≡ Menu

Shavuos 2012: Interview with Rabbi Hoffman Regarding Conversion to Judaism

1) Before we begin, Rabbi, could you please tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Evan Hoffman.  I have been a congregational rabbi for the past seven years.  I have Semicha from RIETS, where I studied under Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Yosef Weiss.  I have served congregations in Great Neck and Manhattan.  For five years I served as Assistant Rabbi at a prestigious synagogue on the Upper East Side.

2) I hear you’ve converted about 15 people, yet you’ve only been a rabbi for about 7 years – is that normal, or are you trying to win a competition?

I have participated in 16 conversions.  Nine of them were adults and seven were children under the age of Bar Mitzvah.  I can assure you that I am not trying to win any competition.  I did not seek out of any of my conversion candidates.  They all came to me.  Some of them had connections to my synagogue.  Others were directed to me by rabbinic colleagues because of my reputation for a rigorous conversion curriculum.

3) When you meet someone who expresses a desire to convert, what’s the main questions you ask them before you really consider them as a candidate?

The main question I ask them is why they want to be Jewish.  This is not the same question as why they want to convert to Judaism.  More often than not, the prospective convert is in a romantic relationship with a Jew and they are on the verge of matrimony.  Conversion of the gentile partner is necessary to allow the wedding plans to proceed.  It would be a grotesque lie for most candidates to claim, at the beginning of the process, that their motivation to undergo the ritual is a pure one.  So I don’t give them a hard time with respect to initial motivation.  The real question is, why does he or she want to be Jewish one year or ten years after the wedding.  If the answer is a desire to have their children recognized as Jews, I am immediately turned off.  I have no interest in proselytizing for the sake of some unborn child’s religious legitimacy.  It shows an indifference on the part of the candidate towards religion.  They are simply trying to game the system and achieve results which are unattainable in a heterodox rabbi’s office.

The correct answer, which allows the process to develop further, is an appreciation for the beauty of Judaism and a personal desire to cleave to it.  Wholesale acceptance of Judaic theological principles and alienation from their inherited faith would be an even better answer, but let’s be realistic about the matter.  Most people develop their attitudes toward religion on the basis of its practical substance, not abstract theological principles.

I am also interested in the candidate’s broader personal history.  Are they mentally stable?  Do they have a criminal record?  What is their ethnic/racial background?  What faith were they born into and was it a significant component of their life?  What is their attitude toward Jews?  Are they pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian?  All these questions help me form an opinion of the candidate.

Certain things are predictable.  Of the nine adults I have converted, all are women.  Of the 28 adults who have expressed interest in converting, only 2 were men.  Circumcision plays a role in the gender gap.  There is also a disparity in intermarriage rates between men and women.  Seinfeld was right when he spoke of “shiksappeal.”  There is also the “fact” that religion follows the wealthier spouse, and men tend to have more financial assets than women.  Of the 9 women 6 were looking to get married.  Five of them had some Jewish blood, ranging from a Jewish father and Reform Jewish upbringing, to someone who was 1/8 Jewish.  Despite the similarities and trends, each case is unique and judged on the merits.

Converting children is a separate matter entirely.  The main concern is whether or not the parents will raise the child in a manner conducive for Torah observance.  Kashruth and Shabbat in the home as well as yeshiva education are essentials.  But there are a wide variety of child-conversion scenarios.  I have dealt with: regular adoption, the children of a non-Jewish mother and Jewish father (mother is also converting), child of a deceased Jewish father and non-Jewish household help, child born through non-Jewish surrogate.  These cases are much more delicate than prospective adult converts.  If I turn down an adult, they simply continue living as a gentile (possibly married to an irreligious Jew).  If I turn down the request for a child’s conversion, that halachically non-Jewish child is still growing up in a Jewish family and participating in communal life.  The stakes are very high.  It is not easy telling non-Shomer Shabbos synagogue members that their child will remain a gentile unless the family substantially increases its level of observance.  Some react with disappointment, while others see it as an opportunity for spiritual growth.  Others see it as an opportunity to lie to the rabbi.

4) Could you explain a little about the conversion process in terms of the centralized nature of the conversion process as endorsed by the Rabbinical Council of America?  What’s the purpose of that?  What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Conversion to Judaism under Orthodox auspices in the United States used to be done at the local level.  The individual orthodox congregational rabbi was free to determine which candidates pass muster.  They would assemble an ad hoc Bet-Din of three rabbis and perform the necessary rituals.  This system came to an end approximately five years ago because of political controversy with the Israeli chief rabbinate.  The Israelis were only willing to accept as legitimate the conversions performed by a short list of 50 leading rabbis.  All other converts would not be accepted if they wanted to make aliyah or be recognized as Jews by Israeli authorities.  The RCA worked out an arrangement with the Israelis under which regional Batei-Din would perform conversions.  The individual rabbi is able to sponsor candidates, but has no say in their ultimate acceptance or the performance of the ritual.  Some rabbis were angered by this system and others feared consistent rejection of candidates by overly strict Batei-Din.  In fact, the opposite has happened.  Rabbis on the Batei-Din are reluctant to snub their congregational colleagues by rejecting applicants.  As a result, the new system has not made conversion any more rigorous.  At worst, it can be a nuisance to navigate the bureaucracy.  Basically, the system works fine.  There are some rabbis who flout the system and continue to do private conversions.  Assuming the proselyte doesn’t move out of the neighborhood (or at least not to Israel), then nobody is affected by the breach of protocol.  Some rabbis don’t care to follow RCA protocol because their personal renown and connections with the official rabbinates around the world allows them to smooth over any difficult case.

5) When someone wants to convert, I’ve heard since like 4th grade that we try to dissuade them.  Doesn’t it speak poorly of your debate skills that 15 people got through your impenetrable fortress of resistance?

Halacha requires that we initially discourage converts.  Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 268:2) instructs us to tell the candidate, “Don’t you know that the Jews are a persecuted people and it isn’t worth it for you become one of us…. Until now had you worked on the Sabbath there is no punishment, but once becoming a Jew you liable for the death penalty, etc….”  I go through the motions in compliance with this halacha… but the reality is that in America we don’t suffer from anti-Semitism and nobody stones you for violating Shabbos.  Instead, I focus on the gravity of changing one’s religion.  I ask them if they really want to turn their backs on the religion of their parents and sever ties with their culture.  I try to explain to them that once becoming a Jew there is no turning back.  Once a Jew always a Jew.  The problem with that line is obvious.  In the eyes of God (so we believe) once a Jew always a Jew.  In reality, they can walk away after five years and rejoin the church and I can’t stop them.  This happened to a congregant of mine, though in my defense she was converted prior to my arrival at the shul.  The most successful way in which rabbis deter prospective converts, is by making the religious standards very high.  No mikveh for you unless you wear a sheitel, ankle-length skirt, drink only cholov yisrael, eat only yoshon, and fast on Yom Kippur Katan.  That last one was a joke.  But you get the picture.  By making religion so onerous, the candidate voluntarily drops out.  I don’t subscribe to that approach.  I don’t demand from the candidate any more than is necessary in the realm of observance.  Where I am very strict is Torah study.  My curriculum is very demanding.  Typically a student will spend 50 one-hour sessions listening to me and feverishly taking notes and asking questions.  We cover all of the essential Jewish topics including theology, Shabbos, tefillah (prayer/Hebrew reading), kashrus, yomim tovim (Jewish holidays), lifecycle, taharas hamishpachah (laws of family purity), bein adam lachaveiro (laws between man and his fellow man), Jewish history and modern Israel.  My final exam is quite challenging and some k-12 Day School graduates would not pass.

