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When someone converts is there any determining factor on what minhagim (customs) they will take upon themselves in terms of Ashkanazim or Sephardim? Should it be dependent on the Beis Din they converted with? May they choose to do however they please (picking one or the other.) R' Ovadia Yosef Shlit"a has a Teshuva in ShuT Yachaveh Das Chelek 5 Siman 33 where he writes that someone who converts in Eretz Yisrael must take on the Minhagim of the Sephardim. Since he holds that Maran Beit Yosef the Machaber of the Shulchan Aruch is the "Morah D'Asra" in Eretz Yisrael and after someone converts they are considered to be like a baby that is just born. And since the person converted in Eretz Yisrael it's as if he was "born" in Eretz Yisael therefore he must take upon himself the minhag of the Sephardim. If there are more mareh makomos (sources) to this or savaras one way or the other please share!

(In both situations I'm asking, someone who converts outside of Eretz Yisrael and someone who converts in Eretz Yisrael.)

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But there are different traditions within any place, including Eretz Yisrael. If you were "born" into a Sephardi community then what you say makes sense, but if you were "born" into an Ashkenazi community (olim) I would expect you to follow them. No sources, though. –  Monica Cellio Nov 7 '12 at 13:47
    
@MonicaCellio - You're right. The point of R' Ovadia Yosef Shlit"a is perhaps less about "minhagim" and more that they will follow halacha according to the Sephardim which is in someways more universal then minhagim by Sephardim. Although R' Ovadia Yosef I'm sure means that they should follow his idea of Halacha and Sephardi Minhagim –  Yehoshua Nov 7 '12 at 13:55
    
Make that three times. –  Double AA Nov 7 '12 at 14:08
    
@DoubleAA - I'm from R' Ovadia's Biggest Chassidim ;) –  Yehoshua Nov 7 '12 at 14:14
    
I seem to recall this as a dupe.... –  msh210 Nov 7 '12 at 17:06

2 Answers 2

As every Rav will tell you, minhag is something passed along through inheritance. The minhagim originate from the unique practice of each tribe.

For gerim (Jewish male converts) they have no obligation in regard to specific minhagim, meaning like Ashkenazi or Sephardi, etc. practice. This Halacha was decided explicitly by Moshe Rabbeinu in the case involving the Jewish woman who was married to the Egyptian convert. That convert and consequently his wife, who had been a part of one tribe, were no longer included as part of that tribe or any other tribe.

Similarly, since the land of Israel is apportioned by tribe, converts have no inheritance in the land just like Leviim and Cohanim.

Just as Cohanim represent all of the Jewish people, so too gerim are an embodiment of this principle.

The only minhag they follow is minhag Yisroel, which means a practice which was accepted by all Jews like for example lighting 8 candles for Channukah instead of the minimum requirement of one candle.

Contrary to being something less, gerim do what is common to all Jews. They are a living example of the unity and oneness of the Jewish people. They may partake of any minhag if they find it meaningful but with the understanding that they are not bound and restricted by it. In the end, this mobility of the ger demonstrates the legitimacy of all the Minhagim. No traditional approach is invalid. All the Jewish people are "kosher".

For a female Jewish convert, she follows the Halacha that all Jewish women follow. When she marries, she takes on the minhag of her husband. This idea is also in keeping with the decision made by Moshe Rabbeinu mentioned above.

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Thanks for your post and welcome to Mi Yodeya! Sources would make it a better answer. –  andrewmh20 Mar 24 '13 at 18:33
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Ashkenazi and Sephardic minhagim were around back then? –  Double AA Mar 24 '13 at 20:01

Speaking as a convert whose great-great-great-great-great grandfather was born a Sephardi Jew (America's first Jewish governor, David Emanuel (Georgia 1801)), one might have thought I should have adopted Sephardi practices. The rabbi who was m'geiur me, Rabbi Bertram Leff, shlita, never accepted that. Someone who converts is considered like a new-born child (Yevamos 22a) and, therefore, is not tied to any particular set of customs. I followed the principal expressed in Pirkei Avos 1:6 that one should make for himself a teacher, i.e. I followed the minhagim of my rabbi, an Ashkenazi. However, Rabbi Leff acknowledged that he had converts previously who had moved far to the right, one becoming a Hasid and a Neturei Karta member. He said he didn't object to his students adopting chumras that he personally did not observe, but he drew the line at hatred toward the state of Israel and told the convert that had he known he would head in that direction, he never would have approved the conversion.

I know many converts who cherry-pick their minhagim, collecting chumra after chumra. Based on my own experience, I've always suspected that they do so because they are insecure about how they are accepted as Jewish among other Jews (after 32 years, I'm way passed that stage). I think that they should be consistent with how their Rav holds, but my good friend, Rabbi Daniel Pollock, shlita, a rebbe at Yeshivas Madreigas Ha'adam, strongly disagrees with me. It's not the only thing we disagree about, but we're still great friends. The point is, there really isn't a set rule on this issue and the convert has relative freedom to choose.

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I am hoping that the blogger, James H. Bruce, will see my message here and e-mail me. I have been researching Governor David Emanuel, Sr, as he is my direct ancestor as well. I wonder how Mr. Bruce appears confident that the Governor was "Sephardic" Jew. I am amazed to discover my ancestor was Jewish at all. Just wondering if Mr. Bruce has further confirmation and family source information on this claim. I find this quite interesting as my family in the South has had interesting physical features going back generations and there is a tradition that there is Spanish or Minorcan blood (but no... –  user2487 Mar 8 '13 at 23:21
    
...Hispanic surnames to back it up, except Emanuel/"Manuel" the latter as sometimes alternative surname spelling found in research, but I question that. Thank you for allowing me to post! Robin dixie047@hotmail.com –  user2487 Mar 8 '13 at 23:21
    
Not sure if this is important, but Neturei Karta are not hasidim. They are Ashkenazim, and they follow minhagei haGra. –  Shimon bM Mar 9 '13 at 2:40
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Sorry, I'm very tired: I meant to say that they are Litvaks, and they follow minhagei haGra. Obviously they're Ashkenazim. –  Shimon bM Mar 9 '13 at 2:53
    
@Robin: Cousin! My. Last name is James - first name is Bruce. There is a big dispute over Gov. Emanuel, the least of which is whether he was a s –  Bruce James Mar 10 '13 at 3:43

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