Our standards reflect the “highest common denominator” of the concerns of the CCAR, RA, RRA, AJRCAA, and OHALAH. Our policies are set by our board of governors, which includes representatives of the five rabbinical organizations listed above. Questions of application are addressed to our Rosh Bet Din (and, when further input seems warranted, to our S’gan Rosh Bet Din).
What we do includes:
We provide you with trained rabbinic colleagues who are eager to serve on a panel that meets with your candidates. They will come to the venue of your choosing (among the various options that we make available).
We provide you with relevant resources and help to keep you on track. The net effect is to increase your capacity to work with conversion candidates — or to invest your valuable time in other ways.
Each one of our dayanim is empowered to represent the other 130 or so member rabbis. Our auspices make a symbolic statement that the convert is becoming part of the Jewish people that is much wider than your synagogue or their spouse’s family.
We bring you into contact with colleagues from outside your circle — rabbis whom you might not otherwise see very often, or even meet.
Generally, our panel meets with the candidate in one of three types of venues (listed in decreasing order of frequency):
1. Our website includes a resources that features the following categories:
For Sponsoring Rabbis
For Other Dayanim
2. Consultation via phone or email with our coordinator and/or our Rosh Bet Din has proven valuable to many of our members.
3. In-service training has consisted of a highly regarded, annual yom iyun. Topics from previous trainings include:
Our meeting with candidates typically begin by offering them an opportunity to recount their decision to become a Jew. We also ensure that they are converting freely, and that they understand what it means to live as a Jew. We don’t expect them to be an expert on Judaism; however, we do expect them to be committed to continuing to learn. We avoid trick questions.
Typically a member of the panel will explore the candidate’s relationship to touchstones such as Shabbat and kashrut. We expect the candidate to say that “Shabbat is a special day for me (and my family) in the following ways” or “My Jewish way of eating is as follows.” We expect them have some exposure to, and respect for, traditional practices, even if they are not following them at this time.
When a candidate is accepted, the session closes with his/her reading aloud of our “Declaration of Jewish Commitment.”
Yes, but it rarely happens for two reasons. The Sponsoring Rabbis take full responsibility for preparing their candidates to meet the SCCBD standards for conversion, and our coordinator works with the sponsoring rabbi in advance to ensure that the candidate is truly ready.
We are independent organizations that work closely together to coordinate conversions. Our usual arrangement is for the candidate’s meeting with the bet din and the mikveh immersion to be completed during the same appointment.
The Mikveh staff coordinates payment arrangements and document archiving with us.
Our Bet Din provides a handy opportunity for you to take part in the rites of conversion. These moments can be among the most gratifying of a rabbi’s career! And in the future you may want to sponsor candidates.
No. Sponsor your candidate under our auspices whenever it seems best for that particular candidate, and for your own situation at the time. You may legitimately decline to use this bet din, preferring instead to use your movement’s Bet Din, or one that you yourself convene.
Our Bet Din does not discourage the operation of any other bet din in the region, or question its legitimacy or authority.
Our orientation/training lasts 90 minutes. It covers our approach, our policies and procedures, and an example. You will also learn about our administrative and governance structure.
There is no charge to join, or for our initial training.
We do ask that our members be willing to sit on a panel once a year, as volunteers. Even so, we understand that a few of our members have work or other commitments that temporarily preclude their serving with us.
We send out an annual appeal for donations. Your participation in that campaign is voluntary. However, many of our members do choose to support our organization financially.
Here is what we ask each member to sign upon joining us: Letter of Agreement
An example of discipline, we asked a colleague not to denigrate Orthodox Judaism in her remarks to a candidate.
Another example of discipline, we asked a colleague to dress more formally, in keeping with the gravitas of the occasion.
An example of rejection, we asked a colleague not to participate any longer in our panels after he repeatedly insisted on asking trick questions — and using them as a pretext to deliver a mini-sermon.
We also reject rabbis who do not remain members in good standing of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California to ensure that they are able to receive ethical oversight via their professional rabbinic associations.
Regarding someone whose biological, father was Jewish, or who was adopted as a child by Jewish parents, our “highest common denominator” answer is:
We ask them to go through the same outward ritual process as someone who was not raised as a Jew.
We respect that their present sense of identity may already be fully Jewish. Yet in such situations we nevertheless use the term conversion. That’s because the outward process is virtually the same in order for the person to achieve Jewish status according to our founding principles.
We provide two conversion certificates — one in English and one in Hebrew.
Our Bet Din keeps a paper copy of these certificates in a fireproof safe, and a digital copy is archived by the AJU Mikveh when the immersion is done there. Additional copies are provided to the sponsoring rabbi for their own files or digital archiving, as requested.
So far as we know, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, transdenominational, and Renewal rabbis accept our candidates as Jews. After all, we have met the standards promulgated by the RA, RRA, CCAR, AJRCAA and OHALAH.
At this time, few Orthodox rabbis will accept any conversion other than those that they or their Orthodox colleagues authorize.
Our administration fee is $190.
The mikveh fee is $150, with an additional $20 as a health ans safety fee during COVID19. The candidate pays this fee directly to AJU Community Mikveh. Effective July 1, 2021, the Mikveh fee for a candidate who has had an in-person Bet Din at American Jewish University will be $170. For candidates whose Bet Din has taken place virtually or at a branch synagogue, the fee will be $150.
Financial assistance is available if the candidate is in need.
No refund of our administration fee is available within 7 days of a scheduled Bet Din session.
The AJU Mikveh assesses a fee of $50 if a candidate cancels an appointment less than 7 days in advance. An exception may be made in unforeseeable circumstances such as a sudden death in the family.