A media firestorm kicked up last week after Mother Jones broke the story that President George W. Bush was to be the keynote speaker at the annual fundraiser of the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute on Nov. 14.
Falling in love with a Jewish man was Erica Hooper’s introduction to Judaism, but the religion’s ideals were ultimately what made her want to embrace it for life.
Kimia Sun was born a refugee. Her parents were survivors of Cambodia’s Khmer Rogue, which claimed nearly 2 million lives in the late 1970s. The couple was among the lucky ones and escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand, where Sun was born and spent her first months. Next, the family traveled to the Philippines, where Sun’s parents learned English and purchased plane tickets for America.
Rico Collins, 39, was raised Southern Baptist in Jacksonville, Fla., but could never relate to the messages he heard in church as a boy. “It’s very fire and brimstone,” he said. “I didn’t like it.”
Jazmine Green’s Jewish journey began when she met the person with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. It wasn’t until a brief separation from her boyfriend, however, that she knew she was making the right decision — to convert.
Clarifying existing policy, the office of Israel’s deputy religious services minister said Israel’s state-sponsored mikvahs are open for use for Conservative and Reform conversions.
Conversion to Judaism is not easy. It requires a change in beliefs, actions and lifestyle. It involves extensive study, practice, a leap of faith, a shift in perception and some sacrifice.
Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, Judith Golden and Suzanne Rosenthal perched at their desks in a small room in the depths of American Jewish University (AJU).
Growing up Catholic in Ireland can be intense, and it may be one reason why Philomena Wallace decided to become a Jew.
When Donna Levine told her mother she had converted, the response was that she would burn in hell. A friend encouraged Levine to join Jews for Jesus. She had to explain to this friend that, unfortunately, that wouldn’t work.
An Israeli advocacy group filed a lawsuit seeking the recognition of all Orthodox conversions performed in Israel.
When Jennifer Harrison-Gomez decided to convert to Judaism, her husband, Brian Gomez, followed suit. At 8 years old, Jennifer saw a film about Judaism that sparked her interest. In middle school, she read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which further intrigued her. As an adult, she worked for a Jewish mortuary, where she admired the Jewish traditions of handling death. Jennifer began talking about Judaism with the shomer (guardian of the deceased) at her job, and, after learning more, she started her conversion process.
Fourteen years ago, Catherine and Bruce Penso’s oldest daughter, Leah, was ready to become a bat mitzvah. But before her big day, Leah told her parents that she wanted to go to the mikveh and formally convert.
It is quite something to read Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion dean Joshua Holo’s caricature Dennis Prager as reckless, heedless, gratuitously hostile and a provocateur “painting in broad strokes of facile caricature” (Letters, Dec. 21), when that is precisely what he, not Prager, does.
When Andromeda Stevens, 46, found herself falling in love with Judaism, she knew it was time to convert. She and her husband, Glenn Stevens, who live in Beverlywood, started living a Jewish life together years before they were married, and Andromeda converted after the wedding. “I liked the traditions, and the meaning behind the traditions,” she said. “The symbols were very logical to me and very supportive of humanity and living a justified and good life. I found that really appealing. It was very contrary to my Catholic education.”
For Chris Hardin, converting to Judaism was a family affair. In November 1994, Hardin, then 38, stepped into the mikveh. That day, his daughter and wife did the same.
Throughout his conversion process, Michael Pershes claims he was an “obsessive superstar Jew.” The 42-year-old real estate developer and fashion designer studied Torah and the laws of kashrut, learned modern Hebrew at the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute, volunteered for the first time at Jewish Family Service, wrote monthly essays, celebrated Shabbat every week and joined his synagogue’s choir in the two-and-a-half years it took him to convert.
Hearing the name Frank Siciliano, you would probably not immediately think “Orthodox Jew.” But this Jew by Choice, who has lived in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood for the past three years, is as passionate about his religion and his people as one can get.
My childhood best friend was Billy Thein. We met at Encino Elementary School in Mrs. Bernstein’s third-grade class, and were pretty much inseparable after that. Billy was funny and smart and cool — and in a public school packed with the striving, anxious, gawkward spawn of suburban Jewry, cool stood out.
I asked City Council member Jan Perry, a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, if she was on a spiritual quest when she converted to Judaism. “Right,” she replied. “Your question is a good way to put it.”
Orthodox conversions in Israel are down by 31 percent over the past two years, according to a new report.
Israel's high court reversed two annulled conversions to Judaism and affirmed thousands of others.
Earlier this year, I got a call from an old friend, Rabbi Juan Mejia. Juan asked me if I’d be willing to accompany him and Rabbi Felipe Goodman to San Miguel de Allende for a couple of days in early February. Juan, Felipe and I have a lot in common: We laugh at the same jokes, we all speak Spanish, and we’re all rabbis. A little getaway to Mexico in the middle of winter? Sure, I could fit that into my schedule — no problem, I said.
