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).
Since the Reform movement emphasizes the obligation of the individual to make informed Jewish choices about their practice, it is difficult to "pin down" normative Reform movement practice for comparison purposes. While the Reform Movement does occasionally adopt non-binding resolutions recommending particular practices, requirements for life-cycle rituals are determined by individual Reform rabbis (instead of by the movement). Reform rabbis, in contrast to Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, are not obligated by their movement to perform conversions in one particular way.
In practice, the overwhelming majority of Reform rabbis today require study, ritual circumcision (or hatafat dam brit) and immersion in a mikveh. Some Reform rabbis, however, will make exceptions in certain cases. One example of such a case might be when circumcision could negatively affect the health of a male convert.
The official movement policy requires a course of study, a beit din (Rabbinical Court), mikveh (ritual bath), and hatafat dam brit (ritual circumcision or, if already circumcised, a ritual removal of a single drop of blood). In actuality, however, many Reconstructionist converts do not undergo all of the requirements. Also, most Reconstructionist synagogues accept conversions performed by rabbis outside of their own movement.
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.