Two new Jews by Choice joined the Jewish community on February 3rd at a conversion ceremony overseen by Sim Shalom’s Rabbi Steve Blane and an online Bet Din.
Online conversion is a controversial topic in that some Jews tend to disparage the virtual process. However, even some mainstream denominations are now at times providing virtual conversions.
Whatever the reason people seek conversion with Sim Shalom they all have a sincere desire to become Jewish.
Rabbi Steve Blane of online synagogue Sim Shalom, was approached by many people seeking conversion before developing his fascinating conversion program several years ago.
Like all of Sim Shalom’s services and programs, the conversion course serves those who travel frequently or do not live near a brick and mortar synagogue while some have not found a good fit with a local Rabbi. What separates Sim Shalom’s Conversion study is the fact that one is not required to abide by the tenants of a particular denomination. They broadly study the entirety of Judaism.
As part of the program, students study at their own pace, meet with Rabbi Blane online, write a paper and complete coursework. It is a rigorous and serious course of study. Rabbi Blane insists it is perhaps the best course of study, in that students are required to attend services of different Jewish denominations in order to discover which branch of Judaism is most resonant for them.
Rabbi Blane and those who serve on the Bet Din (three Rabbis) are honored to usher them through the process.
Sadly, the traditional Jewish world often eschews these potential new Jews by Choice. A sad example of the lack of respect among denominations is the fact that Mikvot (ritual baths), which are a part of the conversion process, do not welcome potential converts who are not pursuing conversion under the auspices of mainstream rabbis.
Increasingly the conversion students who study with Sim Shalom are turned away as not “real” Jews and the Rabbis who support them are at times not even considered acceptable. This despite the fact that hundreds of non-mainstream ordained rabbis are skillful, knowledgable and in fact serve the greater Jewish community.
Given that most Mikvot are often at least partially funded by liberal Jewish charities and institutions, Rabbi Blane wonders if those funders understand the exclusion that occurs.
He notes, “We are proud of the work we are doing to help those who seek Judaism and we welcome them- no ifs ands or buts. Mikvot should not restrict anyone seeking to become Jewish. This is a modern Jewish tragedy and we should as a community insist upon access for all.”
To date Sim Shalom has converted many Jews who by necessity must immerse in the ocean or lakes or ponds. It can be a bit chilling, but the results are always heartwarming.
We welcome all Jews at Sim Shalom!