I have visited the Progressive Judaism website recently and am very interested in undertaking the Online Introduction to Judaism Course. I live in ACT and I am a non-Jew. I wish to learn more about Judaism and if there is a natural fit for both parties, eventually work towards joining the Jewish people by converting. I am aware this is an involved process and requires total commitment.
To provide some context, I have been drawn to the Jewish faith and culture for some time now and have been quietly but actively engaging with Judaism through various means of research, observing significant events in the Jewish calendar and attending a service at the nearest synagogue for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day). I read the Progressive Judaism website closely and am very drawn to the progressive nature and philosophy. It has a very warm and welcome feel to it which I have been looking for as I have very much felt as an outsider and learning/understanding in isolation.
I am curious about the general, overarching pathway for someone in my situation including the Introduction to Judaism Course and its preparedness for the option of conversion.
Rabbi Jonathan answers:
So good to hear from you. We believe that Progressive Judaism is a wonderful framework for a modern, intelligent spiritual life. So I am very glad that you want to undertake some serious study about it. The Progressive Judaism Victoria website is a useful starting point (pjv.org.au) where you'll find information about the on-line Introduction to Judaism course - and the Union for Progressive Judaism, our regional body, has a very well developed website at upj.org.au - I'm not sure which of those you looked at.
Of course Judaism is not only a subject of academic study but also a community and lifestyle to experience - or more accurately, communities and lifestyles, with plenty of variation across them. We have just held a busy weekend at Leo Baeck - here is the program to give you an idea of what we covered:
6.30-7.00: Arrival and welcome
7.00-8.00: Soul Shabbat service to welcome Shabbat
8.00-9.00: Shabbat Dinner, table songs, discussion about aspects of Shabbat
9.00-10.00: Study Group - an introduction to the service and Torah portion
10.00-12.00: Shabbat morning service
12.00-2.00: Kiddush and Chavurah lunch–meet members of LBC community
2.00-5.30: Free afternoon – or guided tour of the Jewish parts of Kew cemetery
5.30-7.00: Meet at Leo Baeck to walk to dinner at Vicki’s Italian restaurant – discussion about Israel issues.
7.00-10.00: Havdalah followed by movie: ‘The Gatekeepers’ and discussion after.
10.00-10.50: Choose one session: The Jewish Calendar or Blended families
10.50-11.05: Coffee break
11.05-12.00: Choose one session: Blended families or Jewish Belief and Ethic
12.00-12.30: Chill and chat
12.30-2.30: Relaxed community BBQ, Israeli dancing
2.30-4.00: Ask the Rabbis–your chance to ask a ‘Bet Din’ of Rabbis questions!
Rabbis Adam Stein, Aviva Kipen and Jonathan Keren-Black
We plan to hold a similar weekend in the future and those on the course will be informed in good time, and perhaps other communities will do something along the same lines.
To be clear, the Introduction to Judaism course is NOT a conversion course. It is open to anyone who wishes to learn more about Judaism from a Progressive perspective.
However, for those who wish to convert, it may well be the best way to deliver the Jewish education required. It is necessary to have a meeting with one of our Rabbis, who will be interested to hear the story and the journey, and will give guidance as to the best way forward. The content of the Introduction to Judaism course does cover much of the academic knowledge required for conversion.
If, having completed the Introduction course successfully, a student decides they do wish to go on to convert, they can speak to a Rabbi at that time - there will be other requirements such as achieving a fluency with hebrew reading, and regular attendance at services and developing a relationship with a community, but the academic learning will have been largely covered.
I hope this is helpful and look forward to getting to know you better,