Rabbi Stewart Weiss and the Rav’s Take on Conversion

9 responses to “Rabbi Stewart Weiss and the Rav’s Take on Conversion”

  1. Sarah

    I have not worried in the least about my continuing dedication to Judaism though I understand things might change that make going to the synagogue more difficult in the future (such as children, or just that I am still in college). However, I have been quite glad the Conservative movement allows driving to shul rather than living in a walking distance. When I live in walking distance, I do walk to synagogue. However, as a college student and not financially independent, I only have so many options for now as far as getting to a synagogue.

  2. Z

    There is currently no way I can move to within walking distance of the synagogue. I would like to be closer to my community…surrounded by it…but circumstances beyond my control aren’t in favor of that right now. I don’t think it lessens my commitment to Judaism. My husband hasn’t converted and probably won’t but he didn’t have any problem with converting our son who just had his bar mitzvah or having a thoroughly Jewish home including a kosher kitchen which HE maintains. This rabbi probably thinks I am a mediocre Jew but hey, I am working in it as fast as I can. Whether that achieves HIS goals or not I don’t know but I AM working on it all the time.

  3. Nechama H

    Shim, this was an interesting post – thanks. (Not least because I am wanting to do some research on what all the different parties involved want out of conversion, and what makes for a successful conversion from the point of view of each of those parties.)

    BUT – I think Rabbi Weiss is incredibly hard on a woman whose shoes he hasn’t walked in. Do you honestly think you could be absolutely certain that your relationship with and faith in G-d would survive the trauma of an abusive marriage and its end? I hope mine might, but I can’t be sure.

    Also, I think there is a tendency on the part of rabbis when a woman approaches for conversion to look at her possible ulterior motivations, whilst when a man approaches, the rabbi sees his spiritual potential – I’m struck that Rav Weiss made it a criterion to live within walking distance of a shul. But in traditional communities, the woman has little place in shul (and I’ve been within walking distance of a shul in huts l’aretz and because of no eiruv and small children had no differnt an experience than being out in the sticks – except that my husband was away more.)

    I’m afraid I don’t trust the ability of most rabbonim to look into the heart and judge the potential convert – not least becuase I know people who have gone through the process and had it relatively easy because their rabbeim have supported them all the way and they have never been committed to Orthodoxy (not a problem in its own right, but I tend to believe that converts who want to be non-Orthodox should convert non-Orthodox) whereas I have known people whose heart is really in it and have been devastated becuase they weren’t able to convince the rabbeim around them to believe in them.

  4. Tamara


    I would like to concur with Shimshonit where she says, “Before converting, we should ask ourselves, Is a Jewish life something I want for myself always, or just in this specific situation (e.g. with this particular person)?”. I had an experience just this past week ( I am considering blogging about it in the future). I was taking a Hebrew class and there was a girl in my class converting simply because she is dating an Israeli.

    I DEFINITELY think that the rabbis of all denominations should be asking potential converts that very question. I don’t necessarily think converting for marriage is a bad thing but I do see how it can lead to challenges or gaps later on. I believe this is partially why women who are converting do get challenged in a different way. With traditional Judaism being matrilineal when it comes to who is and who isn’t Jewish, it makes sense that women (as is often the case) get the sharper point of the stick.

  5. Aliza Hausman

    I have found that even when someone is in a relationship with a Jew and express an interest to convert that often, that person is doing it for his or herself. It’s not always the case that the non-Jew in the relationship is doing it for marriage. An interesting article in Jewish Week pointed out that many non-Jewish spouses convert long after a civil marriage has taken place.

    Thankfully, I found that my Orthodox rabbi understood me extremely well considering his status as, you know, a man.

    I take issue with the view that there is no place for women in synagogue in traditional communities. They’ve probably never had the pleasure of seeing women laining at my (Orthodox) shul.

  6. Nechama H


    Thanks for replying so fully to my reply! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who even when I’m in a place I can get to shul never manages to get any daavening in because the children always want to talk/hug/push each other off my knee/go somewhere else!

    I still think one has to be so strong to see this decision through no matter what – I feel and think things now which I could never have imagined when as a single woman, no children, never having visited Israel and knowing very little about the Jewish community really I decided to convert some ten years ago. I’m still committed – the days I think of chucking it all in, I realise how much it is a part of my life, because my whole life would change without Judaism, and I can’t imagine what it would look like. But I know how much stamina that commitment takes, and I have a really supportive husband, three beautiful children to thank G-d for daily and a Rav who is almost always at the other end of the telephone.

    I understand what you say about someone never having been committed with her “whole soul”, but I just think it is so difficult to judge what is going on in someone else’s heart. Some people just don’t express it very well. I have a friend who just converted, was going through the process for 11(!) years and one bet din wrote a letter to another (in the town she was moving to) to say they thought she was only intellectually interested(!) She’s just not a particularly demonstrative person, what can I say!

    That wasn’t a criticism of your original post, btw, or your response – I think you’re right, I think we all have to ask ourselves how we will hold up when the hard times hit. I just think we don’t always know the answer, and sometimes just intending or really wanting to hold up is all we can manage.

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