Thinking about converting to Judaism

New to this board. I was looking for message boards on Judaism and this popped up.

Not sure if this is an appropriate thread title, so feel free to change it if you want.

Guess I should give a little background first. I’ve always felt an attachment to Judaism that has only grown the more and more that I have studied. I would like to at least explore conversion at some point.

Recently my father became a hardcore fundamentalist Christian, which has made my life stressful to say the least. He did so, mainly by listening to Klove and getting overemotional with some of their songs, and thinking Jesus was speaking to him. Last night, both my parents told me that unless I change my opinion on who the messiah is, I will burn in hell for eternity.

I am just trying to wrap my mind around a lot of these ideas that my father has said. To me, his ideas come off as scary, because if he gets emotional over a song that he hears who is to say he doesn’t get more emotional with other things? What if the message was more violent? Or the end times are here?

To me Judaism seems to be a religion that is rational and logical. Not saying every single thing makes perfect sense, but I imagine many Rabbi’s would be uncomfortable with someone that was so easily convinced. Especially if that someone hadn’t read the Bible (I’ve quizzed him, he hasn’t)

Isn’t it better for someone to reach religious conclusions by study and experience?

Anyways know this is long, it’s just I was kind of shaken up by the whole experience and thought someone here might be able to make better sense out of it. Even though I do believe there is a God, I know that is also something that my parents tried to teach me. If I have come to the conclusion that they were so wrong on many of their Christian conclusions, it’s possible they were also so wrong on there even being a God.

Right. And understand that it’s possible to live a fulfilled life, as a decent person, without religion of any sort. You may not need it to be happy. And you don’t need certainty, in either the existence or non-existence of God. It’s OK to be uncertain.

If you are truly interested in Judaism, itself, but do not want affirmation of the existence of g-d to be an issue, look into Reform or Recontructionist Judaism. Reconstructionist, in particular, emphasizes the ethical Jewish principles and doesn’t require a statement of faith for conversion.

It isn’t that they are demonstrably wrong, just that they are just no more right, nor have any better idea as to whether there is a god or not than do you. Nor do the rabbis, nor do any other religious group. Nor do I (and I’m an atheist and a secular humanist)

If you are looking for something rational and logical then religion ain’t it. It depends on you believing, on faith alone, in something supernatural. Not a criticism, one can accept that fact and yet still believe.

I understand why you might shy away from the faith of your parents as they sound particularly destructive and obnoxious but I’d suggest not rushing into the first appealing religious refuge. It may make more sense and appear less harmful than the religion you’ve experienced but how much do you know about the other options out there?
Read more, read widely, read both sides. Not just straightforward religious texts either, branch out into philosophy, explore, there is no rush. No god worth its salt is going to damn you hellfire just for browsing awhile.

I’m no believer but I won’t preach, the most important thing to me is that whatever path a person takes I’d rather it was one that allows you to express your better nature and doesn’t end up dictating you take action that causes others mental or physical harm. That same is true whether you are religious or not.

Best of luck.

Maybe look into Humanism?

Judaism can be a demanding, if rewarding religion. However, Jews believe that the righteous among non-Jews are also worthy of divine favor. If you feel attracted to the teachings of the Torah, then by all means, explore it further, but understand that full conversion isn’t the only way to go, in Judaic belief.

To follow up: look up Noahide Laws.

You can be just as “righteous” as an observant Jew if you follow those. If you spend a couple of years studying the Torah, convince a few Rabbis of your sincerity seeking the conversion, and become a Jew, you will put on yourself the onus of MANY more obligations, for no gain in “righteousness”. In spiritual sense, according to Judaism, it’s better to be a Noahide Laws-following gentile than a non-613-commandments-following Jew.

Novelty Bobble, that’s a limited and incomplete view of religion that doesn’t match many people’s experience.

