A Reading List for Jewish Conversion

The Choice to Convert

The choice to convert to Judaism is a deeply personal one. Whether you’re exploring this path because of a personal calling or a desire to share a faith with someone you love, it is ultimately a path you will walk alone. When I made the decision, myself, three years ago, I was looking for something that I felt was lacking in my previous faith. A deeper, more personal understanding of G-d. I did a lot of reading on my own before I found the courage to contact my local synagogue to begin the formal process of converting. By the time I attended my first service, I knew I found what I was looking for.

If you’re considering pursuing conversion, I’ve assembled a list of some of the books I started my path with. I hope you’ll find them helpful as

you begin your journey. And may I say mazel tov to you for taking this step.


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Books to Read When Considering Conversion

Choosing a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant
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Living a Jewish Life describes Judaism as not just a contemplative or abstract system of thought but as a blueprint for living fully and honorably. This new edition builds on the classic guide, which has been a favorite among Jewish educators and students for years. Enriched with additional resources, including online resources, this updated guide also references recent changes in the modern Jewish community, and has served as a resource and guide for non–Jews as well as Jews.

Addressing the choices posed by the modern world, Living a Jewish Life explains the traditions and beliefs of Judaism in the context of real life. It explores the spectrum of liberal Jewish thought, from Conservative to Reconstructionist to Reform, as well as unaffiliated, new age, and secular. Celebrating the diversity of Jewish beliefs, this guide provides information in ways that readers can choose how to incorporate Judaism into their lives.

Readers will learn how to choose the right synagogue, and discover the meaning and significance of lighting Sabbath candles. “Shabbat,” “Torah,” “kosher,” “mitzvah” and other key words are all defined in all of their complex and potent meanings.

On the most basic level, this book explains the essential Jewish vocabulary, but more importantly, LIVING A JEWISH LIFE is a sensitive and comprehensive introduction that reveals the timeless nature of Jewish tradition, rich with history and relevant in the modern world.

Embracing the Covenant by R. Allan Berkowitz

This book is a practical and inspirational companion to the conversion process for Jews-by-Choice and their families. Written primarily for the person considering the choice of Judaism, it provides highly personal insights from over 50 people who have made this life-changing decision.

But it also will speak to their families―the non-Jewish family that provided his or her spiritual beginnings and the Jewish “family” which receives the convert―and help them understand why the decision was made.

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Jewish Living by Mark Washofsky
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This definitive guide for Reform Jewish practice leads the reader to an understanding of the whole of Jewish life — from blessing to b’nei mitzvah, Havdalah to haftarah, and tikkun olam to Tikkun Leil Shavuot. The revised edition features an index, cross-references to Mishkan T’filah, and new sections exploring the impact of changes in the movement and the world at large over the last decade, including same-sex marriage, conversion, bioethics, and justification of war. Jewish Living is an ideal gift for b’nei mitzvah, confirmation, and graduation, and deserves pride of place on the bookshelf of every Reform Jewish library, classroom, office, and home. Definitive source for Reform Jewish practice Easy- to-use format Excellent resource for study or reference

The Synagogue Survival Kit by Jordan Lee Wagner

In an effort to counter the confusion and isolation often experienced by a novice synagogue-goer, as well as by many who regularly attend synagogue, The Synagogue Survival Kit: A Guide to Understanding Jewish Religious Services offers introductions and instructions for all aspects of the synagogue experience. No matter what kind of synagogue you attend, the roadmap is the same. Some synagogues may read certain prayers in English translation rather than the original Hebrew or replace some traditional prayers with newer versions, but the service will still touch on the same topics in the same order for the same reasons. If you know the structure of the traditional service, you can readily find your place in any other one. The Synagogue Survival Kit maps the complete traditional service structure and points out the changes commonly encountered in different congregations in an effort to counter the confusion and isolation often experienced by novice synagogue-goers and regular attendees, alike. Always mindful of the sophisticated, adult reader with little or no Jewish background, Jordan Lee Wagner clearly and comprehensively explains the practices, vocabulary, objects, and attitudes that one can expect to find in any synagogue.

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Fiction Books with Jewish Themes

The Chosen by Chaim Potok
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It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again. . . .

In My Father’s Court by Isaac Basheis Singer

Like Isaac Bashevis Singer’s fiction, this poignant memoir of his childhood in the household and rabbinical court of his father is full of spirits and demons, washerwomen and rabbis, beggars and rich men. This rememberance of Singer’s pious father, his rational yet adoring mother, and the never-ending parade of humanity that marched through their home is a portrait of a magnificent writer’s childhood self and of the world, now gone, that formed him.

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Night by Elie Wiesel
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Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant’s “vivid, affectionate portrait of American womanhood” (Los Angeles Times), follows the life of one woman, Addie Baum, through a period of dramatic change. Addie is The Boston Girl, the spirited daughter of an immigrant Jewish family, born in 1900 to parents who were unprepared for America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End of Boston, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine—a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, to finding the love of her life, eighty-five-year-old Addie recounts her adventures with humor and compassion for the naïve girl she once was.

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