Contemporary American Reform Responsa

55. Conversion with Reservations

QUESTION: Several Christians who seek to become Jews have indicated that they are convinced of their ability to become Jews but can not absolutely abandon the divinity of Jesus. May such individuals be accepted as converts? (Rabbi H. L. Poller, Larchmont, NY)

ANSWER: The traditional requirements for conversion are clear (Yeb. 46, 47; Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 268; Yad Hil. Isurei Biah 15)--a court of three is necessary. Prospective converts must be warned that they are joining a persecuted community and that many new obligations will be incumbent upon them. They were to bring a sacrifice in the days when the Temple stood, and males had to be circumcised and take a ritual bath. The Bet Din has asked the prospective convert a number of questions which deal with his education and commitment to Judaism. One of the questions which has traditionally been asked is whether the convert receives upon herself the entire Torah without exception (Bekh. 30b; Yad Hil. Issurei Biah 14.8; Tur and Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 268.2 ff). Traditional Judaism would interpret this as an obligation to observe all of the commandments. We state that the convert has an obligation to practice Judaism according to our Reform tradition. Both would, however, agree that this indicates a clear willingness to abandon all other former beliefs. This would definitely include belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Individuals who believe in the divinity or a special status of Jesus may, of course, study Judaism. It will help them understand Judaism better, but we can not accept them as converts until they are willing to give up their belief in Jesus without any mental reservations.

February 1984

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.