6) Why convert people who are not required to do all of this stuff if so many people who are required don’t even want to do it anymore?

I don’t see how the indifference of many born-Jews should affect my attitude toward potential converts.  Certainly I would rather see a higher retention rate of Jews at the expense of fewer converts, but one has nothing to do with the other.    The last thing I want to do is create more irreligious Jews (assuming the ex post facto validity of the ritual).  [Some rabbis are irresponsible and act recklessly.  They do the Jewish people a disservice by converting unworthy candidates, sometimes in exchange for large sums of money or other unmentionable favors.]  We have enough people “off the derech” as it is.  But good converts are a tremendous asset to Judaism and the Jewish People.  Some people out there are sincerely looking for God and God’s Word.  We shouldn’t be obstacles in that admirable journey.

7) Have you ever come to serious disagreement with fellow rabbis over the legitimacy of a conversion candidate?

I have strenuously objected with a certain colleague (who will remain nameless) over continuing with candidates whose sincerity and commitment were dubious at best.  Being the younger of the two rabbis it was not easy for me to assert myself and prevent an outrage.  Sometimes the only thing left to do was absent myself from the Beth-Din, or if I was the candidate’s tutor, to refuse further lessons.  On another occasion, I was the liberal who faced off against a obstinate hardliner.  The candidate was admittedly deficient in the area of Shabbos observance, but I felt she would make rapid strides if we consented to put her in the mikveh.  I was convinced that foot dragging by the rabbis was adversely affecting her rise up the ladder of observance.

8) What happens to the people you reject?

Most of the people I rejected never converted to Judaism (to my knowledge).  Usually, it was a woman with a matrimonial issue.  Failing to get any satisfaction in their encounter with an Orthodox rabbi, they drop the issue.  Practically this means that they continue living in an unmarried state with their Jewish partner or the relationship fizzles out.  On one occasion, such a person turned to the local Reform rabbi and was converted.  In the minority of cases which did not involve an upcoming nuptial, rejection was usually because of the mental instability of the applicant.  They wanted to change religions for the sake of change, not to become a pious and God-fearing Jew.  While I can’t be certain what happened to them, none ever reemerged in my community as a converted Jew under someone else’s auspices.

9) Do all of your converts maintain their religiosity after dipping in the mikveh?

Sadly, many of my converts are not nearly as religious as I would want them to be.  During the process of study, people develop an enthusiasm for the subject matter.  They like it intellectually (or at least the way I present it) and maybe even practically.  The moment of immersion in the mikveh is very holy.  When the convert is asked one final time (while naked and wet) if they believe and if they will observe, I tend to think that even some of the more cynical candidates have momentary sincerity.  But the euphoria wares off.  As the months and years go by, observance can decline if not given strong support from a community or a Jewish spouse.  When the Jewish-born spouse is a bad influence, all can be lost.  Precisely for this reason, I recently added the requirement that the Jewish partner attend classes together with the applicant.  For many, this is their first Torah study since dropping out of Day School in 9th grade.  It also allows me to pierce through their exterior and get to know their true feelings about Judaism.

10) How do you deal with non-Orthodox converts who want orthodox certification?

Non-orthodox converts who want Orthodox certification have to be dealt with very carefully.  First one must find out why they want to upgrade.  Often it is because they want to be married in Israel.  Alternatively, they want their kids to go to Orthodox day school and the school won’t admit kids with halachically non-Jewish parents.  Sometimes, it is the child (or even grandchild) of someone who was a Reform or Conservative convert from many years ago.  If the applicant has lived an intensively Jewish life and is quite knowledgeable, then the period of study can be done away with almost entirely.  I was called on a case in which the applicant had been Judaic Studies valedictorian of a very prominent New Jersey Yeshiva High School!  But it must be clear that the candidate will lead an observant way of life.  They can’t be satisfied with the Conservative Judaism of their youth.  Also, they have to accept Orthodox theology.  Heterodox converts who have been taught the heresies of Liberal Judaism must abandon certain noxious beliefs.  Sometimes, we can’t accommodate these people.  Understandably, they want universal recognition of their status as Jews, but there are standards which cannot be compromised.

11) Has anyone ever offered you a bribe to expedite the process?

I was once offered $10,000 cash on the spot.  Needless to say that I refused (or else I wouldn’t be repeating the story).  But the line between bribery and legitimate concern for the material needs of the rabbi can be hazy.  I charge an hourly fee for lessons.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I develop friendships with my students, who might give me a gift before Yom Tov or at the conclusion of the process.  The rabbi has to be very discerning to know what is shochad (bribery) and what is innocent.  Often it is the future-father-in-law of the applicant who has deep pockets.  If he sponsors the kiddush a few too many times in memory of deceased phantom relatives, you know something is not kosher.  If the rabbi has a pet charity which receives a sudden infusion of major-league cash, something is fishy.  Yellow-journalists have reported on rabbis who either solicited or were offered sexual favors in exchange for expediting the conversion process.  I am sure that it has happened, though none of my friends in the rabbinate have ever admitted this happening to them.

12) Other than for marriage, what illegitimate motivations have you discovered among prospective converts?

Aside from marriage there are many non-theological reasons to become a Jew.  Most importantly, people from the third world want to move to Israel.  American rabbis don’t experience this so much, because if a person is already in America (unless about to be deported), why would they want to move to Israel.  Another reason is money and inheritance.  Some old-timers have clauses in their “Last Will and Testament” which disinherit their intermarried or non-Jewish descendants.

