Conversion from A to Z

April 24, 2012 | By

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Converts to Judaism don’t always get the sweetest deal. In fact, according to the Talmud (Yevamot 47a), a potential convert is supposed to be repeatedly dissuaded from converting–just to make sure they’re really serious about the leap.

And there’s certainly a lot that converts to Judaism need to learn. The new book Becoming Jewish, by Steven Carr Reuben (a rabbi) and Jennifer Hanin (a convert), is a remarkably no-nonsense, non-confrontational, zero-prerequisite guide to the Jewish religion, for outsiders and recent insiders. It’s transdenominational, meaning that it addresses the opinions of every Jewish denomination, but never says that one is more right than others. It features a strangely serious introduction written by the comedian Bob Saget–who isn’t a convert, but is Jewish–in his least-funny role since Full House.

The book’s tone captures that perfect combination of practical and I-never-would’ve-thought-of-that. It includes the expected chapters on whether (and how) to convert, everyday rituals, how to choose a Jewish name, and finding a community. But the guide’s willingness to go the extra mile–sections on how to deal with anti-Semitism, or working your way through three-hour Shabbat meals–shows that the book wasn’t just written by a rabbi in a shut-off office; these are real problems that real converts have endured.

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