Magazine article The Christian Century

Reform Rabbis OK Older Conversion Ways

Magazine article The Christian Century

Reform Rabbis OK Older Conversion Ways

Article excerpt

Reflecting a synagogue-level trend in liberal Judaism, Reform rabbis have endorsed a sweeping set of guidelines to reembrace traditional practices in accepting converts. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the umbrella group for 1,800 Reform rabbis in North America, overwhelmingly approved the measure June 27 in Monterey, California, at its annual convention.

Under the guidelines, new converts should spend at least a year engaged in Jewish study, face a panel of three rabbis or learned Jews and be immersed in a mikveh, or ritual bath. Male converts are to be circumcised, or if they are already circumcised, have a drop of blood drawn in a "symbolic circumcision."

The rabbis are also calling for a host of other commitments, such as adopting "some element" of Jewish dietary laws and promising to build a Jewish home and raise children as Jews--rules that also apply to gay Jews. The 450 rabbis who helped craft at least nine drafts of the guidelines stressed that the rules are largely voluntary and should be custom-crafted for each new Jew.

One of the three dissenters, Rabbi Philip Posner of Chattanooga, Tennessee, said he could not support the guidelines because the Reform movement has "always distinguished itself from other movements with an emphasis on freedom of choice in matters of ritual. …

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