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!