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I am interested to know how giyur le’chumra is different from a standard conversion in practice? Does anyone have any personal experiences?

My understanding of the meaning of giyur le’chumra (from an article I found on Torah Lab) is as follows:

Giyur le’chumra is a term which refers to conversions performed as precautionary measures. They are undertaken when a doubt exists about one’s Jewishness or about the validity of his conversion. Such conversions involve accepting the commandments before a rabbinical court, and immersing in a mikvah.

  • It should be noted, that in the case of a male, a "giyur le'chumra" also includes "hatafas dam bris", a symbolic drawing of a drop of blood from the area of the circumcision. If the person was uncircumcised, then he would have to undergo a full circumcision (either due to his actually born Jewish, and all Jewish males are required to be circumcised, or due to it being one of the essential requirements of the conversion process). – IsraelReader Nov 20 '19 at 19:33
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This answer is based off of experience of being present at a giyur l'chumra conducted by R' Yosef Berger. The Beis Din does not remind the convert, as is normally done, that this is his last chance to change his mind and not become a Jew, as we are already assuming that he is a Jew, and the conversion is "just in case." In the conversion which I witnessed, they did not inform him about mitzvos kalos v'chamuros (some "light" and some "serious" mitzvos), for what I assume was the same reason - because we don't want to and aren't trying to scare him/her off.

Normally, a convert makes a blessing on going to mikvah, and a shehecheyanu. The giyur l'chumra convert makes neither of these blessings, although I suppose it couldn't hurt for him to bring a new fruit with him and just have it in mind.

The convert was not asked to choose a name for himself, as normally converts do take a name upon conversion. I do not know if this was because it is assumed he wouldn't want to change the name he had been going by as a Jew, or because we aren't interested in changing his name since we are assuming he already was a Jew.

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  • Although it depends on how names work....one big rabbi I know ( I don't know if he wants this shitah on the internet ) holds that a name (for everything: aliyah, tefillah, kesuva et al) is merely what the person is called by their friends. Based on that, I know that he ruled that one lady's halachic/Hebrew name was "Belle" ( although now that she and her friends refer to her as "Bayla," that confusion is gone ) – MTL Dec 19 '14 at 4:27
  • Can you identify this Rabbi Yosef Berger - of Baltimore? – LN6595 Mar 18 '18 at 4:43
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I went through what I think was an orthodox giur l'chumrah from 2008-2010. I say "what I think was" because the rabbi who referred me to the Beit Din told me that it was a giur l'chumrah. I don't remember the Beit Din saying anything about that though.

The Beit Din never asked me to change my name or to choose a Hebrew name.

Although I met with the Beit Din on multiple occasions and the entire process took about 18-months (which what felt like a very humiliating process at the time, considering that both my mother and her mother are/were Jewish), no one ever asked me very substantive questions on halacha (during one meeting I, without prompting, gave a very short drash on that week's parasha, which was the most "technical" that the conversations ever seemed to get). So, it seemed like the meetings were a sort of formality, but the fact that the process took so long made it not seem like a formality...it was confusing.

However, they did want to make sure that I was shomer shabbos and kept kosher, so they did ask very rudimentary questions about how to observe kashruth and Shabbat, both according to orthodox standards. Yet, there was no oversight (at least that I was aware) as to whether I was actually living an observant life (just to note: I was).

I also didn't regularly meet with or study with my rabbi (or any rabbi for that matter, although I continued to study with my rebbetsen), who was also the rabbi that referred me to the Beit Din (and I doubt that he was "reporting" back to the Beit Din as to whether I was attending services, studying with his wife, wearing a skirt, observing shomer negiah, etc.) So both of those differ from a regular conversion, at least I assume.

The Beit Din also wanted to make sure that my Israeli-born, Jewish-on-both-sides fiance was wearing tefillin each day.

Definitely no one reminded me that it was my last chance to change my mind when it came time to immerse.

If I recall the brachot...I made the regular t'vila bracha, then I'm pretty sure that I said a bracha that included the word "stranger" (ger, in hebrew of course, so I suppose this would be the conversion bracha), but I did not at any point say shehechayanu.

I know another woman who went through a giur l'chumrah on the East coast and her process also took some time.

When I found out that I had to do a giur, I was told that it was specifically a giur l'chumrah, that I would just have to read some books and then meet with the Beit Din and immerse. I had heard of regular conversions taking a long time, but it seemed, or so I thought, that the giur l'chumrah would be faster. It wasn't. And at no point in the process did I know how long it would take. I just basically had to wait. It was absolutely horrible, especially since I was engaged at the time.

Also unfortunate was that the rabbi marrying us made sure that my ketubah referred to me as a giur.

Also no one dissuaded me three times. Isn't that a thing with regular conversions?

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  • I think that this is a separate questionand not an answer. In any case, I would suggest bringing it up with you (current) rabbi to clarify things. – sabbahillel Oct 30 '16 at 11:24
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There are two reasons for a Giyur l'chumra

  1. The original Bet Din is not one that is recognized as valid by one's local orthodox rabbi or others even if the original rabbis were orthodox. This occurs when one or more of the rabbis on the original Bet Din were known to convert people who were not ready to observe Judaism properly, especially rabbis who accepted large sums of money to convert.
  2. Someone comes with a claim of being Jewish but this claim may not be easily verified.

Unlike a non-Jew who comes to convert, there are no attempts to turn the candidate away. In fact, the candidate is encouraged to accept all Mitzvot and customs as soon as possible. The candidate is encouraged to improve her/his religiosity and to be fully orthodox in all matters. If the candidate requires circumcision, it is done asap (unlike a regular convert where the circumcision waits for about a month before conversion). As soon as the candidate is able to meet all the standards for conversion s/he is converted.

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  • Welcome to MiYodeya R Aryeh and thanks for this first answer. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Nov 20 '19 at 3:45
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In a giyur lechumra you are considered Jewish to yourself but not to others. So you have to keep everything, but other people regard you as a non-Jew, whereas when you are non-Jew before a conversion, you are indeed a non-Jew and don't have to keep anything like a Jew.

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  • How do you know this? ....editing in a source would be a good idea, whether you know this from experience or from some sefer. See meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1444/… and meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/712/… for more information. – MTL Dec 18 '14 at 18:17
  • what else could be difference? – havarka Dec 18 '14 at 18:23
  • A person in the conversion process doesn't have to keep anything like a Jew???? So he could go from driving around on shabbos and eating pork one day to being completely shomer mitzvot the next day? I don't think any beis din would allow that. – Daniel Dec 18 '14 at 20:37
  • I was speaking about a case, where person only thinks about converting, not actually already being in process, then the difference would be really very little, but in question it's specified what he is really asking about. – havarka Dec 18 '14 at 20:55
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    I think you are misunderstanding what a giyur l'chumra is. The person involved is assumed to be Jewish and the conversion is "just in case" – Y     e     z Dec 18 '14 at 20:57

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