In my personal experience I have encountered a lot of people who wanted to convert me to their religion. Some are rather insistent on it (door knockers), but not to Judaism.

Have there ever been missionary works trying to convert large bodies of people to Judaism? (excluding the very early times of Avraham)

  • 9
    Slight insight. Avraham was not working to make people 'Jewish'. His outreach work was to bring people to the recognition of a single all powerful God. Not to a religion that didn't exist as of yet. I know you are simply quoting a different answer, but it is technicality worth pointing out.
    – user6591
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 15:22
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    Does Rabbi Tovia Singer count? Technically, his primary goal is to get Jews to reject Christianity, but in the process he's convinced many Gentiles to become Jews or Noahides. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 13:11
  • @user6591 That's an important point, because Avraham was the leader of what we now call the Noahide movement and certainly there are others like him now.
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 2:30
  • @msh210 It's also interesting that we don't proselytize being that Avraham did. I've heard drashos explaining that the yeshiva of Shem and Eiver did not last long specifically because they did not actively proselytize, you asked them, they taught you. But Avraham had a different plan. A proactive program. So why don't we follow his footsteps?
    – user6591
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 2:44
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    @msh210 as I'm typing this a thought popped into my head. Hashem whittled down the members by having him chase away Yishmael and telling him only part of Yitzchok's children would be part of the nation. Perhaps that set the mood. Do we have a question here at miyodea addressing WHY we don't proselytize?
    – user6591
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 3:12

2 Answers 2


John Hyrcanus of the Hasmonean Dynasty of Jewish leaders (that's Maccabees) forced the Idumeans (that's Edom) to convert when he took over their land. John Hycarnus was the third son of Simon, and reigned Judea as Ethnarch and High Priest from 135 to 104 BCE.

The forced conversions under John Hyrcanus gave us Herod the great, the one who beautified and built up the temple while also being a very cruel and tyrannical leader during his reign from 37-4 BCE.

Source 1: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Maccabees

Source 2: Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, 9:1.

  • Josephus separates the first, cruel one from the second, who rebuilt the temple. The Gemara in Bava Basra does seem to hold it is one and the same.
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 19:26

Abraham and Sarah were converting people to ethical monotheism, not Judaism.

So the answer is "Jewish religious leadership has never advocated knocking on doors to convert people to Judaism."

As Aaron discussed, the Hasmonean kings tried pushing conversion, but that was a political move that the rabbis denounced.

  • It is difficult to prove a negative, but I don't see any effort to do so.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 23:15
  • I don't understand the "so". How does the first sentence imply the second? What is your basis for the second (the primary one) at all?
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 12:14
  • I was going to comment about avrohom converting people to monotheism, but then I saw you added it as an answer for whatever reason. Those people, and all their descendants are goyim.
    – user613
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 13:02
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    Do you have a source for denunciation of Idumean conversion by the Rabbinate?
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 13:04

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