Answers to

Frequently Asked Questions

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I might be interested in converting to Judaism. What is the process?

My sponsoring rabbi says that I’m ready to convert. I’m excited and a bit nervous. What happens now? 

What is a bet din?

How do I apply?

What do we talk about during the bet din session?

Can the bet din reject me?

After the bet din, what happens next?

Can the bet din and the mikveh immersion be done during the same appointment?

I’ve never been in a mikveh. How will I know what to do?

Who will help me on the day of my conversion?

Is there a cost involved?

I’m a male. What does milah involve?

I was circumcised as a baby. What do I do?

I am not circumcised. What can I do?

Does the mohel give me a certificate?

I have children. Can they be converted?

Do I receive a conversion certificate?

Will American rabbis accept my conversion as valid?

Will my conversion be recognized as valid in Israel?

Will my children be Jewish if I am converted before they are born?

What do people say about their experience with the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din?

 

 

 

 

I might be interested in converting to Judaism. What is the process?

The process of becoming a member of the Jewish people is well established. If you are an adult, the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din (SCCBD) asks that you follow these steps as you journey to full membership within the Jewish people:

Study. Attend an Introduction to Judaism course and/or learn privately with your (sponsoring) rabbi.

Connect with a rabbi who is willing to serve as your sponsoring rabbi. Most congregational rabbis are very happy to help you on this path. If you don’t yet have a rabbi, we will help you find one.

Choose a Hebrew name for yourself, in consultation with your sponsoring rabbi.

Meet with the Bet Din and discuss your wish to become Jewish.

Immerse yourself in a kosher mikveh.

For males only: fulfill the mitzvah of milah (ritual circumcision).

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My sponsoring rabbi says that I’m ready to convert. I’m excited and a bit nervous. What happens now?

Mazal tov! Congratulations! A mix of excitement and anxiety is quite normal. If you and your rabbi decide that the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din is best for you, we will be glad to help you. Ask your rabbi to get in touch with us.

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What is a bet din?

A bet din for conversion is a kind of court, made up of three committed Jewish leaders. In the case of the Community Bet Din, this means three rabbis, one of whom will be your sponsoring rabbi. The Community Bet Din will authorize your conversion to Judaism.

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How do I apply?

Download the application form here and submit it to the Community Bet Din office as soon as possible. Call us to discuss your unique journey and to schedule your conversion.

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What do we talk about during the bet din session?

Meeting with the Community Bet Din is an opportunity for you to discuss your decision to become a Jew with three welcoming rabbis. They want to be sure that you are converting freely and that you understand what it means to live as a Jew.

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Can the Bet Din reject me?

Technically speaking, yes; but it rarely happens. Your sponsoring rabbi will meet with the other rabbis briefly before they meet with you, to tell them about your journey toward Judaism. The other rabbis rely heavily upon your rabbi’s recommendation.

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After the bet din, what happens next?

The next step is to immerse in a ritual pool of “living” water, called a mikveh.

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Can the bet din and the mikveh immersion be done during the same appointment?

Yes! The Community Bet Din usually works in coordination with the Rabbinical Assembly’s Mikveh, which is located at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. You may meet there with the Bet Din and then immediately go to the mikveh. The two parts, bet din and mikveh, generally take less than two hours. Alternatively, you may meet with the Bet Din in a different place and go to the mikveh on the same or another day. 

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I’ve never been in a mikveh. How will I know what to do?

The “Introduction to Judaism” programs in our area often include a visit to the Mikveh. Shortly before your appointment, the coordinator of our Bet Din will send you information; and the Mikveh staff is available to answer any questions that you may have. And if you haven’t visited the Mikveh prior to your appointment, it will begin with a tour of the facility.

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Who will help me on the day of my conversion?

The Mikveh administrator will give you a brief orientation and teach you what to do. She will help you with the prayers and enable you to immerse in the mikveh in a very modest, comfortable, and holy way. Most people experience their immersion as a deeply moving spiritual event.

