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Conversion / Jewish By Choice Program

One of the greatest privileges and most inspiring aspects of leading a Jewish community as a rabbi is working with conversion candidates.” -Rabby Amy

Individuals drawn to Judaism for its spiritual nourishment, rich history, uplifting stories, engaging and meaningful rituals, caring community, and commitment to repairing the world (Tikkun Olam) find the treasures of Judaism to be a gift. Their wonder and awe as they learn of the ways Judaism can add meaning and purpose and love to their lives is awesome – it is equally a gift to all of us who are Jews by birth and don’t always notice the gleaming treasures right before us. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to welcome conversion candidates to our community!

At OZ, our clergy aim to successfully guide those seeking to become Jews by Choice. The process starts with a face-to-face meeting (in person or on Zoom during the pandemic) between you, the conversion student, and Rabbi Amy, to discuss your background, interests, and goals in becoming a Jew. The Rabbi will share OZ’s approach, process and relevant religious rules and law. The goal of this initial meeting is for both you and the Rabbi to have a sense for if the fit and timing is right to move forward through the process together.

A conversion candidate at OZ should be of stable and sound mind, and independently desire to become a Jew. They also should be prepared to:

  • Take classes on Judaism offered or directed by OZ clergy
  • Meet monthly with an OZ clergy member for one year, or more if needed
  • Study Judaism and Hebrew with one-on-one clergy meetings
  • Engage in Jewish life and practice as a current (or potential future) member of OZ
  • Attend OZ services, events and programs, and otherwise participate in and contribute to the OZ community
  • Immerse in a mikveh (and hatafat dam brit if relevant), receive an Aliyah (recite the blessings before a Torah reading during a Shabbat or holiday service) and participate in a community celebration at the completion of their conversion

With Judaism I have found the values that I searched for. Judaism shows me the way to become a holy person. The way of salvation is by action rather than faith. We are in partnership with God to make the world better. I am looking forward to becoming part of the Jewish community.” – M, a Reform female, from the site BecomingJewish.net

Interested in getting started?  Fill out this form.

OZ Conversion FAQs:

How long does it take to convert to Judaism?

The amount of time will vary from person to person, based on their time available to study and participate in the program. Generally conversions at OZ take between 12 and 18 months, with one year of participation in Jewish life being a minimum.

What happens at the end of the period of conversion study and engagement in community life?

When Rabbi Amy has determined that a perspective Jew by Choice is ready, they will meet with a Bet Din (a religious “court”), who will interview the candidate to confirm they are ready to become Jewish. Then we welcome the candidate as a member of the Jewish People. A Mikveh immersion (usually in Lake Champlain at the home of one of our congregants) takes place as a final ritual.

Can my partner participate with me?

We welcome both partners in a relationship to attend classes and programs together.

What if I am partnered with someone who is another faith or non-religious?

We are happy to support you.  OZ has many interfaith families involved in all aspects of OZ life.

Do I have to be a member of the synagogue?

You do not. While in the program, you are encouraged to take advantage of OZ services, speakers, programs and celebrations, and when there is a charge for a program, such as High Holiday Tickets, you can use the member rates. We hope that at the completion of the program you will find that OZ has become your spiritual home, and choose to become a member of OZ, but that is not a requirement.

Is it possible to speak to a person who has undergone this process at OZ?

Rabbi Amy will be happy to connect you with a member of our congregation who has become a Jew by Choice, to give you a sense for their experience and how it has impacted their life. You can find them involved in all areas of our congregational and communal life!

Do males need to be circumcised?

Male circumcision is required. For males already circumcised, a skilled and trained mohel or medical professional privately performs a ritual known as a Hatafat Dam Brit. This consists of taking a little speck of blood from the foreskin, along with words of blessing connecting this ritual to our ancestors and our people. The Rabbi will provide more information during consultation with candidates.

Will I be sent away three times by The Rabbi?

​This question has its origin in in a Midrash (Biblical exegesis) in which Ruth is made to reconsider her allegiance to the Jewish people through questions asked of her and then became halachah (Jewish law) for many centuries. But times have changed. We embrace and celebrate those who choose to become a member of the Jewish people, so we no longer hold to the practice of sending someone away when they inquire regarding conversion. OZ aims to welcome people, so, no, our rabbi will not send you away three times. That said, there may be situations in which OZ is not able to assist everyone interested in conversion. If that is the case, the rabbi will let a student know and will aim to provide alternative advice.

What if I want to learn more about Judaism but don’t want to convert?

OZ offers a variety of adult education classes, programs and Torah study opportunities. Feel free to review our website’s calendar or contact us for more info.

How much does it cost?

According to longstanding Jewish practice, conversion candidates are welcome to participate in Jewish life without obligation, until conversion is complete. Here are OZ, while we honor this practice, we also ask that conversion candidates contribute to our community so that our programs will be sustained. The requested annual donation for candidates is $360 for an individual or a couple. Candidates will need to purchase some books for their study, as will be discussed in the opening meeting with the rabbi. Additional costs may include a fee for the mohel for hatafat dam brit.

What’s the first step?

To express interest in the conversion process and set up an initial meeting with the Rabbi, please fill out this form.

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