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Recently I have been made aware of many people who are in the conversion process who already call themselves Jews. By "in the process" I mean that they're beginning to learn Hebrew, doing Torah study with a Rabbi, attending services on Shabbat. Some are keeping kosher, tzniut, and are Shabbat observant. I should mention that the potential converts in question are women, so there would be no circumcision. As far as I know, there has not been any immersion in a mikvah. I don't know if it's important to mention that they are not seeking orthodox conversions- some reform, some conservative- but none that I know of are prepared to convert with an orthodox rabbi.

My question is: When can somebody in the process of conversion refer to themselves and expect for others to refer to them as a Jew? Also, are they recognized as converts while they are in the process of conversion, or is that a title that comes after the conversion has been completed?

  • It seems that those in the Orthodox conversion process are instructed to refer to themselves as Jews to non-Jews and as non-Jews to Jews. This may make sense for a number of halachic and practical reasons – SAH Feb 25 '18 at 1:17
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One becomes a Jew after the process -- beit din, circumcision (for men), and mikveh -- is complete. Until then, one is "studying for conversion" or "working toward conversion" or, in some circles, a "Jew in training". (These are informal descriptions, not formal status.) It's not proper for somebody going through the process to prematurely claim the final status. This is true regardless of what movement the person is studying in.

A possible source of confusion is that prior to actual conversion, somebody going through this process is generally expected to take on mitzvot, starting small and building over time. So the convert-to-be starts to act like a Jew, mostly, but is not yet a Jew. Others in the community who observe the behavior and don't know the circumstances might conclude that the person is a Jew. If people are calling the convert-to-be a Jew, perhaps it is due to that. (The convert-to-be should correct these misunderstandings when aware of them.)

Finally, there are cases outside of the Jewish community where people on this path simplify as a matter of expedience. One might self-identify as Jewish to an employer in explaining why you need those days off, or when asked to specify a religion1 upon hospital admission because if any clergy is going to visit you want a rabbi, or in arranging food when visiting somebody. But within the Jewish community, the person working toward conversion should be more careful, both as a matter of being truthful and to avoid problems like accidentally being counted in a minyan.


1 I know it's more complicated. But I know that hospitals where I live ask about this, and the people collecting the forms really don't care that it's more complicated.

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    the note 1 is very interesting perhaps we can translate the hospital's question as in which religion you believe. And maybe that in current conversations this issue appears often. And relatively to this issue they call themselves jew – kouty Feb 2 '17 at 23:04

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