What Does It Mean to be Jewish?

Embracing Jewish Identity Through Congregation Beth Shalom

People who are interested in joining the Jewish family and converting to Judaism through CBS are asked to do the following:

  • Participate in the religious, educational, and social life of the Jewish community for at least one full holiday cycle with a particular focus on attending as many Shabbat and Holiday Services as possible and regular attendance at our various Adult Ed classes.
  • Reading and studying Judaism through books such as “Jewish Literacy” by Joseph Telushkin and developing a small Jewish library collection of your own based on your personal spiritual interests.
  • Taking on a specific individualized learning goal, such as learning Hebrew, reading though and studying each of the weekly Torah portions, being able to lead a prayer Service, or studying a holiday and its observances in greater detail.
  • Since being Jewish means to follow the 613 mitzvot (instructions) of the Torah, conversion students are asked to take on the basic observances of Judaism including Shabbat (not working or engaged in commerce) and Kashrut (not eating un-kosher animals, etc.)
  • Keep a personal journal of questions, thoughts, interesting conversations, book and/or movie recommendations, religious experiences and struggles, etc.

Upon completion of these expectations, you will be asked to write up a short piece about you relationship to God, Torah, and Israel (the Jewish people) which will be used to assist with your meeting with the Beit Din (a council of three Rabbis). You will also be asked to choose a Hebrew name; we are happy to help with this and often family members are also eager to be of assistance. Males will also need to be circumcised before meeting with the Beit Din. After the Beit Din, you will immerse in a Mikveh (ritual bath) and formally join the Jewish faith. At that time you will be asked to confirm your full Jewish identity, to confirm that you do this of your own volition, to accept upon yourself all the commandments of Judaism, and to desist from any and all rituals, beliefs and practices of other religions. You will then immerse and become a Jew. You will be given a certificate of conversion that is valid in other Conservative congregations and a copy will be kept on file at CBS as well.

There is no charge for this educational process. A small donation is asked for from the organization that operates the Mikveh (ritual bath). Some people choose to thank the members of their Beit Din with a contribution. It is expected that after the Mikveh ceremony you will join CBS as an active member and support the community at a level that is comfortable for you.

Please let us know if you have any questions about any of this! Our hope is that this will be an ongoing conversation and not an assignment. Please schedule time to meet with the rabbi about every 2 – 3 months to see how the journey is going and see how we can continue to help. We are all here, as a community and congregation, to help you on this exciting journey.

According to Judaism, we are to always grow and study. We hope that your continued journey is one that nourishes your soul and adds meaning and a deep sense of community to your life. It is our honor and sacred responsibility to guide you on this path of Jewish learning and connection.