Judaism has within it a strong tradition of argument, discussion, debate, and scholarship (and its dark side: legalistic hair-splitting). At least, that’s my understanding (I’m not Jewish). But so, for that matter, do at least some branches of Christianity, and probably other religions as well. Bible study, including the sort where you’re expected to use your logical and critical faculties, is commonly practiced in both Judaism and Christianity.

Reason has played a major role in leading some people to their religion or deepening their commitment to it, while it has played a major role in leading others away from theirs.

A friend of mine who converted many years ago told me that she didn’t do so because it was a holier path than her former one, but because it was the best path for her. No one tried to convert her and(as far as I know) she never tried to push it on others.

Admittedly, but it is a good enough approximation that fits into a sentence and this isn’t the thread to debate it further. If the OP is looking for an empirical assessment of a religions validity then they are unlikely to find a slam-dunk certainty (and we should all be very concerned if they did…exhibit a - the OP’s parents)

It’s certainly better than by forcing it down someone’s throat.

Just so you know, you don’t have to be Jewish to study Judaism, practice Judaism, or join a Jewish congregation. Okay, you probably couldn’t get Bar/Bat Mizvahed but other than that, you’d be okay with the rabbi and congregation.

If I may ask, do you live with your parents? Are you dependent on them?

Welcome to the SDMB, rolandftw. I’m moving your thread to IMHO, which is where discussions involving advice and opinions go.

Everyone else: This is not the correct thread to discuss any beliefs you might have that all religions are crap (or whatever version of that you want to argue). Start a new thread in GD for such a discussion.

twickster, MPSIMS moderator

It does sort of sound like your desire to convert could be partly motivated by reaction to your father’s conversion to fundie Christianity.

Maybe I’m wrong about that, and just reading too much into your OP, but I think it would be asking yourself if that’s part of your motive - and if it is, whether it’s a sound one.

There are three main branches of Judiasm - Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.

To the best of my knowledge, it is easiest to convert if you go to a Reform rabbi. I don’t really know for sure but I get the idea that there is little more required than simply expressing the desire to convert.

On the other hand, converting by approaching an Orthodox rabbi requires the most effort. You will probably have to learn some of the laws and memorize some of the more important historical events and blessings.

I suppose it depends on your goal. If all you want is to be able to display some kind of proof that you are Jewish, then you might convert with a Reform rabbi.

But if you are serious about learning about the religion and actually practicing the religion, you may want to go to a Conservative rabbi.

It would likely be very difficult for you to convert with an Orthodox rabbi because you would probably have to learn a lot of serious stuff. Maybe even learn to speak, read and write Hebrew or the language in which the prayer books are written.

I believe the Torah and other prayer books are written in some language that is not Hebrew. I’m not sure what language that is. It may be Yiddish or it may be some old form of a modern language used by Jews. But you can expect to have to invest a very serious amount of time and energy if you wish to convert by seeing an Orthodox rabbi.

Orthodox Judiasm is no joke, I think they expect you to devote a major amount of your life into practicing the religion.

There was a very interesting episode of Six Feet Under (at least I think it was Six Feet Under) in which one of the characters went to see a rabbi to enquire about converting to Judiasm.

A TV episode is probably not a very reliable or factual representation of what is involved. But as I remember, it was very entertaining and if you can find that episode, you may enjoy watching that.

Another good alternative to converting is to find yourself a nice Jewish woman and get married. Her family might very well help you with converting. It would make your life a lot easier if you got some help from a Jewish teacher before approaching a rabbi.

But the major decision you will have to make is whether to go Orthodox, Conservative or Reform.

P.S. This is just my opinion, but Reform Judiasm is little more than being able to say you are Jewish. Reform Jews spend very little time and energy practicing the religion. They can call themselves Jews. But there is very little more to it than that.

Charlie Wayne with all due respect, you know little to nothing about Judaism.

The Torah is written in Hebrew. Yiddish is a medieval language spoken by many eastern European Jews such as my grandparents up to the Holocaust as well as modern-day Orthodox Jews.

