How difficult is an Orthodox Conversion?
Very. Conversion to Judaism is the most significant decision in your life. It requires real life style changes, including many basics such as eating habits and work schedule. Conversion to Judaism can strain family ties, and it will certainly alter the way you look at the world. Nevertheless, if you are willing and able to meet these demands, we will encourage you and do our best to ensure a smooth process.
What is expected of me?
You are expected to be part of a vibrant Orthodox Jewish community and have a Rabbi who will be a part of your conversion process. Gradually, and at your own pace, you are expected to learn how to live as a religiously observant Jew, and practice living as one, as well. Men and women are expected at all times to act and dress in a manner that is within the guidelines of tznius. Women may be required to cover their hair even before the actual conversion. The Rabbis and your other teachers will help guide you in this process, but it is up to you to show motivation and a desire to live the Judaism you have chosen.
NOTE: The conversion process will need to involve your entire immediate family, including your spouse (or boyfriend / girlfriend), and any live-at-home children, whether or not they are already Jewish.
Living in an Orthodox Community
In order for the conversion to take place, the Beis Din will require you to live within reasonable proximity of an Orthodox synagogue, where you can comfortably participate in traditional community life. Walking great distances or making arrangements to stay with friends on Shabbos, is not an acceptable alternative. If you have minor children they will need to be enrolled in an acceptable Orthodox day school. There are no exceptions to these requirements. We do understand that this can be difficult for financial and other reasons. We insist upon them only because they are essential for your future growth and success.
How long does Conversion take?
This varies considerably depending upon your previous background and knowledge of Judaism. Generally, you should expect the process to take between 18 to 24 months from the time we receive your application. However, some meet our requirements faster, while others take longer.
You undoubtedly know that Judaism does not allow or recognize intermarriage. You can still apply and be accepted in our program even if you are civilly married. You are both expected to participate in the learning process. Failure to be open with us concerning this matter is grounds for dismissal from the program.
We also want you to know that civilly married non-Jewish couples are generally expected to maintain separate living quarters for a three month period following a conversion. Where one of the couple is already Jewish, living separately is required at the earliest possible time but definitely before the conversion. We recognize that this sometimes poses hardships and will try to assist you to find acceptable solutions where necessary. Singles are expected to maintain an appropriate lifestyle. While one is seriously pursuing conversion, dating is strongly discouraged. Please note that all such relationships must be honestly discussed with your sponsoring Rabbi and with the Beis Din. We invite you to discuss any difficulties you may have in your meetings with the Beis Din.
Conversion means taking on a new identity. Judaism understands and expects that you will continue to treat your family of origin with respect and dignity. Nevertheless, an Orthodox conversion will affect family ties in important ways. You will no longer be able to attend church services, even for weddings and other lifecycle occasions. While you might be able to eat some foods in family homes, the kosher diet will severely restrict sharing meals. Perhaps most difficult, holidays that families celebrate together such as December 25 and Easter will be off limits. We encourage you to consider these issues and speak with your family about the changes you will adopt.
The Beis Din requires you to have a "sponsoring Rabbi". Although this Rabbi need not be your synagogue Rabbi they should be able to work together. He will need to know you well and take an active role in your conversion. He should be willing to assist you by providing guidance and direction to help you become part of the community. You may apply to our program even if you do not have a sponsoring Rabbi at this time, but this requirement will have to be met for you to advance in the program.
What are the costs?
A $250 application fee is due with your application and an additional $250 upon full completion of Geirus. When and if the conversion takes place, there are a few additional costs (Mikveh fees, Mohel etc.) for which you will be responsible.
When do I know if I am accepted?
The conversion process has several stages. The first step after application is the interview with the Beis Din, where the program will be explained in detail. You will receive a required reading list and an overview of Orthodox conversion procedures.
If you decide to continue, we will arrange subsequent meetings to monitor your progress. These meetings will provide an idea of the likelihood for success, but our agreement to do the conversion is not guaranteed until you have shown sufficient progress in the total program.
Beis Din of Milwaukee
5007 West Keefe Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53216
Located in the Milwaukee Kollel
Rabbi Mendel Senderovic
Av Beis Din