There is another group of applicants that nobody else has talked about in the Jewish blogosphere and I would like to blow the cover off of this scandal right now.  In Manhattan, on both the Upper East and Upper West Side, but especially the Upper West, there is a significant number of Hispanic girls in their 20’s who have infiltrated the Jewish singles scene.  They come from the Bronx, Washington Heights and other socio-economically depressed areas.  They attend events sponsored the various Manhattan kiruv organizations.  What are they doing there?  Admittedly, some are sincere in their quest for true religion.  I know of two such women who actually converted and became very frum, sheitel-wearing types.  However, most of them have no beliefs and are not there for the sake of religion.  They simply want to live a better life.  While this most sound bigoted, let’s be honest for a minute.  Would a young woman in her 20’s rather hang out with uneducated and poverty stricken guys in dangerous parts of the outer boroughs, or would she prefer to socialize with upper-middle-class and outright rich kids in the heart of Manhattan.  To have the latter they go along with some religious trappings.  Some of them claim to be Jewish, either converts or some mysterious ethnic group of Sephardim.  Others claim to be in the process of converting.  Usually they lie.  I had one such girl as a student of mine, but eventually I stopped teaching her because (aside from being a prutzah [promiscuous individual]) I realized her intentions were no good.  Do these girls want to land a Jewish husband?  They probably would settle down with one if conditions were right, and then they really would need to convert.  But most of them aren’t looking for marriage prospects.  They simply want to spend some partying years with their social betters (horribly chauvinistic, but it gets the point across).


{ 98 comments… add one }
  • B May 24, 2012, 7:37 PM

    > I charge an hourly fee for lessons. There is nothing wrong with that.

    I thought you weren’t allowed to charge money to teach Torah.

    • WHOA5772 May 24, 2012, 9:25 PM

      Potential convert: “Rabbi, how much do you charge per session of torah study?

      Rabbi: Free, how can you charge for teaching torah? Lets start with bereshit, read the first line of the text to me so we can start

      PC: Rabbi, I cant read hebrew

      Rabbi: Well, hebrew lessons are $100 and hr

      thats how….

      • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 8:12 AM

        Actually, I never give the Hebrew lessons. I always farm that out to an Israeli schoolteacher who needs the extra income.

    • Geoff May 24, 2012, 9:26 PM

      That’s funny. I’ve blown through >100k on Jewish day school and yeshiva tuition.

    • zach May 25, 2012, 5:49 AM

      If that were true, there would be no yeshivot or day schools. C’mon, we have lots of loopholes, and in this case one can even be paid a rate higher than a watcher in a cucumber field…

      • BZ May 25, 2012, 9:23 AM

        The rabbis in my day school explained that they charge for “babysitting”. The Torah is free.

    • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 7:23 AM

      The prohibition on charging money for the teaching of Torah has largely been ignored for the past 1800 years. The early Tannaim were adamant about it, though by the time of the Amoraim it was commonplace for Sages to be compensated. Like dayyanim, they can receive S’char batalah. Alternatively, it is ???? ??? ???. There are a wide variety of heterim. I charge conversion candidates, partly as a way of supplementing a rabbi’s income, but also to make sure the candidate takes the lessons seriously. I won’t take a penny for participating on the Beth-Din at the Mikveh (though many rabbis do). Once the candidate is ready in my opinion, everything is free.

      • anonimo May 25, 2012, 8:23 AM

        Do you use a sliding scale? Or is it a fixed amount that ensures that only doctors, businesspeople, and lawyers need apply?

        • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 8:53 AM

          I am not sure why the issue of charging a small fee for lessons became the one thing to dominate the comment section. There are many more important points from the above interview worthy of discussion.
          As to a sliding scale, if a person is a strong candidate for Judaism and is low-income, I charge nothing. In fact, I even personally buy the seven books on the reading list and give to them as a gift.

        • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 8:59 AM

          No fee for low-income students. I even buy the requisite books for them with my own money.

      • Iamlegend May 25, 2012, 11:55 AM

        With y_love coming out of the closet, would u.convert an openly gay man

        • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 12:23 PM


  • converting May 24, 2012, 7:43 PM

    “What happens to the people you reject?”

    I find it odd that he did not mention the IRF in response to this question. While he did mention rabbis doing “private” conversions, the IRF Vaad doesn’t fall into that category.

    • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 7:30 AM

      There is nothing odd about me not mentioning the IRF… B’mechilat kevodam, most people have never heard of them… the typical goy who wants to become a Jew isn’t very knowledgeable of intra-orthodox rabbinical politics… they ask for an appointment with the local rabbi, or whomever their jewish friend has referred, and they hope to find acceptance…. good luck to the IRF, but at present they aren’t very relevant

  • converting May 25, 2012, 8:10 AM

    I’d be curious to see how many people they convert, whether those numbers are growing, and how those numbers and trends compare to the RCA. If you have any data that you could share in that regard, for one or both groups, that would be great to see.

  • Woodrow/Conservadox May 25, 2012, 9:34 AM

    I can understand why you would want to be stringent with adult converts. But why raise the bar so much for children? All you are doing is creating a halachic minefield of Jewish parents and non-Jewish children.

    • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 11:26 AM

      We don’t raise the bar for children. Actually, we lower it. We demand slightly less from the parents of a converted child than we do of an adult convert. But there have to be standards, because if the child does not practice observant Judaism at the age 13, then he/she is not Jewish. Child conversion is done “Al Da’at Bet-Din.” Which means the rabbis act in place of the minor (who is halakhically without the requisite intellect) to accept the burden of commandments. Since this was done with consent, the child can choose to walk away from judaism at bar mitzvah age. If their jewish identity does not consist of shemirat hamitzvot, then they have never truly accepted Judaism. It is the equivalent of the observant child convert who decides at 13 to start eating treyf because he has the right to opt out. It would gross negligence by the rabbis to convert children into a situation we know won’t be satisfactory down the road.

      • Woodrow/Conservadox May 29, 2012, 1:14 PM

        Nice try. But I don’t think the adult convert has to go to yeshiva for a dozen years. So I don’t think it is quite right to say you demand less from a child convert than an adult.
        Moreover, to state that “if the child does not practice observant Judaism at the age 13, then he/she is not Jewish” is circular. If you (not you personally, but the halachic community generally) says he/she’s Jewish he’s Jewish.

        • Evan Hoffman May 29, 2012, 3:05 PM

          it is not circular… that, in fact, is the halakhah… and the halakhic community does consider a Ger Katan, who never observed mitzvot before or after Bar Mitzvah, to be an outright non-Jew… this issue confronts congregational rabbis quite frequently, when the adopted child of a non-Shomer Shabbos family reaches bar mizvah… is the child allowed to receive an aliyah…

          • anonimo May 30, 2012, 8:06 AM

            So you are basically separating the child from the family. A family of Jews and a goy. What if the goy identifies as Jewish ? What would you recommend he or she do? Who is he or she supposed to marry?

            • Evan Hoffman May 31, 2012, 2:44 PM

              nobody is separated from their family… the child simply fails to qualify as a jew… is it the end of the world for someone to have the status of a Gentile? if they care enough to qualify as a Jew, they will lead a traditional life… if they don’t want to, they don’t have to

  • Should be working May 25, 2012, 10:49 AM

    Can a person be refused conversion to Orthodox Judaism based on their views about the Palestinians?

    • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 11:29 AM

      In my opinion, yes. I won’t have on my conscience that I introduced a traitorous fifth column into the Jewish people. That doesn’t mean I reject someone because they would vote Kadima over Likud. But, if they are part of the BDS crowd they are swiftly escorted out of my office.

