Is it possible for someone who is Gentile to convert to Judaism?
What is the prevailing belief of Jewish people on this subject?
it isn't necessary for a gentile to convert. wee don't seek converts. we believe that a person should strive to be the best person they are, to be a good moral person, and to follow the 7 mitzvas. if a person feels strongly about converting we don't stop them because if they feel so compelled to do so perhaps they were meant to.
What scripture backs up this belief?
ruth as well as many places in talmud (mishnah and gemara)
What do prominent Jewish authorities say in this area?
same as answer to second question
Does this happen regularly within the community?
yes. there are many converts who live within many Jewish communities are quite happy doing so
How readily accepted are Gentiles into the community (are they seen as strange or welcomed openly)?
someone of a repeat question. this happens regularly and they are accepted with open arms. most of the time we don't make a point of labeling anyone as a convert. sometimes the community knows anyway and this person is often honored and respected very much because of the great commitment they have made. many chose not to make it known they are converts because they don't want the attention drawn to them even if positive. the only exception to this is when getting married. one must reveal this as marriage laws are complex especially when involving a kohen.
If it is possible for someone to convert, what disadvantages are their for Gentiles who weren't born Jewish? (by disadvantages, I mean do they miss out on other benefits following death etc.)
a male kohen may not marry a convert. that is all. converts are treated the same as all Jews and are considered to be the same. indeed the conversion process which either reveals one already had a Jewish soul or means the convert now accepts an additional soul (two different views) - their soul went through the same national experiences as every other Jew in regards to leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah on mount sinai