Back story in short-- i was born and raised Jewish, had a baby naming, bat mitzvah, learned basic common Jewish knowledge that 95 percent of all the secular jews out there know. My father is halachically jewish and he raised me from elementary school to just before high school.

My mom converted to judaism via reform movement, and never once in my life up until mid April 2015, did i ever doubt my status as a jew. i mean, why should i? Despite being secular (and not having felt a need to keep observant, nor research jewish stuff for 8+ years after my bat mitzvah), i have jewish blood and body and neshama and identity, and according to everyone other than the orthodox community, two jewish parents.

so i had no doubt until i started searching, and i have no idea why i started searching, but i did, and im here now, B"H.

i have no problem with gentiles.. all of my best friends are so, i just CANNOT accept that status for myself.. it goes contrary to nearly everything ingrained in my sense of self.

Imagine knowing from childhood, for sure without a grain of doubt that you are something you identify with, even if you didn't appreciate it as much as you should have, and then one day, the figurative 'card at the bottom of a house of cards' is pulled out from under you. It turns you inside out and upside down and rips you apart and is utterly confusing and a mind-numbingly awful feeling as well. It makes me wonder what HaShem has planned for me..

while i personally have no problem with reform judaism and conservative too, upon more research of what it actually was- because both are great places to ~~start~~ learning, i reject those two for myself.

Sorry for rambling and taking longer than i thought it would take... what is the difference between an actually full conversion process and a giyur lechumra? i am tired of my jewishness being discounted and someday, G-d willing, i want it to be unimpeachable to everyone...

Granted, i know processes take time and even if im not legally jewish, legality and reality are not mutually exclusive, and all i can do is learn enough to be a baal teshuva and then when i can go through an official legal process, do so..

my thoughts have been so scattered lately on this situation. i hope i make enough sense to warrant a response and/or insight into my situation. Also thank you in advance to any and all people who do respond.

Hope you all have a wonderful day, and i apologize if my lack of proper capitalization hurts anyones eyes. :)

  • Oh, im sorry if i duplicated a question.. certainly didnt mean to.
    – Shemesh
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 19:31
  • 5
    No reason to apologize. We like duplicate questions, as they restate the question in different ways to help others find what they are looking for.
    – Yishai
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 19:32
  • Thanks.. I suppose I was looking for insight as well and not just an answer to that main question.. Thank you for your help :)
    – Shemesh
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 19:34
  • Are you asking about differences in the process between regular conversion and giyur l'chumra ("just-in-case conversion"), or about differences in the criteria that determine which one is applicable to a given individual?
    – Fred
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 19:41
  • Probably both. my mom always wondered if she had jewish blood because her mother's last name was stajin (pronounced stein) and what if a few generations back one of her mother's mothers converted out of judaism to stay safe from the inquision or one/more of the many issues that happened in Europe pre 19th/20th century? But i don't know for sure my maternal grandmother's mother's religion.. only that of my mothers mother. or what she said she was. it is all so much information and maybe i'm overthinking but which one of those two processes should i pursue?
    – Shemesh
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


Thank you for coming to J.SE.

It sounds like you're going through a difficult time, may God help you through it with tranquility.

Giyur lechumra applies in cases where there's a good chance a conversion wasn't really needed, e.g. some rabbis feel this way about the population of Ethiopian Jews.

From the strict technical standpoint of Orthodox halacha, it sounds like your situation requires a full conversion. Though there's really little difference here, all that's really required is study, commitment, and a dunk in the mikvah before a rabbinic panel. But ... your religious experience and self-identification are much more like a baal teshuva -- "I was raised Jewish, but as a I grew up I wanted to be more involved" -- than someone who was actively raised Catholic and is now rejecting that and turning their life in a totally different direction.

The good news is that while I'm sure it's uncomfortable to feel caught in-between, rabbis see such cases on a regular basis these days. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the senior rabbis at Yeshiva University, has said that it's not uncommon to have a student at YU (or its sister, Stern College) who was raised Jewish but suddenly in college realized they need to undergo a conversion, and the rabbis there handle it without much fuss or fanfare.

So hopefully the process shouldn't take that much time or be that grueling. The first step is to find a reputable Orthodox rabbi to work with -- is there a local one you can contact?

When your conversion is complete, you can't marry a Kohen, and you should tell someone you're dating about the technicalities of your situation before things get too serious; but otherwise if your standard story for random folks in synagogue is "I was raised Jewish but picked up more observance along the way", that's accurate and fine. You don't have to wear a big sign on your forehead that says CONVERT unless you wish to do so.

Good luck!

  • Thank you for your answer and the only thing i'm not sure of is if all of the maternal lineage (starting with my grandmother) is unjewish or if one of them might have converted away from judaism in the past.. i really have no way of finding out unless i went to Serbia. Also, G-d willing, im actually going to go to Stern College next fall, so i shall definitely look into that. Do you know specifically of any other people in my situation, and/or if there are resources/websites i can look into?
    – Shemesh
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 12:54

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