  • Iamlegend May 25, 2012, 12:58 PM

    Would you convert an openly gay man?

  • Dan May 25, 2012, 3:00 PM

    Did someone say “easy hispanic shiksas” on the UWS? Because that is all I saw in this article.

    • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 3:42 PM

      It was the most important point I tried to make in the interview… I can’t believe that nobody in the Jewish blogger world has caught onto this. Of course my intention was not to get the hopes up for someone to have an easy liaison. Rather, to put a stop to a troubling trend.

      • Y May 30, 2012, 7:20 AM

        Are you sure they’re insincere? Many Hispanic families have a tradition that they have Jewish ancestry, and this leads to interest in conversion. There is such a high demand for Jewish education among this group that an Israeli organization (Shavei Israel) employs full-time rabbis in Spain and Portugal, who often facilitate conversions.

        • Evan Hoffman May 30, 2012, 10:08 AM

          i had a student from jamaica who claimed jewish ancestry, and i was inclined to believe her… she is today happily married and fully observant… but she came from the south and wasn’t part of the NY social scene… my point in the interview was with regard to Puerto Rican and Dominican and Mexican girls from upper Manhattan and the Bronx who have no Jewish lineage whatsoever…

          • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 10:40 AM

            So the following have no legitimate right to convert? Add racist comment to chavunistic. I will be sure not to send Hispanic concerts, with or without Jewish lineage your way:
            “my point in the interview was with regard to Puerto Rican and Dominican and Mexican girls from upper Manhattan and the Bronx who have no Jewish lineage whatsoever….”

            Did you get scarred studying in the Heights to mention two of the most prominent groups

            • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 10:47 AM

              That live in the Heights other than Jews and a quite small population of Mexicans. Or can’t you tell us apart. I have to stop reading this and hope the sour taste in my mouth dissipates. Big word for a 1st generation Dominican American so let’s talk slow like I did have a BA or MS. I go to college. Good one. For free. Me smart. Academic scholarship. Maybe had something in common with Jewish boy I married, now rabbi than our bank statements. Both love books and Judaism. Both bilingual.

              • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:14 AM

                Correction: “let’s talk slow like I did not have a BA or MS.” Because you obviously think we’re all some sort of backwards hicks who need to troll the UWS and UES for Jewish men. Sheesh.

    • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 10:24 AM

      As a Hispanic convert who grew up in Washington Heights, I do not know where to start with how many overt biases were presented in this article. So let’s start here. I get emails from all over the world from Hispanics, men and women, who sincerely want to convert. For Judaism, not marriage or citizenship or rich Jewish husbands. But thanks for dissing Latinas enmasse save two though you earlier mentioned racial and ethnicity as part of theh conversion questions. My Upper East Side shul had no golddigging Latinas. It was very diverse though with Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian and Africans and African-American converts. One Hispanic convert bought a place on her own near the shul…and she was also from one of those neighborhoods. I was a selr-supp

      • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 10:34 AM

        Self-supporting teacher with no inclination to marry or into money since I had not grown up with it. Oh, it bears repeating that I am Dominican and after conversion I found out I had a maternal great-great grandmother (her daughter is still alive at 100) who was a Turkish Sephardic Jew. Perhaps instead of a personal vendetta against “poor” and you insinuate “uneducated. And not interested in their own men,” you would do better to study Caribbean Jewish history. Many Jews were saved from the Holocaust by the Dominican Republic. Hundreds. Some intermarried and their children want to be Jews. I also know born Jews there, in Puerto Rico (largest Jewish community I believe) and Jamaica and especially Mexico have their own vivid Jewish histories.

  • Dan May 25, 2012, 3:05 PM

    At what rate of recidivism would you decide to sharply curtail your conversions, down to only one or two in a thousand?
    What is your current rate?

    • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 3:33 PM

      i don’t allow past experience to determine what will be the fate of a new potential conversion candidate… each one deserves to assessed on their own merits… in any event, as mentioned in the interview, none of my converts have reverted to being a Goy…. what past experience is good for, is to shape the strategies i use in promoting observance… i know now much more than i did five years ago as to how to keep new-Jews on the derech.

      • Dan May 25, 2012, 4:17 PM

        Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
        –Albert Einstein

        How could you not allow past experience to determine whether your judgment and procedures are good?

        • Evan Hoffman May 25, 2012, 4:54 PM

          by quoting einstein, you clearly missed the point… i do learn from past experiences, as stated in my above comment… it was in response to your first point that i said i wouldn’t automatically dismiss someone because of poor statistics in prior cases… anyway, i am proud of my record, which is much better than most of my congregational colleagues…

          • Dan May 28, 2012, 7:54 PM

            No need to get huffy.

            You say you use past experience to guide how you promote observance. That is very good.

            I’m asking whether you use past experience to guide your judgment of whether someone is a good candidate. And taking it a step further and asking whether at a certain loss percentage, you would declare that your judgment was not working well, and recuse yourself.

            Me personally, if I didn’t have at least 90% of my converts actually keeping halacha and living as frum jews with covered hair and kids in day school, I would recuse myself. 1 in 10 is way to high of an error rate.

            So I’m asking what you think would be too high of an error rate.

            • Evan Hoffman May 29, 2012, 6:55 AM

              While in theory I agree with you, that 10% rate of failure (defined as non-Shomer Shabbos) is unacceptable and should lead the sponsoring rabbanim to abstain from further conversions, such a statistical standard would mean the end of all Batei Din for conversions. Even the holy-rollers running the Beth-Din for the B’Datz don’t have a 90% success rate, and certainly not the RCA. THerefore it is difficult to answer your question. The best answer I can give, is that if the individual rabbi is consistently duped about the intentions of the candidate, he should get out of this field. While some of my converts are not currently shomer shabbos, that is mostly because of the decline in enthusiasm over time. Only once was I outright duped.

        • Synapse May 31, 2012, 10:10 AM

          That quote from Einstein doesn’t apply when you’re dealing with people. What works for one person drives the next away.

  • Catholic Mom May 26, 2012, 6:54 AM

    >>”The correct answer, which allows the process to develop further, is an appreciation for the beauty of Judaism and a personal desire to cleave to it. Wholesale acceptance of Judaic theological principles and alienation from their inherited faith would be an even better answer, …

    I am also interested in the candidate’s broader personal history. … What is their ethnic/racial background? What faith were they born into and was it a significant component of their life? What is their attitude toward Jews? Are they pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian? All these questions help me form an opinion of the candidate.”

    It’s good he tells you the right answers right off the bat! Also, that there is a political test involved, so you can study up on that as well. 🙂

    Potential convert to Catholicism: Father, I’m interested in becoming a Catholic.

    Priest: What race are you? How do you feel about the British in Northern Ireland? I assume you agree with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that the Obamacare regulations are an unconsitutional violation of the separation of church and state? Speaking of which, what is your contribution rate to the Bishops Annual Appeal?

