The Orthodox believe the convert must accept the yoke of the Torah's commandments (kabbalat ol mitzvot), be immersed in a ritual bath (tevilah) in the presence of witnesses, and (for men) be circumcised (milah) in the presence of witnesses.
The process of conversion that is accepted by the conservative movement has three parts.
- Learning (a period of studies as determined by the officiating rabbi) and growth towards observance of the commandments (Mitzvot).
- Immersion in the ritual bath (mikveh).
- For the man, the additional requirement of circumcision (Brit Milah) or symbolic circumcision (Hatafat dam brit).
The Reform movement questions the need for the ritual bath and circumcision based on a debate in the Talmud (Yebamot 46a) between Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua and the other sages. However, the major disagreement between the Orthodox and Reform concerning the conversion process is over the need for the convert to accept the yoke of the commandments which means making a lifelong commitment to Orthodoxy.
In 1948 Israel was established as a State which would be of, by, and for Jews. Israel's Law of Return automatically granted Israeli citizenship to anyone anywhere in the world who is a Jew. This law magnified the need to distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, and led to further conflict between orthodox and liberal Jews over which conversions were kosher and should be acceptable in Israel.
The contentious "Who is a Jew" issue is still unresolved and some say it is far from resolved. The resolution of this issue will have a substantial influence in the future both on the Jewish character of the State of Israel and on the overall identity of the Jewish People.