For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” —Ruth 1:16
Conversion to Judaism in Israel is not simple. Nevertheless, some remarkable people have chosen Judaism—chosen to link their lives with the Jewish people through the Israeli Masorti Movement’s welcoming, egalitarian, warm tradition.
While the State of Israel recognizes Masorti conversions for the purpose of citizenship, the Orthodox Rabbanut does not.
Notwithstanding these obstacles, thousands of Israelis have chosen to convert with Masorti rabbis. Why? Because Masorti converts people in a meaningful way—both in accordance with Halacha (Jewish law) as well as in a religiously tolerant atmosphere suitable to modern Israeli society. Those seeking conversion become intellectually and practically immersed in Jewish traditions, mitzvot (commandments) and culture.
Says Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the Masorti Movement: “One of the most joyful parts of rabbinic work is welcoming Jews by choice into the community…Today, we are seeing all kinds of conversions: where the mother is not Jewish, where children are adopted, where babies were born overseas or with the help of a surrogate.”
The story of Irina and her daughter Anastasia is not unusual in Israel. Irina emigrated from Russia with two daughters. She had another, Anastasia, born in Israel, who protests: “…everyone says I am Russian, however, I am not Russian, I was born here! I am a Sabra. So who am I? Jewish? Israeli? Russian?” The decision to convert through Masorti was a way to answer her questions and give Anastasia security in her identity as a Jew, a full member of Klal Yisrael. “People really understand that they’re taking on a new sense of belonging and also taking on a new way for viewing the world,” says Rabbi Peretz Rodman.
For couples using a surrogate to bear children, including gay couples, conversion is required regardless of the religious status of the fathers and even of the egg donor. Ron and Gilad had decisions to make for their twin boys, conceived through a surrogate from India, as is common in Israel.
Neither Gilad nor Ron was religiously observant beyond synagogue attendance on the High Holidays and yet “the issue of the conversion was on our minds before and during the pregnancy.” In Masorti, they found an inclusive and welcoming environment. “We did not need to hide who we were…It was all embracing. It was loving.” Continues Gilad, “I think that for my children today, Judaism is inherently a part of them.”
This moving video tells the stories of Irina, Anastasia, Ron, Gilad and other families from all different backgrounds and circumstances who have been converted by Masorti rabbis in Israel. Says Rabbi Sacks, “With a generous contribution from North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois, each convert is presented with a Masorti siddur. We’re grateful to partner with a dynamic, warm, inclusive and caring Conservative congregation deeply committed to enriching Jewish lives.” The love of Jewish tradition and community is exemplified by Masorti/Conservative Judaism in Israel, as it is in the United States.
For more information, click here.
This article was contributed by Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism whose purpose and mission is to support the work of Israelis in building a Judaism that preserves observance and tradition while recognizing how modern life in Israel is lived.