    • humanperson May 26, 2012, 8:01 PM

      Catholic Mom, shouldn’t you be posting over on New Advent?

      • Catholic Mom May 27, 2012, 6:50 PM

        Why? Are they discussing basing religious conversion on support for a political state?

        • humanperson May 28, 2012, 6:42 AM

          Yes Catholic Mom in fact Vatican city is a political state and all catholic converts must submit to the Vatican. When a person converts to your catholic faith they are asked all types of personal information about their lives and parents, ect. That plus the fact that your religion is headed by a political state really takes the wind out of your statements. Another thing is seeing as your catholic, why the hell do you feel the need to “safeguard” the conversion proses of another religion? I’m sure you’d enjoy enjoy a blog like New Advent more sense this one seems to upset you.

          • Catholic Mom May 28, 2012, 1:32 PM

            All Catholic converts must submit to the teaching magisterium of the Church, not “the Vatican.” The word “Vatican” does not appear in the 1,000 plus page Catechism of the Catholic Church. It’s just a city the pope lives in where the Church has a lot of offices. No one is required to give it the slightest political allegiance. Do you, as an American, owe allegiance to “the city of Washington, D.C.” ?

            By contrast, Israel is a political state. There are Orthodox Jews that do not conflate religious adherence to Judaism with political support of the state of Israel. Obviously Rabbi Hoffman is not one of them.

            BTW you are utterly incorrect that a convert to Catholicism would be asked “all types of personal information about their lives and parents etc.” Not in a million years. Utterly beyond what would be appropriate. The ONLY questions they would be asked would be “are you already a baptized Christian? If not, are you or were you a follower of another religion? Why do you want to be Catholic?” Actually, I’m pretty sure even that last question would not be asked. It’s nobody’s business why you want to be Catholic. That’s between you and God.

    • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:19 AM

      As a former Catholic, we both know that would never happen. A priest would never ask regarding race or politics. Or sanity?! The last one can be judged only if the person is truly off their rocker. Otherwise, does said priest/rabbi also have a psychiatry/psychotherapy degree?

  • humanperson May 28, 2012, 6:44 AM


  • humanperson May 29, 2012, 6:42 AM

    Catholic Mom, I went through RCIA so I in fact know what information is asked of converts for the Church’s records. They asked where I lived and for how many years, who my parents were and if they were married and where they lived ect. The Church asked what I did for a living, if I was ever married, did I have children, ect. All for the local bishops records. So it’s not as simple as a little water on the head. There is a process that is questions about your person, classes, retreats, and rituals that all happen well before the easter vigil when the water hits the forehead. O and that wasn’t a ” million years” ago Catholic Mom, so you are wrong about that point.

    • Catholic Mom May 30, 2012, 6:19 PM

      I know many Protestants who converted to Catholicism — more than 20 at least. We have talked about what was involved in RCIA. Of course they were asked if they were married and had children (for starters Catholics are expected to raise their children Catholic, so an obvious question would be “do you have any children?”) but no one I ever heard of was asked “what do you do for a living.” If the person claimed that their parents were Catholics but somehow they had accidentally skipped being Confirmed, I suppose someone might ask “did they marry in the Church?” But nobody would just start randomly asking them who their parents were and if they were married. Might they ask you to fill out a form with your name, address, phone number, etc. to register for the class? I would assume so. But that’s not asking about your background, parents, views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, what you do for a living, etc. BTW, I notice you’re not a Catholic, so I assume something was fishy. Maybe that’s why they asked you unusual quetions.

  • Meshugah May 29, 2012, 7:45 AM

    How stringent are you on shabbat and yom tov observance? If someone say used non-rolling stick deodorant on shabbat would they not qualify? What about if someone cooks on yom tov because they have an electric stove?

    My rational for cooking and using electricity on yom tov is that it constitutes transfer of fire–if someone can take a cigarette and light it in a pre-lit candle someone can turn on a light. Cigarette is to light switch as candle is to electric current in one’s house/apartment.

    • Evan Hoffman May 31, 2012, 1:34 PM

      the conversion candidate is usually smart enough not to explicitly state their objections to minutaie in halacha… we try to verify their compliance with the major aspects of shabbos-yom tov observance… as for a private matter of deodorant, we don’t ask and they shouldn’t tell… of course they must be taught all the minor details, even those which seem silly to an outsider… if someone insists on acting in certain way, for which no legitimate leniency can be found, then they would be rejected… but the candidate is not likely to jeopardize all of his/her hard work and effort just to openly flaut the rabbis on a minor inconvenience…

  • Anonymous May 29, 2012, 10:25 AM

    Rabbi please explain, how can a convert revert to being a goy?

    • Evan Hoffman May 29, 2012, 12:45 PM

      in america it is as simple as ceasing to practice judaism or identifying as a jew… putting aside the halakhic notion of “once a jew always a jew,” the person in question is practically speaking a Goy… in countries which lack separation of church and state the reality is a bit different…. many countires, israel included, require one to identify with an established faith… converts to judaism who want out would have to adopt another religion in place of judaism… from a halakhic point of view, the convert who wants out is no different from the born jew… once they habitually violate the commandments publicly with an intent to show their disregard for the faith, they have the status of a gentile “deeno k’akum” in many respects (though not entirely)…

      • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:24 AM

        Of course, because a born Jew never stops being a Jew PERIOD no matter what they do. And wasn’t it a while ago….say 5 years…that the same was true of converts. Once a Jew always a Jew.

  • tickedoff May 29, 2012, 1:18 PM

    Just curious – would you convert a female who is living with her ‘orthodox’ boyfriend? Is there any basis for such a conversion?

    • Evan Hoffman May 29, 2012, 3:02 PM

      it happens all the time…. the various Batei Din have differing policies on how much time the lovebirds must live apart… typically, they require separate domiciles for three months prior to immersion in the mikvah

      • Holmes May 29, 2012, 10:42 PM

        “. . .the various Batei Din have differing policies on how much time the lovebirds must live apart. . .”

        Really? Which beth din? One of the RCA? Where is this written in the GPS rules?

        This is certainly not the policy of the Manhattan Beth Din of the RCA.

        • Evan Hoffman May 30, 2012, 6:58 AM

          You are correct that it is not in the GPS rules… As for three months of havchana after immersion, they strongly advocate for it, but there is nothing can do to enforce it… as for a separation period before immersion, i don’t know what Rabbi Romm and the Manhattan Bet-Din does, because none of the candidates i processed thru them were in that personal situation… however, other candidates of mine who were either converted pre-GPS or under other auspices did face this issue… in my opinion, while there is no guarantee that separate living arrangements equals celibacy, it is a major lifestyle change which speaks to the seriousness which the candidate takes the whole process… three months prior to immersion is ideal… some rabbis insist on six months prior, while others don’t care at all… ultimately, the GPS does not include it (i speculate here) because there are issues involved beyond religion… i.e. does the candidate have somewhere else to go, can they afford to pay rent, are they near their place of work… to demand it in every case would be unreasonable and if you can’t insist on it, then best not to include it in the protocols.

