I am just sending this email as I am interested in converting to Judaism. I have sent a lot of emails to different Jewish organisations online but have not received any responses so it is a bit disheartening.
I feel I have a Jewish soul. My great-great grandmother was Jewish. She had a son, who had a son, who had a daughter - my mother. I feel that it is already in me through the bloodline and my genes and I really want to confirm my identity and become fully Jewish.
My problem is that I live in a rural town in NSW, 5 hours from Sydney, and this being the case there is no local synagogue to attend. This does not worry me though as I would be happy to do everything online.
Are you able to assist or direct me to where I could get some help with this?
Rabbi Jonathan responds:
Many thanks for your perseverance in trying to discover more about and re-establish your Jewish identity. I am confident it will ultimately be a rewarding and worthwhile search.
We will try to assist. However I should say from the outset that it is very hard to be a Jew on your own, and virtually impossible to become one when you are five hours from the nearest physical Jewish community. Your situation, as you describe it, is slightly different, or perhaps 'between the two', in that you feel you have a Jewish connection already through your great great grandmother. So let's locate you in the 'very hard' rather than 'virtually impossible'. Although we can now talk and do study 'on-line' and you can even watch regular shabbat and festival services, we have not yet created a 'virtual community' that you can participate meaningfully in. Perhaps this will come in the next few years.
Next I should explain that what we offer is a pretty comprehensive course about Judaism (from our Progressive perspective). You take it at your own speed but it takes a minimum of a year simply because it is structured to learn about the festivals at the time when they are approaching etc. We have a Shabbat weekend each December (15th to 17th in 2017) at the Leo Baeck Centre in East Kew, Melbourne so you can experience the services and community and meet other students etc.
The course will ensure you have a good understanding and familiarity with life cycle, the cycle of the year and festivals, history, theology, Jewish belief and practice etc.
This is the 'academic' part of the conversion course, but in order to convert, you also need to be able to read Hebrew (I have a good book for that, as you will see in the Introduction above), and to have experienced services, Passover Seder, High Holy Days etc - and really to have created a relationship with a Jewish community. You'll need a 'Sponsoring Rabbi' and once they think you are ready, they'll arrange a 'Bet Din' (Jewish Court) who will hear your story and hopefully welcome you formally to the Jewish people.
I do hope this is both clear and helpful. I understand that it can feel frustrating and upsetting to get no responses or to be knocked back, especially when it is so relatively easy to join some other faiths. It is worth remembering that Judaism, unlike some other major faiths, does not believe you 'have to be Jewish' or order to have a place in 'the world to come/salvation/redemption/eternal peace' etc. Judaism believes there are many legitimate and meaningful paths, and that all that is required is to be a 'decent human being' and follow the 7 Noahite laws (things like ensuring Courts of Justice for your community, not murdering or stealing or taking limbs from living animals etc).
And of course, whenever you can get to Sydney (or Melbourne or Canberra etc), do make the effort to get along to one of our congregations - I can arrange introductions and someone to welcome and assist you.