As someone who belongs to a Reform synagogue, who’s children attend Hebrew and religious school, and who read from the Torah - in Hebrew - for his Bar Mitzvah, implying that I am less of a Jew is a huge insult.

A friend of ours just converted and it was a process that took more than a year and included mush time spent with a Reform rabbi.

Fighting ignorance indeed.

Being related to several born-again Southern Baptists, I can… erm, relate. But just because a lot of Jewish people study their holy book and try to be logical in many ways, that doesn’t mean their religion necessarily has fewer leaps of faith than any other. There are a nonzero number of Jewish practices that are archaic, nonsensical, and illogical to non-Jews. So don’t feel like Judaism is the only option if you want to take your faith seriously. You can make a reasoned study of Christianity (see: Thomas Aquinas), or Islam, or Buddhism, or atheism… whatever would benefit you most. You can pick a religion for any reason you want, but you should probably pick the one that you find most agreeable in terms of practices, beliefs, and social structure. Because these are the things that will affect you on a daily basis.

Nobody knows there is a god. There might be. There might not be. Your parents do not have any more insight in that regard than you do, or than an 80 year old priest does. Spirituality is a *personal *journey for everyone.

I think it would be a mistake to allow your dad’s faith to make you reactionarily (is that a word?) choose to be Jewish. You should study lots of religions, and be aware that it’s OK to be any one of them. Or none of them. For the record, I am an atheist and have never seen any conclusive evidence that one religion is categorically more or less logical than any of the others.

And, this is extracurricular advice, but try to move out of your dad’s house as soon as you can. Getting along with your parents is much easier when you don’t have to spend every day of your life choosing between being agreeable or facing their wrath.

I’m glad you said this was just your opinion, because as an opinion it has nothing to do with facts of reality. And that goes for many other “opinions” in your post.

Well, I didn’t really explain. But I had went to a conversion class about 2-3 years before my dad ended up becoming a Fundie.

Now, things happened that stopped me from fully converting (not anything in particular with Judaism, other then some confusion about what branch I fit in most). And my mom and dad behaving the way they did has probably encouraged me to try to get connected with it again, as some type of spiritual escape. Maybe that isn’t the best idea.

I don’t have anything against Humanists or anything. It’s just right now, I am so angry at everything and that probably isn’t healthy. I just want to see if something else really makes sense or not. It’s not really a “Haha, parents, look, I converted to Judaism” thing. If I was looking to get them mad, I would think being a Humanist would do that more so.

I don’t think I would fit in an Orthodox setting at least from what I know of it. Perhaps this has changed or my impression of it is not correct but I don’t think I would be comfortable with the idea of women not being able to take active roles in worship service, or have Bat Mitzvah’s. I also would not be comfortable with what I believe is some negative feelings about homosexuals. I definitely want to be in an Egalitarian setting.

In attending both Reform and Conservative service, I felt the main differences were that the services were more Hebrew in Conservative. The morning Minyans seem to be attended more in Conservative Congregations. There is more of an expectation that you keep kosher where as Reform seems to be optional.

Ah, so you’re farther along than your OP suggested and that you probably know more about the matter than you think you do.

Keep in mind that there are different approaches within both conservative and reform Judaism, so your decision there may be influenced by finding a group you click with. I’ve known some reform Jews who were really hardcore in their way.

This is great advice. There is no hurry to make a decision about converting. Study, explore, go to various services, eat some bagels, and enjoy yourself.

Heh. Bagels are mandatory it seems. I hate lox tho.

And I think I know some things, but also think that no matter how much I know, I can always learn more information.

That’s the part that I guess don’t understand about my dad. I could see how a song might get you emotional and you might think to check into the religion more. Just don’t understand how a song making you emotional would make you conclude that Fundamental Christianity is the only way to go.

It just seems to be an emotional appeal. There’s probably a term for this type of phenomenon. It just comes off as really odd, and probably something I’ll never understand.