Temple Beth El is committed to welcoming all who seek to be part of our community – those who began their Jewish journeys at birth, and those who have become part of our people along the way. We seek to help all members of our congregation, fully Jewish families as well as interfaith families, to build Jewish homes and to celebrate the beauty of Jewish life.
Temple Beth El offers a wide array of programs, workshops, and classes to help those who are not Jewish, those who may be new to Judaism, and those who feel disconnected to their Jewish heritage to feel more integrated into the congregation and community. As always, the rabbis invite you to meet with them personally for counsel and advice in pursuing your own spiritual quest.
At Temple Beth El, we feel that it is a privilege to work with individuals who are interested in becoming Jews-by-choice. Through the years, we have developed a program to welcome individuals interested in learning about Judaism and to celebrate a formal integration into the community and a formal commitment to the covenant of Israel.
Study is one of the most important parts of the conversion process (called gerut). Therefore, Temple Beth El is pleased to offer a 15-week course taught by the clergy and other experts in the community. The course of study covers topics such as holidays, customs, life-cycle events, values, theology, prayers and rituals, Jewish texts, history, and Hebrew. There is an expectation that one will complete weekly journal entries and periodic assignments. At the end of the course, there will be a comprehensive short-answer review given to those individuals who are pursuing conversion.
Introduction to Judaism is open to Jews and non-Jews alike. Often, a Jewish partner, friend, or family member will choose to accompany the prospective convert to the classes. This class is also useful for non-Jews who do not intend to convert but are interested in learning more about Judaism or for people born and raised as Jews but who feel as though they never received a solid Jewish education. All are welcome.
Those who choose to convert will have regular meetings with one of Temple Beth El’s rabbis to discuss issues raised in class as well as personal thoughts and challenges one may experience during the process. Issues sometimes include understanding particular concepts, dealing with one’s family of origin, and feelings a person might have during holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
A person who is interested in converting to Judaism is expected and encouraged to participate in Jewish rituals. One is encouraged to light Shabbat candles, come to Shabbat and festival services, and celebrate Jewish holidays in the community and the home. At Temple Beth El, we embrace individuals who want to learn more about our community and welcome them at our temple events.
How long will it take?
This question cannot be answered in the same way for everyone. Conversion is a very personal process and nobody can say how long it should take or how long it will take. Conversion will happen once a person feels that he or she is ready to take on the commitments of becoming a Jew, and to enter the covenant between God and the people Israel. The appropriate time to celebrate the culmination of that process is determined in consultation with the rabbis.
Prior to conversion, individuals must meet with a bet din, which is a Jewish court that is made up of three rabbis. The rabbis meet with the prospective candidates to discuss the spiritual journey that has led them to this point, their motivations for converting, the commitments they are prepared to take upon becoming part of the covenant of Israel, and their basic understanding of Judaism. The rabbis may have questions based on the convert’s reflective essay.
Jewish law requires that men and women converting to Judaism participate in a ritual immersion, called tevilah. This rite must take place in a living source of water, such as a mikveh (a man-made ritual bath) or a natural body of water. The reason for this being that water is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Living here in South Florida, we are fortunate to have a location so close to the ocean for one’s immersion. This ritual is accompanied by a short prayer.
Individuals who convert to Judaism at Temple Beth El are publicly acknowledged during a Shabbat evening service. During the service, they will be called to the bima to announce their commitment to Judaism, receive their Hebrew names, carry the Torah, and receive a blessing from the rabbis. This is a joyous occasion for the entire congregation.
Others choose to make their formal ceremony more private, in the presence of a rabbi, close family and friends. It is a personal choice.
When a Jewish family adopts a child, they may choose to have the child undergo a ritual immersion and if the child is a boy, a circumcision as well. The reason for this being that the child’s mother may not have been Jewish. It is also possible that the birth parents’ religious backgrounds are unknown. This is often followed by a moving ceremony that expresses the families’ joy and gratitude after having brought a new member into their family.
Individuals who convert to Judaism are encouraged to continue studying and learning. Temple Beth El offers many adult-learning opportunities that may be of interest to someone interested in pursuing more Jewish knowledge.
For more information, contact the Clergy office at 561-391-8900.
Temple Beth El is also happy to match newer converts with those who are have been Jews-by-Choice for many years. Through this mentoring program, individuals have the chance to discuss their shared experiences, ask questions, and reflect on their personal development.