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Conversion to Judaism (Giyur)




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NOTE: This page has been created not in order to promote conversion to Judaism or to try to convince anyone on this purpose, but because the Giyur topic has been asked many times and unfortunately there is no enough information about it over the internet.
Therefore we're at israelforus.com try to bring some clarity and more information about this topic for those who are looking for answers.

Giyur



Conversion to Judaism (Giyur) is a process in which a person changes his current religion to Judaism. It's a formal act undertaken by a non-Jewish person who wishes to be recognized as a full member of a Jewish community by a religious act and usually an expression of association with the Jewish people and, sometimes, the Land of Israel.
A formal conversion is also sometimes undertaken to remove any doubt as to the Jewishness of a person who wishes to be considered a Jew.
Any individual, regardless of former religion, race, color or sex, is eligible to apply for conversion.


Requirements
There are four requirements for a conversion to Judaism:
  • The convert is required to understand and accept the duties of the classical Jewish law.
  • Circumcision (Brit Milah or hatafat dam brit) for men.
  • Immersion (Tevilah) in a ritual bath (Mikveh) for both men and women
  • Offering a certain sacrifice (Korban) in the Temple (Beit HaMikdash) – this requirement is irrelevant nowadays.
After confirming that all these requirements have been met, the Beit Din issues a "Certificate of Conversion" (Shtar Giur), certifying that the person is now a Jew.

Modern practice
The requirements for conversions vary somewhat within the different branches of Judaism, so whether or not a conversion is recognized by another denomination is often an issue fraught with religious politics. The Orthodox rejection of non-Orthodox conversions is derived less from qualms with the conversion process itself, since Conservative and even some Reform conversions are ostensibly very similar to Orthodox conversions with respect to duration and content, but rather the belief that a non-Orthodox Rabbi is not qualified to oversee and perform a conversion.
In general, immersion in the mikveh is an important part of a traditional conversion. If the person who is converting is male, circumcision is a part of the traditional conversion process as well. If the male who is converting has already been circumcised, then a ritual removal of a single drop of blood will take place. However, more liberal branches of Judaism have a more relaxed requirement of immersion and circumcision.
Someone who was converted to Judaism as a child has an option of rejecting this after reaching the age of maturity, which in Judaism is age twelve for girls or thirteen for boys.






Conversion and Aliyah



In 1948 Israel was established as a State which would be of, by, and for Jews. Israel's Law of Return automatically granted Israeli citizenship to anyone anywhere in the world who is a Jew. This law magnified the need to distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, and led to further conflict between orthodox and liberal Jews over which conversions were kosher and should be acceptable in Israel.

The Law of return applies to:
  • Those born Jews (having a Jewish mother or maternal grandmother),
  • Those with Jewish ancestry (having a Jewish father or grandfather)
  • Those who are converts to Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominations—not secular—though Reform and Conservative conversions must take place outside the state, similar to civil marriages).declaring that the converting rabbi and congregation are recognized members of the Reform Movement around the world, and that their conversions should be recognized for the purpose of the Law of Return.


Difficulties

Some of the conversions performed overseas have some difficulties to make Aliyah, because of practices that are deemed unacceptable in Israel. For example:
  • The conversion was performed by a single rabbi, with no Bet Din.
  • The convert's wife was one of the witnesses signed on the conversion certificate.
  • The conversion was performed for a spouse, when neither his partner nor children converted with him.
  • The conversion procedure was very short, with no continued involvement in the Jewish community following the conversion.
  • The conversion was completed without "mila" or "tevila".
Not only do these situations put the converts in a problematic situation, because they believed that their conversion was valid and acceptable but they received a negative response when they wished to make Aliyah. Furthermore, they gave the Interior Ministry grounds to claim that Reform conversions are not serious and justification for seeking to check the process.

The Israel Religious Action Center
The Israel Religious Action Center, in consultation with the Bet Din of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis (MARAM), helps Reform and Conservative converts from around the world receive Aliyah status under the Law of Return on the basis of their conversion to Judaism.

