The process of becoming Jewish is very individual and personal. Our conversion to Judaism program is flexible and organic in nature, but it does have certain specific requirements to assist you in coming to understand Judaism and determine if it is a choice you wish to make.
Conversion Group is provided by the Ruth F. and Samuel H. Cohen Outreach Program of Temple Emanu-El.
Judaism is a religion of learning, and classes play a critical role in preparing to enter Jewish life. Every student is encouraged to enroll in a Taste of Judaism pre-introductory course. Each student should also take an introductory class in Judaism, either our Basic Judaism series or another comparable course that covers the academic year. In addition, every student should take a Hebrew Marathon, our two-day mini-class in Hebrew, so that Hebrew is not a closed book. The Jewish Living class is also highly recommended; this class is a thorough introduction to the pragmatic details of Jewish holidays, Shabbat and life-cycle events.
We offer many other Adult Education Academy classes, all of which are applicable and useful in preparing to become a Jew-by-Choice. These are not required for conversion, but are encouraged.
The Temple Emanu-El Conversion Group meets quarterly with either Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon or Rabbi Batsheva Appel. These meetings are suitable for those who are already in the conversion process, those who are considering conversion, and those who are interesting in learning more about conversion to Judaism and what it means to be Jewish. At the meetings, we discuss the conversion process, talk about any individual issues that have come up in the course of Jewish study or practice, and discuss any questions that come up. We also cover a topic about living Jewishly, such as adapting new traditions for holidays coming up, making kosher relevant and meaningful, fostering a relationship with Israel, and many more. These Conversion Group meetings are not a substitute for Basic Judaism or for individual meetings with the Rabbis, but an additional resource to help with the conversion process.
We recommend that all potential converts attend Shabbat and Festival services as often as practical. You will learn a great deal about the life of a Jewish congregation, and share in the annual cycle of Torah readings and festivals that forms a central part of Jewish life. Plan on attending Sabbath services at least once a month, preferably more. Both Shabbat evening and morning services are helpful, and each is different in character.
Rabbi Cohon or Rabbi Appel will ask potential converts to write a series of pieces on their interest in Judaism and their experiences learning about it and living it. There are typically about four "essays" required of each student, one at the beginning of the process, one at the end, and two somewhere in between.
Each student typically meets individually with Rabbi Cohon or Rabbi Appel approximately every two months, mostly to "check in" and ask questions. In addition, many students email questions to our rabbis more regularly. Other students meet more frequently with a rabbi, as their questions and needs require.
Students are encouraged to read as many varied Jewish books as they have time to read. A brief reading list is provided, but this is just a suggested jumping off point in learning about Judaism. Films on Jewish themes are also a valuable resource. A suggested film list is also enclosed.
There is a wealth of Jewish information available instantly on-line. Search on a Jewish topic and you will find many resources to scan or read. Most Jewish newspapers and magazines are now available on line, such as the Jewish Forward (www.forward.com), Moment Magazine, the Jerusalem Report, Ha'aretz, the Jerusalem Post, and many others. Keeping up on the current events in the Jewish world is sometimes as easy as signing up for Jewish email notices.
A wide variety of other Jewish experiences are also helpful in shaping a consciousness of Jewish issues, ideas, culture, and religious practice. These might include everything from going to Jewish museums to attending Jewish music concerts, lectures, camps, art shows, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and brisses. Listen to the weekly radio show, Too Jewish, on Sunday mornings at 9am on KVOI 690AM. Get yourself invited to someone's house for Shabbat dinner, or to a Passover Seder or Chanukah party. It's all good...
Typically, both the conversion student and the sponsoring rabbi have a sense at some point that "it's time." Usually the process takes in the neighborhood of a year, but there are no hard and fast rules on this.
• I choose to enter the eternal covenant between God and the people Israel and to become a Jew of my own free will.
• I accept Judaism to the exclusion of all other religious faiths and practices.
• I pledge my loyalty to Judaism and to the Jewish people under all circumstances.
• I promise to establish a Jewish home, and to participate actively in the life of the synagogue and of the Jewish people community.
• I commit myself to the pursuit of Torah and Jewish knowledge
• If I should be blessed with children, I promise to raise them as Jews.
Our rabbis perform mikveh conversion ceremonies at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona's Community Mikveh. For more on these inspirational ceremonies click here: Mikveh Ceremony