The Hillel School
One of the many areas of expertise and success of the Conservative movement around the world and in our own region is our program for conversion. Due to the fact that our Rabbis only perform marriages between two Jews, and since we have become increasingly open to sharing our knowledge of Judaism with all others, it should not be surprising that thousands of people of all backgrounds convert to Judaism through the auspices of the Conservative Movement every year. In our own Metropolitan region, the Rabbinical Assembly of Nassau and Suffolk counties has held two semesters of classes leading to conversion each year for many years.
The half-year semesters include weekly classes in Hebrew language skills taught by a professional educator as well as a full curriculum devoted to all aspects of Jewish life and practice, taught by congregational rabbis who volunteer their time for this purpose. The subjects include lectures and discussions on the meaning of belief, our holidays and life cycle events, kashrut, the prayer book, family purity, the study of the Bible, and Jewish history to the present day. Unique to our program is that each candidate is paired with a Conservative rabbi who meets with the individual or couple on a regular schedule while the candidates attend services weekly at the rabbi’s synagogue.
Following attendance at these classes, services, and individual sessions, the students are tested both in writing and orally before they come before a Bet Din of three rabbis and their sponsors who interview them concerning their commitments to their new faith and their level of ritual practice. Upon their acceptance, they are scheduled for immersion in a kosher mikvah and men are scheduled for symbolic (hatafat dam) or actual circumcision depending on the circumstances.
While we are justifiably proud of our conversion program which has introduced countless numbers of people into the joys and responsibilities of Jewish life, what this description of classes, readings, and services cannot even begin to describe are the tears of joy in the eyes of converts as they come up from the waters of the mikvah. Neither can this brief report describe the wonderful lifetime relationships forged by these students and their sponsoring rabbis. Many alumni of our conversion school, called the Hillel School, after the Talmudic sage who was so open to answering questions posed to him by a non -Jew, can be found as active members of the Jewish people and leaders of synagogues and Jewish organizations both here and in Israel.
The best way to obtain more information about the curriculum and requirements of the Hillel School is to ask your local Conservative rabbi. Certainly, you should also call the administrator, Susan Lustik, at 631-462-4455.
Rabbi Alan Lavin