Challenges Ahead

There are many challenges that face conversion candidates as they go through this process.


While conversion to Judaism is a richly rewarding and spiritually inspiring endeavor, it can also be isolating. To begin the process, one has left the confines of a former religious community. Sometimes family members are resentful or disapprove of such a move. While the support systems of old may have been shaken or even severed to begin the conversion process, the candidate enters the Jewish community as an outsider. Integration can be challenging even in the friendliest of communities with decades long friendships and social networks that have long been established and maintained. Having a supportive friend network within the Jewish community and a relationship with other conversion candidates can be immensely helpful.

Lack of Control

While theologically we may acknowledge and accept that so much of our life is outside of our direct control, it can be exceedingly challenging when other people control basic functions in one’s life. In addition to the strict expectations for observance, candidates do not control when their conversion process ends. It almost always takes longer than the candidate would expect. To put it bluntly, couples must place their lives on hold until a group of rabbis who are relative strangers, determine when they are permitted to wed and begin having a family. While there is no ill will inherent or imbedded in the process, the end result is that the candidate’s life is often out of their control in basic and fundamental ways.

Lack of Clarity

The conversion process is, for better and for worse, not like a standardized test. There isn’t an easy system to make this system objective. As such, much of this process will feel subjective and unclear. Some candidates can feel like the goal posts have been moved on them, standards that may have worked for their friends don’t seem to work for them and timelines for people in similar situations are markedly different. The rabbis who get involved in conversion are making judgment calls to the best of their abilities. Quantifying sincerity and determining integration of halacha into someone’s life without actually witnessing it, is challenging. The beit din will do the best that they can and sometimes it might feel like they are reading too much into one “wrong” answer at a meeting. The time is limited and the beit din does their best to use all the resources at their disposal to make their decisions. Batei Din act with integrity and do their best, but from the perspective of the candidate it can sometimes feel capricious or unfair. My advice would be to remain persistent and patient with both yourself and the process. A candidate’s perseverance almost always succeeds.