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There seem to be opposing ideas on how we should deal with converts and Gentiles.

My understanding - Gentiles are allowed to be present at synagogue services. Potential converts are supposed to be discouraged from converting.

If someone told you that he was considering converting and he wanted to attend a synagogue service with you so that he can get a sense of what would be part of his Jewish life when he converted should you discourage him from attending? Does it make any difference if you specifically ask him to join you or whether you should coax him away if it his own idea to attend services?

Does it matter if he is first considering converting, or has already decided this is what he wants to do, and wants to attend services as part of his conversion "knowledge"?

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    I don't think it's the responsibility of random people in the street (or even the person's friends) to discourage him from converting. It's up to the sponsoring beis din to make sure the potential convert is on board with what he's getting himself into. – Daniel Apr 28 '17 at 19:35
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As a practical matter, nobody can convert without working with a "sponsoring" rabbi for an extended time (months to years) first. You can't just show up at a beit din, apply, and be accepted that day.

Therefore there is an individual rabbi, who is presumed to know the halacha and has a vested interest in doing things right because it'll reflect on him. I think it is safe to assume that this rabbi will ensure that all necessary discouragement has happened.

Therefore nobody else needs to. At best you'd be being redundant. At worst, since we also limit the discouragement (Rambam Issurei Biah Chapter 14), you'd be adding hurdles beyond what we should place before the would-be convert.

When I talk with non-Jews, whether they're considering conversion or not, I try to just provide information and leave the rest to the person and, if applicable, the sponsoring rabbi and the beit din. If a non-Jew expresses interest in coming to synagogue services, I say that all are welcome (we don't check ID at the door1) and, depending on context, mention some things to be careful about when attending.

1 Well ok, maybe for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (tickets). I'd definitely discourage somebody from trying to attend on those specific days. Also, I understand that in some parts of the world they do vet strangers out of fear of violence; I'm in the US.

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The custom nowadays is to include a potential convert in the community for months or years before the conversion. So of course he/she attends synagogue services, goes to shiurim and is a guest for shabbosos. As a formality the Beis Din discourage the convert at the Kabalos Mitzvos ceremony when the convert is in the Mikva.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Doesn't the sponsoring rabbi also discourage the convert at the beginning of the process? – Monica Cellio Apr 30 '17 at 2:51
  • This procedure sounds backwards. My understanding of this is that the discouragement is done at the last "moment". Unless, you are implying that the Bet Din does this to verify that the convert really means it, and is offering him a final opportunity to back out. But that would mean supplemental discouragement, not the first instance of it. – DanF May 1 '17 at 14:46

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