Converting to Judaism: Problems in the Road

            May 2013    
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Converting to Judaism: Can a Conversion ever be Revoked?

By Chaim Coffman

Conversion to Judaism is not a simple and easy process/ For a person who spends many years learning in order to convert to Judaism and then changing one's life, even moving to a new community and finally finishing the conversion process and becoming a full-fledged Jew, much time and effort is expended. Could that conversion be overturned? And if so, was the conversion valid in the first place? These are just a few of the questions which hang over the potential conversion candidate as they go through the conversion process. What can cause the conversion process to be overturned?

Once a conversion candidate interviews with a rabbinical court and they agree to work with them, the candidate is then beginning his/her process of becoming a Jew. Most rabbinical court's will give the candidate books to read with a syllabus and hopefully set them up with a mentor who will be able to guide them.

The conversion candidate will be expected to follow the syllabus and learn the material and start implementing those aspects of Jewish law that they learn in the areas of Shabbat and Yom Tov, Prayer and Blessings, and Kashrut. After living in the community for at least a year and depending on the candidates level of learning and implementation, if the rabbinical court feels the conversion candidate is ready then the rabbinical court will convert them. If the rabbinical court does not feel the candidate is ready, then it will take longer.

The day finally comes and the candidate is informed by the rabbinical court that the process is finished and the candidate is ready for the dip in the mikveh to finalize the process and thereby completing the long task to becoming a full-fledged Jew.

|After the conversion is done, this new Jew will continue learning and growing spiritually as was done before the conversion. If everything is done according to Jewish law, then there should be no problems afterward the conversion, right?

While one is in the conversion process, one of the most important things is to make sure that the rabbinical court you will go to will be recognized around the world. How does a convert candidate find out about these rabbinical courts? They will either find out through their friends who have converted, their mentor or their sponsoring rabbi.

Unfortunately what can happen is that either the new convert after many years begins to slack off in his/her mitzvah observance or gives up mitzvah observance altogether. The question that will then arise at this point is what happened during their conversion process? Was it really valid in the first place? Will their conversion be revoked retroactively? Yes, this is exactly how in one way a conversion can be questioned retroactively.

Secondly, who was this rabbinical court that converted them in the first place? The rabbinical court that did the conversion could have had some halachic issues when they did the conversion in the first place. This could have happened if one of the rabbis on the rabbinical court is suspect or years later the rabbinical court could have permitted things that maybe they should not have.

If some rabbis on the rabbinical court, or the entire rabbinical court is questioned for their integrity and how they have performed conversions in the past, the conversion of those people will come into question.

Another possibility is that since all rabbinical courts do not have the same standards and while they should have coordinated between themselves, that is often not the case. This means that there may be different standards among the rabbinical court's and may bring up questions about a person's conversion.

In any case, the situation is not an easy one and even if there is an issue, each candidate should be judged on his own merit and not be judged by which rabbinical court they came from since each case in and of itself is different

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from the May 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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