Israel's Chief Rabbinate has agreed to recognize all Jewish conversions undertaken in the country, JTA has learned. ITIM, the Jewish Life Information Center, and the Chief Rabbinate have reached an agreement under which the rabbinate will recognize all conversions conferred under the auspices of Israeli conversion programs, including the military. The agreement was made available to JTA.
American Jewish leaders said they remain concerned about Israeli conversion legislation following a meeting with high-level Israeli government officials.
The first step is to join an Introduction to Judaism program or find a rabbi who will study with you. Programs usually consist of about 18 sessions and delve into a number of topics, including but not limited to Jewish history, rituals, Israel and core Jewish values.
Funnye, 56, has dedicated his life to chiseling away at the conventional, but increasingly inaccurate, conception of who is a Jew.
When Lorin Fife converted to Judaism some 30 years ago, his experience with the Orthodox rabbis who presided over his year of study and conversion ceremony was one of warmth and acceptance.
It calls on the government to establish Jewish religious courts that "will base themselves on appropriate moderate and tolerant prior halachic decisions to allow the conversion process to move forward.
When Gabriela Böhm set out to create her documentary, "The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America," several years ago, she hoped to profile an as-yet-undiscovered secret community of Crypto Jews -- descendants of Jews forced to flee the Spanish Inquisition who continued practicing rituals covertly.
It was clear where the conversation was headed when Luke, speaking over melodic chants that included words like "Lord" and "heaven," asked if I had any "spiritual leanings."
For decades, a charge against the rabbis who perform marriages on behalf of Israel's Chief Rabbinate has gone unanswered: That the rabbi did nothing to add to the joy, meaning and beauty of a wedding celebration. On June 15, the Masorti/Conservative movement launched a media blitz that confronted the Rabbinate on this issue head on.
The reasons why milifers and seniors have gravitated to adult b'nai mitzvah programs since the trend first took off in the 1970s are numerous, including the fact that most women didn't have such ceremonies until the 1980s (the first bat mitzvah was held in 1922). One perennial influence is a child or grandchild reaching b'nai mitzvah age, and the divergent issues brought about by intermarriage can sometimes compel one or more adults in a family to take on b'nai mitzvah study to serve as a role model.
In Israel, the "non-Jewish Jews," as some Israelis call them, are everywhere. They drive buses, teach university classes, patrol in army jeeps and follow the latest Israeli reality TV shows as avidly as their Jewish counterparts. For these people -- mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jews according to Israeli law -- the question of where they fit into the Jewish state remains unanswered nearly two decades after they began coming to Israel.
In Jewish communities in Los Angeles, tenants are uneasily contemplating a fate increasingly familiar to renters - the conversion of their building to condominiums.
In last week's column I proposed addressing the pain of Jewish women approaching the end of their childbearing years who cannot find a Jewish mate. One solution, I wrote, would be to encourage them to date non-Jews, and for our rabbis and community leaders to create pathways for inclusion and conversion for the non-Jewish partners. The idea sparked dozens of responses pro and con, and in fairness to the idea's detractors (and supporters) we reprint a sample on these pages, with a brief coda by me.
And other letters to the Editor.
I know too many beautiful, brilliant single Jewish women in their 30s and 40s.
If there's one subject that can spark a juicy debate among lovers of Israel, it is what to do with these millions of Jesus-loving evangelical Christians who love Israel to death.
Talking last Thursday about God's chosen people, comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler and lamenting the indifference others express about Israel, these 300-plus Christians each spent at least $125 to pray for peace in the Holy Land and commiserate with Jews about the seemingly never-ending threats to Israel's existence.
In the past decade, as Jewish leaders grapple with how assimilation and intermarriage have affected the numbers of Jews, many Jewish organizations, temples and synagogues are increasing efforts to reach out to teach Judaism -- both to secular and unaffiliated Jews, as well as to interfaith families.
"I was raised Jewish, was always told I was Jewish," said the 35-year-old, who did not want his real name printed. "I went to Jewish camps, even had a bar mitzvah." But when Levine joined a Conservative congregation after his marriage, the rabbi told him that because his mother was not Jewish, he needed a legal conversion.
Maya Nahor learned she wasn't Jewish from an Israeli bureaucrat.
Charles Dickens' classic, "A Tale of Two Cities," begins with the famous line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Sociologist Steven Cohen's new study on intermarriage has a similar title but a different spirit.
"I don't understand the fuss people make," he said. "In Africa now they're circumcising thousands of adult men for AIDS prevention. If it were such a big deal, don't you think word would get around and the men would stop doing it?"
Many interfaith couples are raising their children to be Jews, even without conversion of the non-Jewish parent.
Occasionally, as I light a candle on the menorah on a dark December night, I think about my former Christmas dishes and the woman who bought them. I imagine that she lovingly sets them on her table, as she prepares her Christmas dinner, and I smile.