The process of becoming a member of the Jewish people is well established. We ask that you follow these steps in your journey to full membership within the Jewish people:
Most of the above steps are discussed in more detail, below.
Mazal tov! Congratulations! A mix of excitement and anxiety is quite normal. If you and your sponsoring rabbi decide that the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din is best for you, we will be glad to help you. Ask your rabbi to get in touch with us.
A bet din for conversion is a panel that is made up of three committed Jewish leaders. Here at the Community Bet Din, this means three rabbis, one of whom is your sponsoring rabbi. The Bet Din’s panel will meet with you to authorize your conversion to Judaism.
Download the application form here and fill it in. Submit it to our office 4–8 weeks prior to when you hope to formalize your conversion. (Your sponsoring rabbi will contact us to schedule the actual meeting date.)
Meeting with the Bet Din’s panel is an opportunity for you to discuss your decision to become a Jew. Most of all, the three rabbis on the panel would like to be sure that you are converting freely, and that you understand what it means to live as a Jew. (We don’t expect you to be an expert on Judaism; we do expect you to be committed to continuing to learn — because we view that as part of “what it means to live as a Jew.”)
Yes, but it rarely happens. It’s rare because our coordinator has worked with your sponsoring rabbi in advance, in order to ensure that you are truly ready. As a result, the panel of rabbis is most likely to display a welcoming attitude.
Generally, the next — and final — step is to immerse in a ritually appropriate (“kosher”) pool of water. Under certain conditions, a lake or the ocean can be used. However, we strongly prefer a specially designed facility called a mikveh. (A mikveh offers a more controlled experience that assures everyone’s safety and modesty.)
Another traditional approach — which some of our sponsoring rabbis prefer — is for the candidate to immerse in the mikveh first, and then to meet with the Bet Din panel as the final step.
For you, the order of rites will be according to your sponsoring rabbi’s choice.
Yes, that is the usual arrangement. Our coordinator sets it up with the Mikveh at the American Jewish University (AJU), in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Typically, you would rendezvous with your sponsoring rabbi in the Mikveh’s foyer. You would then meet with our Bet Din panel in a nearby room. Afterward, you would return to the Mikveh for your immersion if authorized by the Bet Din. Together the two rites — bet din and mikveh — generally take less than two hours.
Alternatively, you may meet with the Bet Din in a different place and go to the mikveh on the same or another day.
A few weeks before your appointment, our Bet Din coordinator will send you instructions; and the Mikveh staff is available to answer questions in advance.
The “Introduction to Judaism” programs in our area often include a visit to the Mikveh. But if you haven’t visited the facility prior to your appointment, it will begin with a tour.
In any event, the Mikveh administrator will teach you what to do. She will help you with the prayers and enable you to immerse in a modest, comfortable, and meaningful way. She will also supervise to ensure that your immersion is ritually proper. Most people experience their immersion as a deeply moving spiritual event.
Most sponsoring rabbis will ask for compensation for their teaching and/or tutoring toward meeting our educational requirements. They cannot accept compensation for serving as your sponsoring rabbi per se.
The other two rabbis who serve on our Bet Din panel are volunteers.
None of the participating rabbis can make their endorsement conditional upon your making donations or payments aside from the following.
Our Bet Din charges an administrative fee of $180. A portion of our income from these fees is used to offset the cost for other candidates in need.
The fee for use of the AJU’s Community Mikveh is $125.
Men and boys are able to join the covenant of the Jews with God in a special way through ritual circumcision. (Jewish male babies are circumcised eight days after birth — health permitting — as the centerpiece of a rite, in the presence of Jewish witnesses.) In this way, we Jews follow the ancient sacred commandment given to our father Abraham when he undertook a covenant with his deity.
There is a ceremony for you, called hattafat dam b’rit. Typically, you meet with a trained specialist called a mohel, who is also a medical doctor. He uses a small lancet to bring to the surface less than a drop of blood, at the site of your circumcision.
Some candidates prefer to perform this rite on themselves, while a Jewish adult serves as a witness.
This rite is considered as a symbolic re-circumcision. The mohel or witness then attests that it was performed for the sake of your entering the covenant as a Jew.
For more information, see here.
You will have to be ritually circumcised. This is done by a urologist, with anesthetic, in a medical clinic or hospital. It is accompanied by specific blessings, which typically are said by your sponsoring rabbi or by a trained specialist known as a mohel. These blessings establish that you are entering the covenant as a Jew. The surgery site is fully healed after a month (assuming that there are no complications).
Perhaps you are living as a man yet do not have male genitalia (as most people would define them). Or perhaps you are not living as a man yet do have male genitalia (as most people would define them). If so, please know that we are committed to finding a way that respects both your gender identity/expression/body image and the Jewish commitment to God’s covenant with Abraham. We will work with your sponsoring rabbi to determine what is best in your case.
We rely upon the written attestation of a Jewish witness, which is usually the mohel. Typically that attestation is in the form of a certificate. It’s best if you convey a copy of it to our Bet Din coordinator prior to your appointment. In any case, we ask that you bring the original with you when you meet with the Bet Din panel.
Yes, it is not uncommon for a child to accompany a parent in the conversion process. However, children under the age of 13 are handled a bit differently, because they are not considered able to freely make an informed choice.
Yes, if you are the biological mother.
Individual rabbis who are members of our Bet Din may give different answers to this question. However, regarding someone whose (biological) father was Jewish, or who was adopted as a child by Jewish parents, the “highest common denominator” answer is:
What’s needed is that you go through the same outward ritual process as someone who was not raised as a Jew.
Granted, at first glance the term “conversion” may not be a good fit for you. We respect that your present sense of identity may already be fully Jewish. Yet in your situation we tend to use the term “conversion” anyway — while not taking it so literally. That’s because the outward process is virtually the same, in order for you to achieve Jewish status in the eyes of all of our member rabbis.
You will receive two conversion certificates: one in English and one in Hebrew. You will also receive a separate attestation of your immersion in a mikveh. The rabbis of the Bet Din panel will have signed all these documents.
Our Bet Din keeps a paper copy of these certificates in a fireproof safe, and a digital copy is archived, as well.
Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and transdenominational rabbis will accept you as a Jew. At this time, few Orthodox rabbis will accept any conversion other than those that they or their Orthodox colleagues authorize.