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Assume a boy, Ploni, is born to a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father in Israel. Ploni's mother is not halachically Jewish but has integrated into non-Orthodox Jewish culture. Ploni speaks, reads, and writes in Hebrew as his mother tongue, and knows no holidays other than Sukkos, Hanukkah, Pesach, etc. He fasts on Yom Kippur, has a huge traditional seder with all his family on Pesach, etc.

Later, Ploni and his family move to America, where Ploni attends high school. Over the years, he gets more and more in touch with Orthodox Judaism, and starts to keep strict Shabbos, Yom Tov, kashrus, davening three times a day with tefillin and tallit, etc. Assume Ploni has been doing this, as well as studying a lot of Torah (daily Chumash portion, Gemara daf yomi, and Shulchan Aruch) and reading much Jewish literature, for two years, but is aware that he is not halachically Jewish. He has nonetheless not yet reached out to a Beis Din/rabbi.

Would such a background have any tangible effect on Ploni's conversion process? I've read posts in this forum about the fact that Beis Dins should theoretically be more lenient toward "Zera Yisrael", but is this what takes place למעשה, especially if the conversion is done by the RCA?

(Answers from personal experience would be appreciated)

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    The conversion ceremony itself is still the same, but the rabbis involved may be convinced of sincerity and knowledge much faster and are likely to waive a lot of the typical homework or waiting time. Rabbi Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University has mentioned that every now and then a yeshiva student turns out to have a non-Jewish mother, and they take care of the conversion pretty easily. By the way, someone studying for conversion is advised to keep Shabbos except to do one little bit of prohibited labor each week, as non-Jews aren't supposed to keep Shabbos.
    – Shalom
    Jun 15, 2021 at 1:24
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    Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Jun 15, 2021 at 2:56
  • @Shalom could you refer me to that source? When R' Schachter says a yeshiva student "turns out not to have a Jewish mother", does he mean that the student has been hiding the fact that his mother is not Jewish, or that the mother herself did not know she was not Jewish?
    – k.jackson
    Jun 15, 2021 at 3:43
  • kolhamevaser.com/2010/09/… I’m not generally involved in gerus. Once or twice a year, there’s a girl from Stern [College] or a boy from Yeshiva [University] who realizes he or she isn’t halachically Jewish so I go along and help them be megayyer (convert), but generally I’m not involved in gerus. Sounds like they hadn't deceived anyone; maybe they just found out they were adopted, or that mom wasn't really Jewish. (Sorry, that quote itself doesn't mention the easy part; I think I heard it one of his gazillion mp3s.)
    – Shalom
    Jun 15, 2021 at 7:52
  • @Shalom thanks! While I agree that that excerpt is relevant, it's not exactly the same case; here, Ploni knows that he is not halachically Jewish.
    – k.jackson
    Jun 15, 2021 at 15:24

1 Answer 1

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The question is how this background would affect his conversion process, but the set up of the case is that he has not approached a Beis Din for conversion. So, to start answering, we have to define where the process would start.

One starting point would be the day that the boy approaches his rabbi and says that he knows that he is not really Jewish and wants to convert. I don't actually know this, but I was told that in case like this where the father is Jewish the Beis Din is supposed to be encouraging of the conversion, unlike when the potential convert is not Jewish, where they are required to be discouraging. In a case where he is already thoroughly acquainted with Jewish practice and commitment, the conversion would be very quick.

A very different starting point is if the Rabbi discovers that the boy is not Jewish, knows that he is not Jewish, and is not making any attempt to convert. This demonstrated lack of desire to become Jewish is then a reason to distance the not-Jew from the Yeshiva. It is forbidden to teach a non-Jew Torah, and if he has decided that he does not want the responsibility of being a halachic Jew, we don't want to push him to make such a decision.

This actually happened with a classmate of mine in high school. His father was a cohen, and we all thought that he was too, but his mother was not Jewish and mentioned this to him when he was already about 18. He did not ask to convert, and when the school found out about this months later they distanced him from the yeshiva.

Caveat: I never spoke to this classmate after he left the yeshiva, and he left quietly, so I don't actually know if this was a push from the administration or a personal decision.

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