For help and support please write to: center@irac.org





Conversion from within Israel



Israel is a Jewish state and eligible for conversion are Israeli citizens, or any foreign citizens holding an A5 Visa according to the Law of Return.
A prerequisite for conversion is possession of Israeli citizenship. Foreign citizens whose immigration to Israel has been approved are entitled to go through the conversion process in Israel after presenting an approval certificate of ALIYA right from the Jewish Agency.

If your status is different, or if you hold a permanent residency ( A5 Visa) you must apply to a Vaadat Charigim (Committee for irregular Cases) for permission to appear before the a rabbinic court that ultimately decides whether or not to allow conversion. For further information, please contact the Conversion Division in The Prime Minister's Office, Tel.: +972-2-5450100.

Groups applying for conversion
Applicants to the conversion courts comprise a number of principal groups: Click here for details



Children of Jewish fathers with a Jewish identity
Many immigrants from the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries were born to a Jewish father and raised in a home where there was a strong Jewish identity and adherence to mitzvot, such as eating matzot during Passover and Celebrating other Jewish holidays. Thus, when they arrive in Israel they wish to further reinforce their Jewish identity and undergo a formal conversion according to Halacha.


Immigrants arriving in Israel under the Law of Return
Immigrants coming to Israel as second or third generation descendants under the Law of Return. Some of those immigrants may not have led a Jewish lifestyle in their countries of origin but now seek to accept the heritage of their father or grandfather.


Immigrants from Ethiopia 
Immigrants belonging to the Falash Mura tribe, or who underwent a forced conversion to another religion, must appear before the conversion court to “shed the blood of circumcision” (this involves a mohel making a small scratch on the penis to produce a drop of blood symbolizing circumcision) and immersion in a mikveh.


Bnei Menashe from India
Descendants of the ancient tribe of Menashe who settled in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, who wish to immigrate to Israel, must undergo conversion according to the Halacha in a conversion court.


Men and women married to a Jew by civil marriage
if a couple wishes to marry according to the laws of Israel (according to Halacha), under a chupah (wedding canopy) and with ritual sanctification (kidushin), even though one of them is not Jewish, the couple must then apply to the conversion court so that the non-Jewish member may undergo an Halachic conversion.


Couples wishing to register for marriage
As a result of the massive immigration to Israel from various countries around the world, some couples who wish to register their marriage at their local Rabbinate are surprised to find that one of them is not considered fully Jewish according to Halacha. A Reform or Conservative conversion abroad, or any form of conversion process that is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel may not be satisfactory and the couple may not be able to marry until their status is resolved.


Adopted children
In recent years several organizations have been active in helping adopted children into Israel from countries around the world, including: Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Guatemala and the Far East. An adopted child born to a non-Jewish family must undergo conversion of a minor.


“Spiritual converts”
A “spiritual convert” is a person who is not Jewish yet decides to convert to Judaism as a result of an in-depth thought process, investigation and a conviction that Judaism is the religion he believes in.


The conversion process consists of the five following steps:
  1. Presenting documents and enrolling to conversion process
  2. Judaism studies in a conversion course
  3. Applying to a conversion court
  4. A ceremony in the Rabbinical court which includes an immersion in a Mikveh (women and men) and performing a Brit Mila (men).
  5. Getting a conversion certificate and updating religion status in the Ministry of Interior.
Any person who successfully completes the conversion process then becomes a “Jew for all intents and purposes” and his status is identical to that of any other Jew, born to a Jewish mother. The process is irreversible and once you have been declared Jewish, you will not be able to convert back to your previous religion.





Orthodox conversion



Orthodox conversion is the only accepted form of conversion by the Israeli Orthodox authority which gives the ability to have in Israel all the religious benefits as a Jew, such as to be able to have an Orthodox marriage and to be burried in a Jewish cemetery.
The Orthodox conversion is known as the most strict and consists the following mandatory rituals:
  1. Judaism studies in a conversion course, or by a official orthodox Rabbi.

