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Difficulties in converting to Judaism

Reader comment on item: Conversions in Israel
in response to reader comment: One possible answer for the difference in conversion rates ...

Submitted by Fred Schlomka (Israel), Jul 25, 2006 at 08:58

Sean is correct. Historically and traditionally Jewish rabinical authorities have saught to discourage conversions. In fact it is traditional for a Rabbi to refuse to discuss a conversion with a supplicant until the person has petitioned three times. Judaism does not require a declaration of faith like Islam or Christianity, but rather requires that the person converting have a good knowledge of the practice of Judaism. This entails long study and the adoption of an observant Jewish and kosher lifestyle, prior to the actual conversion ritual. The more liberal streams of Judaism, such as the Reform and Conservative movements have diluted these requirements but the only conversions recognized by the religious authorities in Israel are Orthodox conversions.

Many of the nominally Christian Russian immigrants in Israel pretend to adopt orthodox Jewish lifestyles in order to be accepted for conversion, then revert to their secular ways after the conversion is granted. keep in mind that the relatively large number of Russian Christian conversions are conducted by the convertees in order to make their life easier in a state that has preferential laws and government regulations for Jews only. These people identify as Zionists therefore from a social and political standpoint, it makes sense for them to convert.

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