          • Y May 30, 2012, 7:17 AM

            Do you know if exceptions are ever made to the living-apart requirement? What if the man who wants to convert has already “married” a Jewish woman and has children, so it would be impractical to live apart (because he needs to help with the kids)? I’ve heard sometimes they just sleep in separate rooms for a while.

            • Evan Hoffman May 30, 2012, 10:10 AM

              yes… exceptions are made in the case of an intermarried family with children…

  • Dan May 29, 2012, 4:44 PM

    Can you tell us a story of how you might have a jewish guy living with a non-jewish woman, who come for her conversion, and you are confident that she really wants to be an orthodox jew?

    It seems to me that someone who is currently living with a non jewish woman, is per se not frum themselves. The fact that he says he is willing to become frum, is belied by the fact that he is only coming now when he needs you to convert his wife to assuage his conscience.

    The non-jewish girlfriend who is living with this guy and says she wants to be frum, presumably only wants to be as frum as her boyfriend. The fact that she will remain living with him, shows that she does not want to be frum. A frum woman would not want to marry a non-frum man.

    The fact that you “require” them to live apart for 3 months just proves the joke. If they are sincere enough to be candidates for conversion, she should not want to live with him in issur, nor he with her. (In any event, the 3 months probably has more to do with havchana between the zera b’tahara and the zera shelo b’tahara.)

    So why would you ever assume they were going to remain frum after some time? It seems like a poor assumption to me. What are the statistics in such cases?

    • DRosenbach May 29, 2012, 7:08 PM

      That’s an intriguing point, Dan. I wonder, though, if zera b’tahara makes any difference. Assuming you’re suggesting that the point is to make a distinction between a fetus conceived prior to her conversion versus one conceived after her conversion, I think it’s a moot issue because as long as a convert gives birth after her conversion date, the baby is considered Jewish regardless of when it was conceived.

      Then again, I might be wrong. Or I might be right, but there might be some sort of less tangible shadow cast over a baby conceived as a gentile and born as a Jew — sort of like a ben niddah.

      • Dan May 29, 2012, 7:22 PM

        Oops, I meant shelo b’kedusha, and b’kedusha.

        • DRosenbach May 30, 2012, 7:25 AM

          How is that different? When the woman has her baby in the hospital on Wednesday, May 30 2012, there’s no doubt as to when she converted — either she completed her conversion process before May 30, in which case the baby is Jewish, or on/after May 30 and the baby is not Jewish. The religious affiliation of the baby is endowed when it’s born, not at the time of conception, implantation, at the time of big 5 month sonogram or any other event in utero.

          • Dan May 30, 2012, 11:23 AM

            I was just correcting the terminology. I don’t know a lot about this, but some wikipedia article in hebrew was claiming it makes some differences.

    • Evan Hoffman May 30, 2012, 7:05 AM

      i personally know a couple who were in that situation and now live in lakewood with 6 kids in yeshiva… it happens… more typically, the outcome is very different… ideally the rabbanim would not convert anyone L’Shem Ishut, but we don’t live in an ideal world… in the poskim there is an opinion that advocates leniency on this matter, lest the jew continue living indefinitely with his non-jewish paramour… the counter argument is that we generally don’t say “Chateh bishvil she’yizakeh chavercha.” each rabbi and each bet-din takes a different stance on this issue… we try not to be duped and we reject people… i reject many people over the years… but we don’t reject everyone, even if the circumstances are far from perfect.

      • DRosenbach May 30, 2012, 7:19 AM

        But what’s the driving force behind using the prevention of a Jew ‘practicing’ non-observance to the degree that he or she is in an intimate relationship with a gentile as a basis for converting his or her gentile paramour, as you call it?

        It’s not like this non-observant Jew wears his Rabbeinu Tam tefillin and if only his sexual partner were Jewish everything would be dandy? As we once discussed in conversation, Rabbi Hoffman, there’s this large-scale social taboo of Jews intermarrying — but is it really all that much more worse than everything else they do and don’t do?

        My point, to summarize, is what is this seemingly inordinate focus on accepting less-than-appropriate converts if the circumstances are far from perfect if the upside is that we correct one of the intimate partner’s errors (intermarriage) but introduce an entire array of potential and, perhaps more likely, actual issues like disingenuous converts, children of dubious Jewishness, irreligious children of definite Jewishness, etc. I mean, to convert someone who’s really into it and who goes off the derech — who can blame the rabbi because life happens and we can’t employ the need for a crystal ball attitude, but to allow these types of conversions just doesn’t seem to make too much sense to me. But, hey, I’m just a dentist.

      • Holmes May 30, 2012, 11:17 PM

        “Lakewood with six kids in yeshiva.” News flash, moreinu harav, this is not a higher madreiga of Yiddishkeit. LOL!!!

        • DRosenbach May 31, 2012, 6:59 AM

          Rabbi Hoffman was making an observation, not an evaluation. The couple happens to live in Lakewood, NJ and sends their children to yeshiva. It’s not a question of suggesting requisite level of observance.

          But now that you mention it, what is a madreiga? Perhaps one can define it as the level of one’s knowledge, or perhaps one’s observance. One may be cynical and portray one’s madreiga as a perceived superiority over others, but that’s not really their madreiga — only their external, superficial, projected madreiga, which we’re not really considering here now, are we, since Rabbi Hoffman professes to know this couple and can vouch for their authenticity.

          I head a joke over Shavuos: “What’s the difference between Hollywood and Lakewood? In Hollywood they learn to act and in Lakewood they act to learn.”

          It’s funny because it’s a clever flip of the verb and noun, but the fact remains that the average Lakewood family is often more observant than the average _______ family, and sometimes far more so. So if that’s not a higher madreiga, I don’t really know what a madreiga is. Of course there are madreigos in everything — middos, included — but I’m supposing that that was not what was referred to and that’s not what you questioned, being that you don’t know the family.

        • Evan Hoffman May 31, 2012, 1:39 PM

          i was just giving an example for Dan… he assumed that conversion of the non-Jewish girlfriend can’t lead to a pious lifestyle for the couple… most of the time, that is true… but there are exceptions to every rule… i happen to be quite close to this family in Lakewood… i could just have easily mentioned a different geographic area… nothing special about Lakewood per se… the point is they are very religious despite their mixed-dating circumstances 20 years ago…

    • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:29 AM

      I’ve seen such girls as you describe dragging and screaming their Jewish “frum” boyfriends to see the rabbi so that the girl can convert. I’ve also seen, too many times, the guy run away screaming once he realizes she is not only serious about Judaism, she is serious about being frum. In some cases, the frum woman DOES marry the not-so-frum man simply because she loves him and he’s stood by her through years of the relationship and conversion. I find these situations very sad because there is a power dynamic where the husband (born Jewish) feels that he can dictate the level of observance in the home and the wife (not born Jewish) feels she must keep the peace.

