What Would Your Answer Be?

by Arliene Botnick, June 27, 2019

There are many requirements for a candidate in the Jewish Information class as he/she travels the road to conversion. In order to “become” a Jew, the “candidates” must take a 30 week, 3 hour a week course that covers introductory Hebrew and a myriad of Jewish topics such as Holidays, Life Cycles, History, Zionism, Anti-Semitism, Jewish Values, service literacy – to name a few.

As well, the candidate is expected to attend services regularly and do a multiple choice exam, answer 4 essay questions, and for a male, be circumcised (health permitting), meet with the Beit Din (a panel of 3 Rabbis who “examine” the candidate) and finally go to the Mikvah for ritual immersion.

Wow! That all adds up to true dedication, commitment, passion to become part of the Jewish people.

I’ve enclosed the first page of the multiple choice test (which is perhaps one of the easiest) for you to test yourselves. But, I’m really interested in the questions asked by the Rabbis of the Beit Din. The most prevalent question asked is, “If we (the Beit Din) were to follow you for a day (a week) what would we see that is indicative of your living a Jewish life?!” Think about that question… In each and every one of our own lives, what do we do, say, show in any way, that attests to our living Jewish lives.

For a prospective conversion candidate, the answer to that question carries a great deal of weight. The Rabbis want to hear that the candidate has sincerely embraced Judaism and feels truly connected to the Jewish people. You can’t become part of something (i.e. Judaism) without understanding, acknowledging that somehow your life as a Jew will be different from your life before conversion.

What a challenge! What do we do, say, show, in any way that we are Jews. There is no one right answer, but there are answers. Being moral and ethical is good but our candidates were moral and ethical before they were on the path to conversion, so saying you give to charity or volunteer is only a partial answer. Believing in God is only a partial answer once again, since in their pre-Jewish lives, the candidates may also have had a belief in one God. Studying scripture once again is only a partial answer since scripture is part of many faiths. So, what is the answer?

What would you answer if asked? How do we know, if we were to follow you for a week (or a day) that are you deeply, truly, completely part of the Jewish people.

Something to think about!

Have a great summer.

JIC Exam

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