Conversion Standards

Halakhic Standards for Conversion

The function of this introduction is to provide a practical introduction to the halakhic standards one is likely to encounter in pursuing a widely-recognized, halakhic Orthodox conversion in the United States. In addition, we will note how these halakhic standards differ in practice from Orthodox rabbinic courts that take more lenient positions in matters of conversion, and as a result, are less recognized within the Orthodox community. For a more scholarly understanding as to the foundations of these different approaches, please see the Essays section of the Education page. 

Conversion Standards: a Minor adopted by a Jewish Couple:

The standards listed below govern the conversion of a minor.  The intention of these standards is meant to ensure that a converted minor will develop into an adult who will lead a devoted life to God via adherence to the Torah and participation in the Orthodox community.

  1. The Jewish couple must live comfortable walking distance to the Orthodox synagogue they belong to and attend regularly.

  2. The Jewish couple must commit to providing the adopted child with a well- grounded Orthodox day school and Orthodox high school Torah education.

  3. The Jewish couple, at a minimum, must be observant of Shabbat and Kashrut and have a receptive attitude towards the rest of Torah life.

Some Rabbinic Courts within the Orthodox community are willing to convert minors where one or all of these halakhic standards are not adhered to.

Conversion Standards: when prospective convert is already in a committed relationship with a born Jew.

  1. When a prospective convert is civilly married to a born Jew, is living with a born Jew, or is engaged to a born Jew, the born Jew must be on the same page as the prospective convert. In practice, this translates into the born Jew committing to the significant observance of Shabbat, Kashrut, Family Purity, Prayer, Synagogue attendance, and many other commandments that the couple will share together.

  2. One should expect the rabbinic court to require the born Jew to undergo a parallel period of study and also to be interviewed by the Rabbinic Court. In these cases, the born Jew's commitment is being judged equally to that of the prospective converts, as one person's commitment in a relationship can deeply affect the other.

  3. If a couple is living together, but not civilly married, they should expect that they will be asked to live apart for 3 months prior to the conversion. Some rabbinic courts will require this 3 month period of when the couple is civilly married as well. Some Rabbinic courts, however, are more lenient in this situation of a civil marriage and allow for living within the same home in separate quarters that allow for insured privacy in the evenings. When small children are involved there is often a perceived ground for leniency to allow the couple to live in separate quarters within the same house provided there is the basis for insured privacy in the evenings.

  4. The Rabbinic court will be highly concerned that the prospective convert’s commitment to God and Torah is independent of the relationship the prospective convert is involved in. This concern on the part of the rabbinic court may lead to the possible or actual postponement of a marriage date in the case where the couple is engaged to be married.

Some Rabbinic Courts within the Orthodox community are willing to provide conversions in the context of an inter-marriage when one, or all of these, halakhic standards are not adhered to.

General Conversion Standards for Adults

  1. Prospective converts must declare a sincere "Acceptance of the Commandments" with the demonstrable intention to keep all applicable Biblical and Rabbinical laws, Rabbinical enactments, decrees and customs. In particular, there will be a focus on a commitment to keep Shabbat, Holidays, Kosher, Family Purity, Mezuzah, Prayer, and Blessings. For a man Tzitzit, Teffilin and wearing of a head-covering, are also essential. For a woman, there is a focus on the laws of modesty. In general, prospective converts are expected to keep the laws they learn as they learn them.

  2. Males who have not undergone medical circumcision require ritual circumcision by a halakhically valid ritual circumciser. Males who have undergone medical circumcision require a ceremonial drawing of a droplet of blood by a halakhically valid ritual circumciser.

  3. Males and Females both require full immersion in a halakhically valid ritual bath.

  4. Living, for at least a year, through the daily life and holiday cycle of an observant Jew.

  5. Living comfortable walking distance to an Orthodox synagogue. Some rabbinic courts will require that it be the Orthodox synagogue of the sponsoring rabbi.

  6. The study and mastery of elementary Hebrew reading. There are different degrees to which Hebrew proficiency is required depending on the rabbinic court.

  7. Having a recognizable degree of psychological normalcy.

  8. Being a law abiding citizen.

  9. Complete honesty with the rabbinic court and sponsoring rabbi.

  10. Ethical sensitivity and compassion.

There are some rabbinic courts within the Orthodox community that will provide a conversion where one or more of these Halakhic standards are not adhered to.