When a person is interested in converting, there are really two questions they are asked:

  • Are you prepared to accept the theology and observance of Judaism?
  • Are you prepared to accept your identity as a member of the Jewish people, even in their suffering?

The Rambam writes that a person could keep kosher, learn the Talmud, etc., but if he doesn't feel connected to the Jewish people and doesn't care what happens to it, "such a person has no share in the G-d of Israel."

We've all heard news about the convert who had zero intention of accepting Jewish theology and/or observance; if it's completely clear that this intent was a joke (even with regards to their limited understanding of Judaism), then no conversion took place.

Has there ever been a case where the convert kept kosher, shabbos, and the like, but it was completely clear from the get-go that they had no intent of sympathizing with the Jewish people in any way? (I'm trying to think of an extreme example here ... pardon my politics and you're welcome to disagree, but maybe someone who goes right after their conversion to meet with Ahmedinijad at a Holocaust-denial event or something?)


2 Answers 2


A bit similar to Fred's answer, a man living in Wisconsin once sent a letter to Rabbi Isaac Herzog, the second Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the Land of Israel, asking if he could convert to Judaism on the pretense that he would have no relevance to Eretz Yisrael. Of course, Rav Herzog said no. This is because becoming part of the Jewish People means entering into the covenant of Abraham, in which Hashem promised the Land of Israel to his descendants. If someone doesn't want to be included in that covenant, then he shouldn't want to consider himself included among the progeny of Avraham Avinu either. Mimah nafshach - you can't have one and not the other, because the formulation of the brit is on G-d's terms, not ours. I heard this story from Rabbi Mordechai Willig.

EDIT: Maybe I got a minor detail wrong and it was R' Goren (not R' Herzog). Look at footnote 13 on page 38 in this essay.

  • @Fred - You too! Commented May 8, 2012 at 1:10

The following is hearsay: A French woman once approached R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik (or maybe it was Rav Kook), ready to convert. After completing a rigorous course of study, she was prepared to accept the full burden of Jewish law and observance. R' Soloveitchik asked her if she was willing to embrace a Jewish identity and become a member of the Jewish People. She refused, proudly announcing: "I am French!" She then proceeded to sing La Marseillaise with gusto.

The conversion was denied.

  • 3
    +1, although maybe you could argue that it was denied because she showed that she wasn't willing to accept the rule about קול באשה ערוה.
    – Alex
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 1:45
  • 1
    @Alex, heh, yeah, except from the context of the story it was clear that joining the Jewish People was a necessary criterion for conversion (as per Ruth's declaration of "amech ami").
    – Fred
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 2:27
  • 8
    I'm picturing R' Soloveichik facepalming and walking away, shaking his head and muttering "my cousin Feinstein never gets ones like these ..." :)
    – Shalom
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 17:52

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