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2016 Resolution: Supporting Converts Within Our Community

Whereas as the Torah commands us to “love the convert” (e.g., Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19); and,

Whereas the Torah warns against the mistreatment of a convert thirty six times, and according to some, forty six times (Bava Metzia 59b); and,

Whereas the Talmud (ibid.) rules that one who hurts the feelings of a convert, or oppresses him or her, violates additional prohibitions; and,

Whereas the Talmud (ibid.) recognizes the vulnerable and precarious situation of the convert, who has left behind his or her family and community and joined the Jewish people; and,

Whereas the Talmud (Bava Metzia 58b) explains that the prohibition against hurting a convert’s feelings regulates the words we use when speaking to him or her (e.g. we may not say, “remember what you did before you converted” or “remember the actions of your parents”); and,

Whereas the Talmud (Yevamot 47b) expresses its admiration for the sincere motivations and the plight of a convert

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America reiterates its concern for the dignity of converts, regardless of their ethnic or national origin, and calls upon Orthodox communities throughout North America to:

Support those in the process of converting as well as those who have already converted by, among other actions, providing them with Shabbat and holiday hospitality, helping them learn how to fulfill particular precepts (mitzvot) and, in general, how to live as part of the Orthodox community.

Fully integrate converts into our communities by, among other actions, welcoming them into our synagogues and yeshiva day schools without exception or discrimination as well as integrating them socially in general, with particular attention to fostering dating opportunities and marriage.

As per Jewish law, not discriminate against converts and their descendants in marriage.

Maintain awareness of recurring difficulties converts face and, accordingly, acting sensitively by, among things, respecting their privacy, being sensitive to their willingness or unwillingness to share their personal story, respecting their relationships with their non-Jewish relatives, and appreciating the vulnerabilities that they feel, particularly due to their lacking the social networks that other community members often enjoy.

Fully embrace them as full-fledged Jews, without exploring their pasts, questioning their motives, or discussing with them or with others – particulars of how they converted; questions relating to the validity of conversions are the exclusive domain of relevant rabbinic authorities.

Admire their choice to cast their lot with the Jewish people and embrace Torah and mitzvot, as Ruth said, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried; May God do this for me and more, for not even death will separate you from me” (Ruth 1:16-17).


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