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Is there a cost involved?

The services of the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din are free, although donations to our assistance fund are happily accepted. The non-profit owner of the Mikveh charges a fee to use it. For an adult, the cost is $375 or $360. For a child, it is $260 or $250. (The lower fee is for payment by cash or check.) Payment is expected at the time of your immersion.

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I’m a male. What does milah involve?

Men and boys are able to join the covenant of the Jews with God in a special way through ritual circumcision. Jewish male babies are circumcised eight days after birth (health permitting) as the centerpiece of a rite, in the presence of Jewish witnesses. For adult males, the process is similar. In this way, Jewish people follow the ancient holy commandment given to our father Abraham when he became the first Jew.

 

If you living as a man yet do not have male genitalia, or if you are not living as a man yet do have male genitalia, please know that we are committed to finding a way that both respects your gender identity/expression and the Jewish commitment to God’s covenant with Abraham. We will work with your sponsoring rabbi to determine what is best in your case.

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I was circumcised as a baby. What do I do?

There is a ceremony for you. It is called hattafat dam b’rit. Typically, you would meet with a trained specialist called a mohel, who is also a medical doctor. He would use a tiny thin needle to take a minute drop of blood. Some men barely feel anything. Most experience a mild sting, like when a single hair is pulled from your head. It is not at all the same as a blood test. The mohel will explain. He will be deft and gentle.

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I am not circumcised. What can I do?

You will have to be circumcised. This is done by a mohel, with you under anesthetic in a medical office or hospital. Specific blessings are said. There may be some discomfort for a little while, but medications help. Most men and boys are surprised to find that they completely recover very quickly.

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Does the mohel give me a certificate?

Yes. You must fax or send a copy of it to the Community Bet Din office before your appointment. Please bring the original with you when you meet with the Bet Din.

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I have children. Can they be converted?

Yes, children under the age of 13 may become Jewish according to the traditions of our people by entering the mikveh in the presence of a bet din. Children do not have a formal meeting with the Bet Din, but their parent(s) must meet with the Bet Din before the child(ren)’s immersion. Male children must fulfill the requirement of ritual circumcision. The mikveh ceremony emphasizes modesty and sensitivity, and it is tailored for each individual child. Children and babies respond well to the spirituality of the mikveh. They also enjoy the clear, warm waters of the little pool.

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Do I receive a conversion certificate?

Yes. Beautiful documents attesting to your conversion are crafted especially for you in English and Hebrew. They provide details of your given name, the Hebrew name you choose and the date of conversion. The documents specifically mention each part of your conversion; that is: study, meeting with the Bet Din, and immersion in the mikveh, with the added circumcision requirement for males. The rabbis of the Bet Din sign all these documents.

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Will American rabbis accept my conversion as valid?

Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and transdenominational rabbis will accept you. At this time, few Orthodox rabbis will accept any conversion other than those that they or their Orthodox colleagues authorize. 

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Will my conversion be recognized as valid in Israel?

The Israeli government will recognize your conversion so that you will be accepted as a citizen if you wish to make aliyah. In addition, the rapidly growing number of Conservative and Reform congregations will be delighted to welcome you into their midst. However, the official religious and rabbinic authority in Israel may not accept you as a Jew. 

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Will my children be Jewish if I am converted before they are born?

Yes.

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What do people say about their experience with the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din?

  “I was glad to have rabbis from three movements on the Bet Din at my conversion. I feel that I have embraced and been welcomed into the entire Jewish community.”

  “Everyone was so kind. I was surprised at my emotions.”

  “I feel like a whole new person.”

  “I have always lived a Jewish life and I didn’t think the process was for me. Now I am so grateful to have done this. It was good.”

  “The entire experience was amazing, beyond words, like nothing I have ever felt before. I’m happy my rabbi could be with me.”

  “At long last, I am home where I belong among my people.”

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