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.