Resources (books + websites) for conversion and study
Often I get questions from both Jews and non-Jews on reading recommendations. Of course, for a rabbi (who by definition is a bibliophile), this is an extremely hard question to answer because the options seem endless. What do you want to learn about? At what level is your current learning? Are you looking for an 'academic' or a 'spiritual' approach etc.
Even so, I'm attempting to create a reading list and will strive to update this on a somewhat regular basis. The current list I'm linking to is the list provided by the 'Miller Introduction to Judaism Program'. This American programme is hosted by the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and is one of the most cutting-edge conversion programmes in the non-Orthodox Jewish world. The caveat with sharing their list is that it is centred on the American Jewish experience although their book recommendations are fantastic.
A note on the (Jewish) Internet:
Individuals are - of course - at their own discretion to consult 'Rabbi Google'. The internet is an incredible resource when it comes to Jewish learning and a quick key word can often give you what you're looking for. A caveat is however that not all information is reliable and that no information is unbiased. As an egalitarian, Progressive rabbi, it is my interest to support books and websites that reflect this egalitarianism and inclusivity as well as a worldview in line with non-Orthodox religious principles.
There are many fantastic and highly informative Orthodox websites and some will be listed below. If you are a Progressive Jewish reader (or someone interested in Progressive Judaism), do keep in mind that you are reading websites written from that perspective.
Websites that market themselves as 'Messianic Jewish', 'Jews for Jesus/Yeshua' or 'Hebrew Christian' are not Jewish but Christian websites.
As a closing remark, use your critical thinking skills when perusing the vast sea of online learning and enjoy!
A note for those interested in conversion to Judaism:
First of all: b'ruchim haba'im - welcome!
Although I am a UK-based congregational rabbi who focuses primarily on the conversion programme of her own synagogue, do not hesitate to get in touch if you have (specific) questions about converting to Judaism. I can always point you to relevant resources and contacts.
If you are interested in conversion, I would encourage you to do some online learning by way of this reading list so that you have some basis of Jewish knowledge before you initiate contact with the Jewish community. We are 'the People of the Book' and it will be both very helpful to yourself and to any rabbi and community you may work with. Jewish learning is an integral and exciting aspect of Jewish life and will bring you a lifetime of inspiration and satisfaction.
A few important key ideas about conversion to Judaism (on one foot!):
- Judaism welcomes those who want to join our ranks but there is no coercion to convert to Judaism. We believe that Judaism offers a beautiful religious path but also teaches that non-Jews have just as much access to (and relationship with) God as Jews. Conversion should always be out of free will.
- Conversion almost always happens in the context of becoming part of a local Jewish community and prospective converts are encourage to integrate within their local community. Please contact a local rabbi for more information and approach offers to convert online with caution.
- Although attitudes of welcoming can vary from community to community due to circumstances and resources, 'turning away the convert three times' is a myth, especially in the non-Orthodox Jewish world. Don't be discouraged if you feel this path is genuinely for you; you will find most Jewish communities to be warm and welcoming places.
Scroll down this list to find the links to conversion resources.
Lists and suggested websites:
- Liberal Judaism (UK)
- Masorti Judaism (UK)
- Union of Reform Judaism (USA)
Conversion to Judaism:
- Myjewishlearning articles (USA)
- Convert.org (slightly outdated website but with some good articles)
Social Justice and Tikkun Olam (repair of the world):
- On1foot.org: Jewish texts for social justice
- Hazon, Jewish Inspiration, Sustainable Communities
- Tzedek: Jewish action for a just world (UK)
- Jhub: Jewish values, social change (UK)
Learning Hebrew and Jewish texts:
- Resource provided by the Miller Introduction to Judaism program (USA)
- Halakhah.com: the Talmud in English
- Hebrewbooks.org: Hebrew-language classical rabbinic texts (advanced)
Higher Jewish Learning and Rabbinical Schools:
- Leo Baeck College, London (UK)
- Conservative Yeshiva, Jerusalem (Israel)
- Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem (Israel)
- Paideia, the European Institute of Jewish Studies, Stockholm (Sweden)
If you have suggestions for books and websites, do not hesitate to get in touch! Leave a comment below (comments may not be immediately published) or contact me through this blog.