Tips

In order to understand how to successfully approach a rabbi to sponsor you it would be helpful to understand his mindset and challenges. A synagogue rabbi is highly focused on his synagogue responsibilities which include: sermons, fundraising, in house education, outreach work, other school teaching or Kosher certification comittments, his children, community issues, his marriage, taxes and how he will pay for his kids Yeshiva education post-high school and their weddings.

Rabbinic work can be stressful with all the holidays, bar and bat mitzvah's, weddings, divorces, deaths, poverty and other human suffering and the general state of the world. It also important to understand that Rabbi's are very focused on the "Jewish" community and conversion is not generally high on the agenda unless perhaps it is with an intermarried couple where the family belongs to his synagogue.

At times rabbis are concerned about being involved in conversions because: there have been too many problematic conversions and he does not want to take the responsibility and risk, he does not want to get a reputation for being a "Conversion Rabbi" or he may feel he does not have the time and he sees competent conversion work as a time consuming venture which it is.

In light of the above, here are some practical tips to help in the process of developing a relationship with a sponsoring rabbi:

1) Location Location
If accepted you will need to live walking distance from an Orthodox synagogue (preferabely the one of the sponsoring rabbi) to the extent that it is possible to already be walking distance this is a plus.

2) The Element of Unsurprise
Instead of calling the Rabbi cold and saying, "Hi my name is X or Y and I want to become Jewish." Attend the Rabbi's classes, dress modestly and be involved but not overly attention grabbing. Do this for a while and if asked as to who you are and what your background is just say, " I am seriously considering converting to Orthodox Judaism." Do not ask for an appointment just become a fixture of the rabbi's classes, always attentive and polite, always phrasing questions in a respectful way to Judaism and the rabbi. After a few months you send him the resume, in Tip #3, call him up an ask for an appointment. With this strategy he may even ask you if you would like an appointment.

3) Prepare for a Cold Shoulder
There is a classical idea that one is supposed to push away a convert 3 times. The interpretations of this can vary widely. The liberal interpretation is one simply makes a person deeply aware of the consequences social, economic and religious that becoming Jewish can involve 3 times and that they can lead a righteous life as a gentile. The strict and more literalist interpretation of this idea is of rabbis: telling people that they do not do conversions, not returning phone calls, returning phone calls very late, outright and actively discouraging a person from becoming Jewish and refusing to convert the person or perhaps telling them it will take many years. The best way to deal with this if you encounter the stricter/literalist interpretations are: to find a friendlier sponsoring rabbi, accept this difficulty with faith in God, to gently inform the rabbi that you understand that he needs to test your sincerity but he should know that nothing will come between you and being Jewish and that it pains you the delay in being a sincere and full religious member of the Jewish people. In cases when an intermarriage is involved he can be told that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein the premier halakhic decisior of the 20th century ruled that this idea of pushing a convert away does not apply at all and that very religious rabbis in Monsey will be happy to tell him that.

4) Making a Jewish Resume
In the interest of having the rabbi to get to know you in a organized and time effective manner consider filling out and submitting this conversion resume to him as you feel appropriate. 
Download The Resume

5) Pull Your Own Weight
By reading the Education pages of this website you will have a clear understanding of what you need to know. The more you can take charge of your conversion responsibilities and the rabbi has less to do for you in this arena the easier it will be for him. So find yourself a Hebrew tutor and learn how to read Hebrew, find yourself a Torah tutor and study at least once a week Halakha and Jewish thought. Find classes in the core areas of study that you need to know and that you can attend if there is not a formalized conversion program. Make a study plan for how you are going to master in 1 year to 18 months the essential fundamentals of Torah. Have this planning presented to your rabbi with the Jewish resume that you submit.

6) Believe in Yourself
If you truly connect with the Torah you will inspire your rabbi to believe in you. Rabbi's are people who have devoted their lives to G-d and they resonate with this commitment when demonstrated by others. They may depending on their personality and yours feel insecure about you for a while but if you continue to believe in yourself and devote yourself to the Torah you will earn their respect over time.

7) Get Help
If you encounter difficulties utilize what is likely to be friendships developed in the Orthodox community to faciltate your being greater welcomed into the community or a conversion program.

8) Outsource or Move On
If for reasons beyond your control the rabbi in your community is not willing or suitable as a sponsoring rabbi then it is possible to sometimes have a conversion with his minimal involement and using a rabbi in another location as a sponsoring rabbi. Alternatively, one could move where feasible to a location where there is a more compatible sponsoring rabbi option. At this point it may be wise to contact us.