck!”
Thank you! 🙂
At 71 am I told for conversion?
Talk to your Rabbi! Age alone is not a disqualified.
Thank you for your reply
I just had my first meeting with a Rabbi to discuss conversion. To be honest I feel a bit disheartened, I felt like they were very hot and cold. They said unequivocally no to conversion but yes to supporting me learning more about Judaism. Is this normal?
Yes, absolutely normal. Conversion is a long process that begins with study, but rabbis are careful to keep it open-ended, so that you remain completely free to change your mind as you learn.