  • MB May 30, 2012, 10:02 AM

    With all due respect, prefacing your chauvinist comment indicating that you are going to make it a chauvinist comment does not make it acceptable. As a female Hispanic conversion candidate in her 20s, I must step in and call you out. Through this post, you have also blown the cover on what I had always perceived classist, misogynist, racist bias against me by the beth din, but had been unable to identify. Thanks for making it clear. If I had decided to become Jewish if only because my underling racial background had left me no other options – and because I had wanted to “party it up” – I would have left observance after over a year of classist, racist, and misogynist treatment in the Modern Orthodox community. Joining the community – hasn’t been easy for me, particularly as a young female Hispanic – and your lashon hara does not make it any easier. Over the past few years, I have made great friends – yes, but I have also had to make many sacrifices. Just as I have been able to enjoy time with the people I’ve met in my quest to reclaim my Jewish heritage, I have also had to be with my community in bad times – regularly going on hospital visits, being there for yahrzeits of community members, fasting and crying on Tisha B’Av, witnessing communal spats, and even taking elderly members of the community to the hospital when others were enjoying their Shabbat rest. If you want to denigrate individual candidates with whom you have not been pleased – go right ahead, but I believe you should retract your broad accusation of an entire class of people (namely, hispanic women in their 20s) before it hurts those of us in your communities who have a sincere desire to join the people of Israel.

    • dob bylan May 30, 2012, 12:24 PM

      Does your personal experience matter in the face of the rabbi’s personal experience? He made an existential observation.

      “…Admittedly, some are sincere in their quest for true religion. I know of two such women who actually converted and became very frum, sheitel-wearing types. However, most of them have no beliefs and are not there for the sake of religion….”

      What you do or feel doesnt have anything to do with what he has encountered. Sure it may make you look bad. But its not he who has done that but rather the insincere hispanic ladies who he and others have encountered. Altogether it amounts to nothing more than racial profiling that rabbis see you and suppose that your just the same as the others who look superficially much like you. But if the greatest risk for insincere converts is the hispanic female upperwestsiders, the profiling will do its job to weed out the most suspicious and if you make it to the end youll be accepted on your merits.

    • Yisro May 30, 2012, 5:24 PM

      You’re right, MB. It’s hard enough to be a ger, or a prospective ger, as it is, and it’s even harder to be a ger or prospective ger who isn’t white. To the extent that people read this article, Rabbi Hoffman may have just made it that much harder. Plus, it is a specific mitzvah not to oppress a ger with words (Sefer HaMitzvos HaKaztar, negative mitzvah 49), and think of what every Hispanic female convert feels right now — I can’t speak for them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some feel hurt. It’s an established tradition that converts are more sensitive than others.

      • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:37 AM

        Yisro, thank you. Hurt doesn’t even cover it. Doesn’t even cover it. It has been years since my conversion. I am as I said married to a rabbi. I live in a Modern Orthodox community. And yet, every time I read things like this, it still shocks me. More often than not, we experience it but it is not said aloud or directly. Suppose Rabbi Hoffman doesn’t know that there is a Hispanic female convert readership to this blog in their 20s and 30s.

    • Evan Hoffman May 31, 2012, 2:46 PM

      Whenever a disturbing sociological trend involves one specific demographic group, innocent people who also fit into that demographic group will become uncomfortable when the trend is noticed or publicized… it is an unfortunate reality in many areas of life… It would be absurd to think that of all the races, genders, and age-brackets, I am looking to single out for harsh treatment Hispanic women in their 20’s… why not Irish men in their 50’s… I was merely reporting on a phenomenon which had yet to come to the public’s attention… It really has very little to do with conversion, because, as I mentioned, most of these women are not attempting to convert… They are simply participating in the “Jewish Young Professionals” scene despite not being Jewish… It is not criminal nor is it sinister… But it is problematic from a Jewish communal perspective… The outreach organizations should be faulted for turning a blind to it… If someone from that demographic group wants to convert, they should face no greater obstacles than any other candidate… I have overseen the conversions of women from china, Jamaica, Mexico, Germany, Denamrk and Canada… Everyone received the same gentle treatment… There was no unfair racial profiling… I was more than happy to be Mesader Kiddushin at some the subsequent weddings… Only one group is subject to racial profiling, Middle Eastern men… Prudence dictates that the rabbi does so… But once an Iranian man passed an FBI background check, he was cleared to proceed with conversion… If you are being unfairly treated by a bet-din and have a reasonable basis to assume that it relates to ethnic bias, I would be willing to advocate on your behalf!

      • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:43 AM

        Speaking of the Middle East and Israel? How about profiling Israelis? Why is it that the number of Hispanic women who are in relationships and want to convert email me that they are in relationships with Israeli men they have met all over the world? The women are serious about conversion and seriously confused by the bureaucracy and latent classist, racist, and misogynist tendencies of the process.

        The Jewish Journal spectacularly covered this issue a couple of years back in an article about converted Latinas and their Israeli husbands. What they failed to miss was that all the Israelis in the article were Hispanics from Hispanic backgrounds via parents or grandparents who had fled to Latin America during the Holocaust. So there was a cultural aspect that wasn’t explored, which led to a religious exploration when the Israeli husband and family realized the culture wasn’t enough. The article focused more on how docile Latina wives can be.

    • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:34 AM

      AMEN, MB.

  • Anonymous Shiksa May 30, 2012, 12:52 PM

    I am one of the “non-Jewish paramours.” When I met my husband, I had never met a Jew before in my life and knew nothing of intermarriage. He had fallen off the derech and didn’t really grasp the deeper reasons behind why intermarriage is such a difficult issue. We met and fell in love as any couple does.

    Because I loved him, I wanted to learn more about Judaism because, even as he was, it was a big part of who he was and is. I studied for years before deciding to convert because I knew it was a huge decision. I can remember the exact day I first read about intermarriage and some of the most hurtful things I’ve ever read. I agonized over my place in his life. We had 2 children at that point and a life together. I had already studied so much about Judaism and identified so strongly with it that it tore me up to know that our family was in such a state.

    My husband is not my reason for wanting to join the Jewish community, but he is what brought me to learn about Judaism. Together, we have learned all the things he was never taught and discovered a rich tradition for our family. Our children attend Yeshiva schools and we are an integral part of our Orthodox community. Had I not met him, I might never have learned about Judaism. Had he not met me he might never have found his way back on the derech.

    Yes…how we met and ended up together wasn’t perfect in retrospect, but is anyone perfect? We are a family happily living an observant life and contributing to our community.

    • Yisro May 30, 2012, 5:26 PM

      Nice story! But no need to call yourself a shiksa….

