Conversion to Judaism (giur) was historically commonplace and encouraged. Owing to violent reprisals from church authorities, the practice was actively discouraged. In the free air of American democracy it is once again an attractive option for those seeking to spiritually join the family of Abraham and Sarah, who were themselves converts.

Those interested in conversion generally meet with the Rabbi and embark on a minimum year's course of formal and informal study. When both parties feel the time is right, a meeting with the Beit Din (rabbinical tribunal) is set up, where the motivations and knowledge of the prospective convert are explored. Upon consensus of the Beit Din, the candidate then immerses in a mikveh to complete the ceremonial process. For a male, circumcision by a mohel precedes his immersion. If already circumcised, the male candidate must have a hatafat dam brit, whereby a drop of blood is drawn by the mohel.

As much as the convert is a Jew by Choice, he/she is also a Jew by Admission. No one can cross the border and announce to the world he is an American citizen, He/she must study and pass a citizenship test before attaining the status of naturalized citizen. Likewise, for admission to the ranks of the Jewish people, the prospective candidate must meet minimal standards of qualification, as recognized by classical Jewish religious law (halacha) over the centuries.

Most synagogues throughout the country are blessed with a plethora of gerim (converts). Often they are found to be the most enthusiastic and committed members of the congregation. As they have chosen Judaism as an act of free will, they are by definition more committed to their adopted faith and community than are born Jews, whose religion was not chosen as an act of free will. They are often our very best role models and committed members, in whom the community takes deep pride and feels great admiration.

Recommended Reading

A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: Edited by Nathan Ausubel

The Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding Judaism: By Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The Complete Idiots Guide to Jewish History and Culture: By Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The Shabbath: By Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Garden of Emuna: A practical Guide to life: By Rabbi Sholom Arush translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody

Holy Brother: By Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum

Committed Life: By Rebbetzin Esther Jungries

Life is a Test: By Rebbetzin Esther Jungries

The Book of Jewish Values: By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Jewish Literacy: By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

A Code of Jewish Ethics Vol. 1 and 2: By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Becoming a Jew: By Maurice Lamm

Jewish Way in Love and Marriage: By Maurice Lamm

Meditation and Kabbalah: By Aryeh Kaplan

Israel Start up Nation: By Dan Senor and Saul Singer

The Gift of the Jews: By Thomas Cahill