My family has been invited to participate in Chabad programming. I know that the Orthodox do not consider me to be Jewish as I am a Reform convert, but my wife and daughter are Jews through matrilineal descent. I don't typically out myself as a convert unless I am directly asked or there is a reason I have to.

Is a Reform convert permitted to participate in Chabad programming (Shabbat meals, learner's minyan, torah study etc.)? If so, is there anything the convert is required to disclose to the Chabad Rabbi?


2 Answers 2


The Chabad rabbis I've met go out of their way to welcome people in. They also have to know that for the Reform movement in particular with their stance on patrilineal descent, there is a non-trivial chance of issues with the halachic status of non-Orthodox Jews. I'm a member of a Reform congregation and when I had to make last-minute seder plans one year, the Chabad rabbi didn't ask any questions when I asked to attend their community seder. I was far from the only person there who was not from within the Chabad community.

I don't know how they handle honors for men; as a woman I'm not going to be offered an aliyah or be counted in a minyan anyway, so any questions about my status don't matter there. A man who is offered an honor can and should decline. If there is only barely a minyan, a man should tell whoever's running things (it might not be the rabbi) not to count him. Unless the person asks why not, there's no need to say anything more.

As for attending classes, a Reform ger should take cues from how they publicize the class. Another answer says non-Jews can't learn torah, but I note that several Orthodox rabbis (from across the spectrum) have taught at Pittsburgh's community-wide tikkun leil Shavuot for the last ten years, so the issue seems more nuanced. If the Chabad rabbi offers (and advertises) a class to the whole community, as our local Chabad rabbi does for JLI classes, then anyone in the community can show up -- either that rabbi doesn't hold by the "no torah study" rule or he has chosen the class content with the possibility of a broad audience.

If you find yourself attending more than a handful of their events, it would be a good idea to let the rabbi know your status. He might even respond by offering to teach you!

  • Regarding Torah study, it may well be that the only topics that are off-limits are those that have no bearing whatsoever on the non-Jew's religious observance or religious philosophy, and even these might be permitted for a non-Jew interested in conversion (judaism.stackexchange.com/a/20410). Regardless, one may teach even areas of Torah that pertain exclusively to Jews in a mixed group of Jews and non-Jews, provided his intention is directed specifically towards teaching the Jews in the group (judaism.stackexchange.com/a/79842).
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 3:47
  • I've edited the question to depersonalize it a bit. It may be a good idea to do the same to this answer.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 13:35
  • @IsaacMoses thanks, done. I had trouble with the last paragraph so left it; if you see a way to improve it please go ahead. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 1:28
  • Good answer! I think if they're attending events as a family it's no problem. But if the Reform convert starts individually attending classes they should inform the rabbi of their status. I personally know converts who first converted Reform or Conservative and later converted Orthodox, after attending Chabad classes.
    – Kordovero
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 11:18

Someone who is not Jewish is not permitted to learn Torah or keep Shabbos. (There is no issue, of course, in partaking of Shabbos meals.)

The answer to the specific question may depend on future plans. The laws of a Reform convert and the laws of an Orthodox-convert-in-training differ. If one plans on a halachic (Orthodox) conversion to Judaism imminently, certain elements of Torah study prohibited to a non-Jew may be permitted for a convert-in-training.

As far as partaking of the Shabbos meals - if the Chabad organization are only sponsoring it for Jews, and if they would not allow non-Jews to participate, then partaking under false pretenses could be considered paramount to stealing. (In all likelihood, this is irrelevant; Chabad are generally welcoming and all inclusive, and are unlikely to differentiate between a Reform convert and a Jew as far as Shabbat meals are concerned)

One who is not an Orthodox Jew should also make sure not to touch any wine that is not mevushal, which would invalidate it for any Jews present at the meal.

  • 4
    I suspect that the Torah learning that outreach Chabad houses teach doesn't qualify as problematic for non-Jews to learn. Also, I highly doubt that attending Shabbat meals would be problematic as Chabad houses are typically quite welcoming. Participating in Yom Tov meals, on the other hand, could indeed be problematic halachically.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 0:52

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