      • Anonymous Shiksa May 31, 2012, 7:22 AM

        I definitely see your point, Yisro, in that it is a derogatory term and I thank you. I meant it in part as a tongue-in-cheek reference to some of the disparaging remarks above about non-Jewish women involved with Jewish men.

        I like to think that Hashem can use almost anything to His own purpose. Perhaps there are some of us non-Jews out there who are meant to be gerim that are used to help pull a few OTD Jews back. I’ve heard too many stories where the non-Jewish spouse is the one pushing for greater observance for it to be a coincidence.

        You can’t always judge a book by its cover.

        • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:46 AM

          AS, your story is one of the most common ones I hear. Truly. I know of so many women and men who have converted and have made their spouse more observant through their overwhelming enthusiasm.

      • Aliza Hausman June 4, 2012, 11:44 AM

        We call ourselves that ugly word even AFTER converting because people STILL call us that to our faces even AFTER conversion.

  • tickedoff May 31, 2012, 6:30 PM

    I’m still trying to figure out how a woman, living with her Jewish ‘orthodox’ boyfriend (without ever moving out) managed to convert while not living in a Jewish area (no shul in walking distance). She started out in a Jewish neighborhood and moved while in the process. Immediately following the conversion she was not shomer shabbat. Kasruth very iffy. An orthodox Rabbi (who knew they had been living together, at the very least) married them.

    So either she converted orthodox and the rabbi knew the circumstance, converted orthodox and the rabbi didn’t know the circumstance (would either of the above invalidate the conversion?), or she/they lied and she didn’t convert orthodox at all….

    • Anonymous Shiksa June 1, 2012, 10:24 AM

      Since no marriage can be halakhically valid between a Jew and a non-Jew, in the eyes of a Beith Din, the couple are cohabitating in violation of halakhah whether they are legally wed or not. Living together in this situation is no worse than being married and many Rabbis follow the halakhic position that a interfaith couple living together are simply in a invalid marriage, the same as a legally wed interfaith couple.

      So, that aside, then, the question becomes more, “Is the non-Jew a sincere convert and is the Jew committed also to living an observant life?” In these cases, they usually judge both the non-Jew and the Jew as a combined unit, at least if the couple have been living together for a long period of time. Many begin the process not living within walking distance of a Shul and move during the process. That actually shows some level of commitment. If you’re certain that she isn’t shomer shabbos and doesn’t keep kosher, then it sounds more like she faked being a sincere convert, which has little to do with her living with anyone and more to do with her personally.

      All converts in relationships, whether they are legally married or not, must marry after conversion in a halakhic ceremony, so again, that’s just a red herring here. The Rabbi would have been more concerned with making sure that she wasn’t converting just to get married than her living situation, but it sounds like that’s where things might have gone wrong.

      • tickedoff June 1, 2012, 11:16 AM

        Question isn’t if they’re married or not, that was just a side point. Question is if she’s Jewish or not. They moved AWAY from a Jewish neighborhood before her conversion. And neither of them keep strictly kosher or shabbos. So if she took some test, stepped into a mikvah and some orthodox Rabbi declared her Jewish does that make her defacto Jewish? or do the circumstances invalidate the conversion off the get go? If she ends up having kids, are they Jewish? are they not Jewish? or are they in that ‘questionable’ state?

  • Evan Hoffman June 1, 2012, 5:59 AM

    there is a major debate about the ex post facto legitimacy of a conversion done (under orthodox auspices) in which the convert never kept mitzvot before or after immersion… rabbis certainly should not allow such candidates to be processed… the question is if the absence of sincere kabbalat ol mitzvot nullifies the ritual… the israeli rabbinate tends to rule very strictly on this matter

    • A gay convert May 16, 2013, 12:21 PM

      I’m an almost 40 years old gay man who converted through an Orthodox beth din in Europe about 10 years ago. I lived observant life in a Modern Orthodox community, make successful aliyah but lost my faith completely in Israel. Since a couple of years I’ve declined every form of observance.

      Recently some discussions with religious Jews have brought me to consider to seek for an official cancellation of my gijur. In terms of having been observant makes the things more complicated. However, I knew at the moment of my mikveh that I am a way, have always been one and will always be one. My intention was not to perform a false conversion but I knew I could never change my nature.

      Is there any chance for me to summon a beth din in order to investigate a cancellation?

      Thank you.

  • Vinas June 7, 2012, 2:41 PM

    Rabbi Hoffman, if someone converts and a month after starts sinning not intentionally but because things get tough and let’s say this person finds out a year or two years later that she or he had made a mistake and comes back to the secular world, what would be her or his status? Also can this person annul the conversion? I know someone who came out publicly would this person be accepted as a Jew in the Orthodox community? or is it considered as a goy?

  • Vinas June 7, 2012, 2:42 PM

    Rabbi Hoffman, if someone converts and a month after starts sinning not intentionally but because things get tough and let’s say this person finds out a year or two years later that she or he had made a mistake and comes back to the secular world, what would be her or his status? Also can this person annul the conversion?

  • Shakhar March 2, 2013, 12:35 PM

    As a Conservative Jew I find your comment that one who goes from his tradition/movement to Orthodox as “upgrading” improper. Your statement implies to many that Jews gradate up or down based upon their chosen traditions. The best synagogue is in the heart, and G-d alone judges our hearts. For anyone to claim that he alone knows the truth, as in the truth of which tradition is better or worse, is a violation of all we know as Jews. Is it not written in the Talmud (Shabbath, 54) “Truth is G-d’s seal?”

  • Annonymous May 6, 2013, 9:09 AM

    I recently remarried a man who was previously married. His exwife did not tell him her mother wasnt jewish until a week before they were married. (her father was a non practicing Jew) She underwent an Orthodox conversion by a competent Bais Din for which he has a certificate. After “converting” she was only miminumly observant; drove to shul on Shabbos; eat trefe. He has four kids from that marriage grown and non observant. My questions are as follows
    a) Was she Jewish when the kids were born; is she still considered a jew even though she is not shomrei mitzvoth
    b) are his children Jews
    I am very troubled by all of this. Even though it was long ago she appears to have lied to him initially and -even in another country- been one of those women who feign to be Jewish just to get a Jewish Husband.

  • howtoaskagirlouttips.webs.com July 10, 2013, 11:53 PM

    Even if you are really interested in her, she will probably
    think you are a creep. By making it an activity that you’ll attend whether or not she can go makes it easier for her to say yes. This applies especially to girls who are on their teen years and early adulthood as parents may tend to worry on the whereabouts of their children.

  • best skin care after 60 July 30, 2013, 6:12 AM

    But that doesn’t mean you should not be careful enough about the fat or protein intake. Moderation is considered one beverage per day for a woman and two beverages per day for a man. While in ketosis, your body will burn fat as fuel.

  • blabla November 14, 2014, 6:44 PM

    well, Spain and Portugal are in Europe. Hispanic women come from South America…

Leave a Comment