I have a sincere desire to convert Orthodox with my family and don't have the financial means to do so. My main question is how do people in these circumstances handle all the extra duties that are required, especially if the distance to a Shul is too great and moving is impossible. Are there steps they can take to begin the conversion or is that basically not an option?

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    Re: conversion, contact a competent Orthodox Rabbi. Re: expenses, it is possible to practise Judaism without for example a silver kiddush cup and without embellishment which would keep the cost down. The title of your question uses the phrase "overwhelming financial difficulties". If your difficulties are really that great, IMHO sort them out first so that you can give your full attention to conversion. Mesila (mesila.org) empowers men, women and children across the Jewish community to seek, achieve and maintain economic self-sufficiency and stability. Maybe they can help. – Avrohom Yitzchok Jul 20 '18 at 11:30
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, Tami! It’s always best to ask personal questions like this to a competent Rabbi, rather than relying on random Internet strangers. For that reason, the site policy is not to accept personalized questions. I wish you much luck in finding the answers you seek, but if you’re looking for accurate ones you know you can rely on, this isn’t the place to find them. – DonielF Jul 20 '18 at 14:41
  • Is your last sentence asking if there is anything in Jewish Law that allows one to convert partway, or convert in multiple steps, as opposed to one full conversion? – Alex Jul 20 '18 at 21:35

You have asked a useful, practical question. My thoughts on this - much based from experience being a religious Jew as well as some experience of conversing with a close friend of eventually converted.

There is a general rule that we try to discourage people from converting. Religious Jewish life poses many challenges for Jews, and these challenges can seem even greater for a Gentile. I don't want to detail much how things are more expensive. However, I recommend that you consider the expense factor carefully before you decide to convert. The decision is not reversible. Ask a rabbi or a practicing religious Jew to detail the expenses among the other time commitments involved, if you want a better idea.

You mentioned - distance to shul, etc. Technically, of course, you can be Jewish without attending shul, ever. There are numerous Jews throughout the world who never attend shul or observe Shabbat. They are Jews "in name", in my opinion. Statistics show that their children have a high likelihood of intermarriage, and as a result of that, if it's a man marrying a Gentile woman, the Jewish continuity stops.

My point is, that continuous ritual is extremely important. It need not be everything, but it should, at least involve Shabbat / holiday observance and having a kosher home. Those two tend to be the "essentials" and insure continuity. Yes - they are expensive. Perhaps, you can get some assistance to manage these expenses. But, I strongly recommend that if you decide to convert, be prepared to fund and deal with these expenses for the remainder of your life and make them priority. If you have no means to do this - either yourself or via assistance / funding from someone, then I think conversion may not be the right route for you.

My friend converted about 30 years ago, when she was single. She didn't completely calculate how difficult it would be when she married about 10 years after she converted. She struggled but managed for many years. The community pitched in, frequently. She occasionally told me, "I wish I had known how expensive this was." In her case, I don't think it would have affected her decision. But the fact that she has said this several times, is some indication that knowing this beforehand would have helped her make a better educated decision.

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