Question: Process of Conversion to Judaism in the Reform Movement
Answer: Dear Alison,
You ask about the process of conversion to Judaism in the Reform Movement. I hope that your own journey on this path is joyful and rewarding to you. It is not an easy journey, as conversion requires significant learning, deep introspection, and serious commitment.
The Reform Movement does not set standards that oblige every prospective convert or every rabbi. Different rabbis will differ in what they require for conversion. However, there are guidelines for conversion that have been adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis that inform the standards of most Reform rabbis. (If you're interested, the entire document can be found at http://data.ccarnet.org/glgerim7.html). For more information on the basic tenants of Reform Judaism, see the Reform Movement's website at http://urj.org/.
Almost all Reform rabbi's require candidates to take some form of an "Introduction to Judaism" course that includes the basics of Jewish practices and beliefs and that provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their relationship with Judaism. Rabbis generally also require conversion candidates to adopt Jewish practices in their home and to participate in the life of the synagogue for a year before conversion.
At the time of conversion, converts should be ready to accept Judaism to the exclusion of all other faiths, to commit to the creation and maintenance of a Jewish home, to affiliate with a synagogue, and to raise children as Jews.
Conversion is completed with ritual. Most Reform rabbis require immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath) for all converts, and ritual circumcision for male converts. Young children usually can convert at the same time as their parents.
Most importantly, conversion is a personal experience. All prospective converts have some deeply personal reasons for wanting to convert. The job of the rabbi, in part, is to respond to the spiritual needs of prospective converts in ways that are personal and meaningful to them. You may want to speak with more than one rabbi to find one who meets your needs.
With best wishes,
Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser