Every candidate needs to immerse themselves in Jewish law and theology as they prepare for conversion. Our daily practice reaches into all aspects of our life and guides us accordingly. To fully integrate halacha into one’s life, one needs to learn. Many people do so by reading many books and integrating into a community. Others hire a tutor to teach them one-on-one. There are classes for beginner’s Judaism to travel together with others who are going through the conversion process. Click here to apply for our class.
A sponsoring rabbi is an essential guide to this process. Each individual needs a rabbi who is part of the community that the candidate is part of. This rabbi does not have to be the primary educator, though sometimes they are. They are there as a guide and mentor throughout the process. Oftentimes this rabbi serves as the head of the congregation that the candidate attends. In many circumstances, the beit din will not know the candidate prior to the beit din meeting. The beit din will then rely heavily upon the wisdom and guidance of the sponsoring rabbi to confirm the candidate’s observance and integration into the Jewish community. A sponsoring rabbi is necessary for one’s entrance into this class. Click here for the sponsoring rabbi’s reference form.
The beit din is a Jewish court, for our purposes, tasked with overseeing the conversion. They are tasked with both warmly welcoming the aspirant, as well as being a gatekeeper to ensure that only those who sincerely desire to live an observant Orthodox Jewish life will be converted. There are various kinds of batei din (plural for beit din). The most well known and most accepted in the Orthodox Jewish community is the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). The RCA has multiple batei din around the country that cover each region of the United States. Interested individuals would apply to the local RCA beit din within their region and meet with the beit din for conversion. The great benefit of the RCA’s process is their widespread acceptance of such conversions, including in Israel.
While the centralization of the beit din process has many benefits, some candidates prefer to use their local Orthodox rabbis, with whom they have a relationship, to serve on their beit din. It is important to note that not all rabbis will “sit” on a beit din for conversion. The primary benefit of this pathway is the built-in relationship with at least one rabbi on the beit din, which might make the process feel more comfortable. Additionally, there might be fewer delays because standard batei din, like the BDA, have so many aspiring candidates. It is important to note, however, that while most Orthodox ad hoc batei din will be accepted by most Jewish communities, there is less certainty of this outside of the centralized system.