If your future spouse-to-be is of Jewish heritage, the subject of conversion might have popped up at some point. While it’s not necessarily a requirement for all, if your partner is very loyal to their faith, you probably know that they can’t marry anyone who is not Jewish themselves.
You may remember Charlotte from Sex and The City and the lengthy (and sometimes painful) process that she had to endure before marrying her beloved Harry Goldenblatt. It may surprise you, but it is actually a rather accurate description of what you might encounter on your journey.
Converting to Judaism is not an easy task and it takes a lot of determination. It’s not easy by any means and there’s a good reason for it. Long story short, the process is meant to be difficult in order to turn away everyone who is not serious—and welcome all those who are committed.
You Only Live Once, So Think Twice
First of all, it is important to point out that you should not force yourself into a faith just because you’re keen on being married. Because marriage is the most common influential factor for a person converting to the religion, the reason why it’s so difficult is to prevent the non-devoted side of the equation.
Keep in mind that with Judaism, it is not a simple baptize-and-go process, but rather a lifestyle you have to accept. If you’re serious about the switch, you probably won’t mind the changes. Perhaps you’ve embraced them already.
Of course, with most couples getting married, this is not the case. In fact, the non-Jewish partner is usually very keen on switching to Judaism with or without their spouse’s preference. But if you do have doubts, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons before you go through with it.
Converting to Judaism for Marriage: Step-by-Step
There are several denominations in Judaism, as with most religions, so the process may be more or less intense depending on your situation. We’re here to give you a brief rundown on how to go about this massive change in your life and what you can expect from it.
Education Is Key
Once you’ve decided to commit to becoming Jewish—or ideally, before doing so—you should put in the effort to make it happen. This means studying and reading up on the history, traditions, laws…etc. Hey, the fact that you’re reading this is already a big step!
As we’ve mentioned before, details may differ depending on your would-be denomination. So, therefore, the second step will be…
Have a Sit-Down
When you feel you’re ready to take things to the next level, have a chat with your partner first. And if you have any Jewish friends (or family), that could be a great idea as well. Your partner will be your main source of information, however, as they will introduce you to their denomination of Judaism and be able to describe the process with your first-hand.
A Repeated Rendezvous with a Rabbi
Now that you’re prepared (more or less), you can begin your journey which starts with talking to a rabbi (essentially a Jewish priest), about your goals. There’s a reason we didn’t recommend this earlier. Normally, it’s a good idea to speak to a professional about any serious process, but in this case, it would backfire. Here’s why:
You have to accept the fact that any rabbi will likely turn you away three times before helping you out. This is one of the many means of how Judaism tests the commitment of their to-be-converts. If you’re not determined and passionate, you’ll have a hard time. But if you’re willing to endure the challenges, you’ll earn their utmost respect.
Prepare for a Lengthy Learning Process
Converting to Judaism will take time. At best, expect to commit to a year of educational courses. At worst, expect to spend two to three years doing so.
In addition to self-study, you’ll likely need to take a few classes, which can be done at your local synagogue or another Jewish center. Expect to learn a few basics of the Hebrew language as part of your journey as well. Your local rabbi will be able to give you more details about that or you can look it up yourself if you’re resourceful.
Note that while online classes are available, they are not always accepted in certain groups. Hence, again, it is best to check in with the center where you plan to fulfill your conversion beforehand.
Endure Some Tests and Trials
The lengthy educational process is not a formality. You will be tested on your knowledge via a court-like interview at the end. Depending on your denomination, you should be familiarized with all or some of the Torah’s commandments and the Rabbinic Enactments. You should also be prepared to be questioned about your motivations for becoming Jewish and tested for your sincerity.
Baptisms and Rituals
Alongside your trial, you will have to participate in a baptism of sorts. This usually involves being submerged into a bath or another form of water. Officially, it is referred to as mikveh, or spiritual rebirth.
If you’re a man, you will have to undergo circumcision (brit milah) if you haven’t had one already. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. And if you have already had one, they might do a ritualistic blood-letting (usually in the form for a simple finger prick) to seal the deal.
Pick a Name, but Not Just any Name
Once your conversion is finalized, you’ll have to choose a Hebrew name. Remember, you are going through a “spiritual rebirth!” Keep in mind that you will be using this name in all official religious services, so choose it wisely.
One thing you might find interesting is that all Hebrew names have the suffixes of “ben Avraham Avinu” or “bat Sarah Imeinu”, which mean, “son of Abraham, our father” and “daughter of Sarah, our Mother,” respectively.
A Reminder Again: Don’t Expect it to Be Easy
Even if you’re the most dedicated and passionate would-be Jew, you might encounter some lack of acceptance even after your conversion. But, this is often the case when an outsider joins a long-standing community.
Most often, converting spouses get a bit of a cold shoulder from their family-in-law. The good news is that they usually always come around and are more than happy to welcome you to both the family and the faith.
And if you’re truly committed, you have nothing to worry about either way!