I was born to a Jewish father and Christian mother, following all Jewish holidays, and have always identified as a Jew and nothing else. I was frequently reminded by my friends (most of whom were Jewish) that, technically, I am not a Jew. Nevertheless, my research has shown that I am considered a Jew per Reform Judaism, which adheres to patrilineal descent if a child is brought up Jewishly.

I have always wanted to convert to make it more "official" in the community in which I live, and because I do not wish for anyone to doubt my faith. I wish it was enough for me to believe I'm Jewish based on my actions and beliefs; but, that isn't the case. And, as I accept Judaism, it must accept me.

Hence, my dilemma: I don't know according to which stream of Judaism to convert. I am of Ashkenazi descent and was raised upholding all high holidays, Shabbos, attending shul at least once yearly and separating dairy and meat. I believe the Torah was given to Moses and that everything was as intended without human interference and interpretations (i.e. Modern Orthodox). I feel that, by converting via Modern Orthodoxy, I would feel more accepted by everyone. Nevertheless, I am not sure I am ready to commit to modest dress and other key elements that Modern Orthodoxy requires. I am speaking to a Modern Orthodox Rabbi on Friday, but I am still undecided. I feel as though Conservative Judaism doesn't adhere enough, that Orthodoxy adheres too much, and that I'm somewhere in the middle. Please advise.

  • 6
    Hi Olga! Try checking out this related question judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26721/759 and note that we don't know you so anything you read here might not be the best answer for you. Speak things over with someone who knows you who you trust.
    – Double AA
    Jun 19, 2013 at 20:35
  • 3
    I cannot emphasize enough the importance of @DoubleAA's comment. Please also consult with someone whom you know and trust.
    – Lee
    Jun 19, 2013 at 21:18
  • 1
    Hi Olga. It is important that you speak with a rabbi (as you've already arranged, and as others have said). In your case I would suggest that you speak with at least two rabbis: Orthodox and Conservative. A rabbi will be able to help you sort out the issues you're troubled by and help you figure out if they're deal-killers or just areas requiring more study and contemplation. Also, conversion is a long process, intentionally so as I understand it; you shouldn't be making snap decisions about stuff like this. Good luck! Jun 19, 2013 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


To paraphrase myself, If a person converts by any standard that is not universally recognized, then that person will not be regarded as Jewish by those with stricter standards.

As you've observed, Orthodox Judaism is stricter than Conservative Judaism, and Orthodox conversion requires more than Conservative or Reform conversion. As such, Conservative conversions are not recognized by Orthodox Jews, and anyone who has undergone a Conservative conversion would need to later undergo an Orthodox conversion if they want to join an Orthodox synagogue and be recognized by the Orthodox community as being Jewish.

Furthermore, for a woman in particular, since Orthodox Judaism recognizes matrilineal descent, and not patrilineal descent, if her conversion is not recognized by the community, her children will not be regarded as Jewish, either. If there is any desire to enroll the children in a Jewish day school or any inkling that the convert may want her children (or a recognition that her children may one day decide) to join an Orthodox community, having a mother who underwent a Conservative conversion will pose a problem for them.

Having said all of that, you must also recognize that Orthodox standards of conversion require a commitment, and it's a lifetime commitment - you don't get to decide later that it's too much for you. I can't speak with any authority about the ideas that other streams of Judaism may have.

  • That is my exact predicament!!!! I feel like there is a level missing between the orthodox and the conservative and I'm in that level!!! I want to be recognized by all but I also know that by making a commitment to become orthodox would be something very substantial. I'm a level between the not so orthodox and more than conservative
    – Olga
    Jun 19, 2013 at 21:05
  • 4
    @Olga, IMHO, you really need to speak with a rabbi. It sounds like you have an appointment set up; it's important that the rabbi get to know you before coming to any conclusions, so don't be turned off by the fact that you will likely leave with more questions than answers after your first meeting. Keep building the relationship. If any rabbi tries to sell you on converting, I'd seek a different rabbi. If the rabbi tries to steer you away from converting, that's normal; keep going back and seek more knowledge.
    – Seth J
    Jun 19, 2013 at 21:09
  • I've been trying to seek out a rabbi and I was recommended this particular rabbi who also had a Russian background like I do. I've gotten the run around and I know that is normal but I'm afraid there is no in between. I wish that once you decide to become an "official" Jew because I've always considered myself Jewish that shouldn't the people unite to accept you instead of not recognize you as one of their own!!! It's very frustrating but I appreciate all of your help
    – Olga
    Jun 19, 2013 at 21:12
  • 4
    @Olga, speak to the rabbi. There are very good reasons for not rushing to convert. Just because you feel a connection to Jewish tradition does not mean Judaism is the right choice for you. At least in the Orthodox tradition, it is a very grave problem for there to be Jews who don't uphold the Torah. Every Jew is responsible for the failures and sins of other Jews. If someone converts and decides it is too hard, then where does that leave us? There is one more sinning Jew. If there is a non-Jew who loves Judaism and G-d and upholds G-d's laws, then the world is a better place.
    – Seth J
    Jun 19, 2013 at 21:15

Speaking as an Orthodox Jew, I would advise that you are not ready to convert to Judaism. There is nothing wrong in staying in your current position as a non-Jew. Being Jewish brings with it a huge number of responsibilities, and I sense that you do not want to foist these responsibilities upon yourself.

Being Jewish is a privilege. Like all privileges, there is nothing wrong with not having it.

  • I wish my answers were not edited. If you have another opinion then give it but why delete mine.
    – user2800
    Jun 20, 2013 at 14:13
  • 2
    If you think your answer was edited in a way that displeases you, you are always welcome to roll it back. But having read it, I concur with the opinion that it is written badly - and rudely - enough to warrant significant editing. You can easily roll it back, and you have enough reputation to take your concerns to the chat room to discuss it with others. But I think you're facing an uphill battle. See our guidelines for behavior and editing.
    – Seth J
    Jun 20, 2013 at 18:26
  • @annex, in addition to what Seth said, Stack Exchange sites are kind of like Wikipedia when it comes to content -- any community member not only may but is encouraged to improve it. Because your name is on it it's not ok to radically change things, but I don't think my change fits into that category. If you do, see Seth's message. Nobody's content here is inviolate -- not yours, not mine, not even Isaac's. :-) Jun 20, 2013 at 19:55

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .