Becom­ing Jew­ish: The Chal­lenges, Rewards, and Paths to Conversion

Rab­bi Steven Carr Reuben and Jen­nifer S. Hanin; Bob Saget, fwd.
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

Becom­ing Jew­ish is the prover­bial trea­sure trove of infor­ma­tion about con­vert­ing to Judaism, with facts, fables, and foibles all rolled into one well-writ­ten, well-con­ceived book. The two authors, one a rab­bi, one a con­vert, write smooth­ly togeth­er, blend­ing their view­points and deft­ly pig­gy­back­ing on each other’s thoughts and feel­ings. A wealth of mate­r­i­al cov­ers every­thing from shop­ping for a rab­bi, under­stand­ing Jew­ish val­ues, learn­ing about Jew­ish ideas on believ­ing vs. belong­ing, study­ing Hebrew, hon­or­ing Shab­bat, and cel­e­brat­ing the hol­i­days at home to fac­ing the Mik­vah and the Bet Din. It also touch­es on issues relat­ed to rais­ing Jew­ish chil­dren and brings to life the great love of the Jew­ish peo­ple for Israel and, espe­cial­ly, Jerusalem.

Mean­ing­ful anec­dotes about Hanin’s con­ver­sion process and the new ways she learned to relate not only to Judaism but to a world that now looked dif­fer­ent to her are sprin­kled through­out the book and add a grace note of per­son­al warmth to an already wel­com­ing set of con­cepts. The book is well-orga­nized and easy to fol­low. Reuben, a Recon­struc­tion­ist rab­bi, art­ful­ly explains the dif­fer­ences among the Reform, Con­ser­v­a­tive, and Ortho­dox move­ments and his own, hon­or­ing each in its own right and also men­tion­ing trans-denom­i­na­tion­al Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions.
Appen­dices explain the syl­labi of typ­i­cal con­ver­sion cours­es, and a glos­sary pro­vides def­i­n­i­tions of com­mon Jew­ish terms, includ­ing tzedakah, Tal­mud, and suf­ganiy­ot. A resources sec­tion helps encour­age Jew­ish activism by list­ing online Jew­ish mag­a­zines, such as Jew­cy, muse­ums of Jew­ish his­to­ry and Israel-cen­tered think tanks. Appen­dices, glos­sary, index, resources.

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

Discussion Questions