Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black's introduction and explanation about Progressive Judaism and how to learn more.
Thursday, 21 July 2016
I've started - can you help me finish?
Dear Rabbi . I have been in touch with a colleague of yours in the Union for Progressive Judaism as I am living in Australia.
They advised me to get in touch with you re conversion requirements.
I have done an on-line course with an organisation based in the U.S.A but I don't know if it's the real thing.
I haven't been before a bet din (Jewish court) there or been to a mikva (ritual bath), but I have done all the study modules.
Sorry to trouble you but I am anxious to convert in a way that will be acceptable and allow me to become an active member of the Jewish community in Australia.
Can you send me the overview of the modules and study that you have done?
Also have a look at the questions I have sent you. If you feel you can answer these confidently then it would suggest you have done the basic 'academic learning' we require. If not, we'll need to arrange some topping up. If you'd like to try to answer them as best you can, using work and learning you've done, plus books and internet, then I'm happy to review them to identify what we'd need to do.
In particular it would be useful for you to get an overview of progressive Jewish concepts in our region, for which I recommend our course book 'A Judaism for the Twenty-First Century' which I adapted from the British Progressive movement. You can get it on linefrom Amazon or I can get one sent to you for Au$25 plus postage (call the office to order by credit card +61 3 9819 7160).
Before you go before the Bet Din you will also need to take an 'Inventory' for which you'll need to go in to one of our congregations and complete a paper without books, internet etc. There is no pass mark for this but it does give us an idea of how much you actually have retained in your mind as opposed to in notes - for example what is the Hebrew year; what is the next main festival?
And before this, you'll also need to be able to read hebrew - hebrew gives access to Jewish ritual such as blessings. This is because the Inventory asks you what certain blessings are for - easy ones, except that it writes them in hebrew, so you won't be able to answer unless you can decipher them!
I assume that you learned to read hebrew as part of the American course, but if not you'll need to find a Hebrew course, or else I have written a self-teaching, self-checking hebrew primer called 'Hebrew from Zero'. Again you can get this on-line or we can send it to you for Au$20 plus postage, or if you get both books we will waive the postage charges.
Before the Bet Din you will also need a relationship with a congregation, and to have attended regular shabbat services as well as festivals, and in particular the main ones including Passover Seder and High Holydays. You will need your own copy of our prayer book (Siddur) called Mishkan T'filah - World Union Edition. You will be able to get this from the congregation if you do not yet have one. It costs $65.
I do apologise that this looks like a list of extra costs - that is not my intention and I have minimised the costs as much as possible. What I am trying to do is to assist in completing your conversion by a recognised and reputable Bet Din in the shortest appropriate time frame.
You might also be interested to know that we hold a Shabbat weekend in December here in Melbourne, specially aimed for those going through the Introduction to Judaism course.
Please feel free to contact me with further questions.