  2. A ceremony in the Rabbinical court which includes an immersion in a Mikveh (women and men) and performing a Brit Mila (men).

The major disagreement between the Orthodox and the more liberal denominations concerning the conversion process is over the need for the convert to accept the yoke of the commandments which means making a lifelong commitment to Orthodoxy.


Benefits
  • Recognition as a Jew by Ministry of Interior - Ability to immigrate to Israel (Aliyah) and to get Israeli Citizenship.
  • Full recognition as a Jew by Ministry of Religious Services - Jewish Marriage and Jewish burial.





Conservative conversion



The Conservative conversion is similar to the Orthodox conversion but just in a lighter way.

The first step in converting to Judaism is finding a Rabbi. In the conservative movement your teacher/mentor doesnt have to be an official orthodox Rabbi, but a known Rabbi among the conservative congregation.

The learning with the Rabbi should take about nine months of instruction. This amount of time is necessary to become familiar with the Jewish calendar (Rosh HaShana through Shavuot - at least), to learn about Jewish history, Jewish philosophy and theology, Jewish holy books, Jewish Law and customs (life cycle events, holidays, ...), and a reading fluency with Jewish worship for home and synagogue.

Besides the learning also the Immersion in the ritual bath (mikveh) and, for men, circumcision (brit milah) or symbolic circumcision (hatafat dam brit) fulfill the Conservative movement's conversion requirements.


Benefits
  • Recognition as a Jew by Ministry of Interior - Ability to immigrate to Israel (Aliyah) and to get Israeli Citizenship.







Reform conversion



In the United States of America, Reform Judaism rejects the concept that any rules or rituals should be considered necessary for conversion to Judaism. In the late 19th century, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the official body of American Reform rabbis, formally resolved to permit the admission of converts "without any initiatory rite, ceremony, or observance whatever."

Although this resolution has often been examined critically by many Reform rabbis, the resolution still remains the official policy of American Reform Judaism Thus, American Reform Judaism does not require ritual immersion in a mikveh, circumcision, or acceptance of mitzvot as normative. Appearance before a Bet Din is recommended, but is not considered necessary. Converts are asked to commit to religious standards set by the local Reform community.

Since the Reform movement emphasizes the obligation of the individual to make informed Jewish choices about their practice, it is difficult to "pin down" normative Reform movement practice for comparison purposes. While the Reform Movement does occasionally adopt non-binding resolutions recommending particular practices, requirements for life-cycle rituals are determined by individual Reform rabbis (instead of by the movement). Reform rabbis, in contrast to Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, are not obligated by their movement to perform conversions in one particular way.

In practice, the overwhelming majority of Reform rabbis today require study, ritual circumcision (or hatafat dam brit) and immersion in a mikveh. Some Reform rabbis, however, will make exceptions regarding circumcision and will skip this requierment.


Benefits
  • Recognition as a Jew by Ministry of Interior - Ability to immigrate to Israel (Aliyah) and to get Israeli Citizenship. Although the Ministry of Interior might make some difficulties about it.
    For more details click here








Conversion of minors



Minors can be converted. In families with a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father, the child is considered Jewish by the Reform movement if the child is brought up engaging in public acts of identification with Judaism. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, however, do not regard such a child as legally Jewish.
Parents of such children can if they wish have their children converted in infancy because the process is quite simple. While some would consider this a surrender to pressure especially from the Orthodox and refuse to do it, others see it as a way to get recognition of the child's Jewishness by additional segments of the Jewish people.
Reform rabbis often simply have a naming ceremony. Orthodox and Conservative rabbis require the mikveh for a female minor and a circumcision and mikveh for a male minor.

Children born prior to the end of conversion do not become Jews if their parent converts. Some authorities (often Orthodox and those of higher levels of observance) have stricter rules, considering a child conceived before conversion as not being Halachically Jewish. If they want to be Jewish, they will have to go through conversion themselves after they reach the age of 13. Children born to a Jewish woman AFTER she has converted are Jewish automatically.



Sources: Wikipedia.com, judaism.about.com, www.gov.il










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