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Conversion in the News Roundup: Because the "Who is a Jew?" question is now an extreme sport!

A delicious sampling of the latest news in Jewish conversion!

“Shas MK: Ease Conversion for IDF Soldiers of Jewish Descent” (Israeli National News)

At some point during the conversion process, I heard that things went a lot smoother if you had a Jewish father or some kind of Jewish ancestry. Too bad I couldn’t unearth any Jewish relatives. In this article, Rabbi Chaim Amsalem argues that the conversion process should be eased for IDF soldiers of Jewish descent. But as conversion becomes more and more politicized and increasingly more stringent with the ultra-Orthodox in Israel move farther to the right, will anyone listen to his pleas?

“Full Immersion” (Tablet Magazine)

Tablet Magazine features a podcast focused one woman’s final step to conversion. This is the second of three installments to this series. C.A. Blomquist, who recently converted in her earlier fifties, discusses honestly her fears about telling her Christian family. The first installment in this series was an essay, “Taking the Plunge” where Bloomquist writes “I visited the mikvah and became a Jew. But I still haven’t told my dad I converted.”

“A special New Year for a convert” (Delaware Online)

“When I came to the synagogue, I was afraid I would be treated as a second-class citizen and it never happened,” says Ross, the convert featured in this story. The article offers some good statistics about the Jewish families of converts.

“Orthodox rabbi calls for easier conversion” (Jewish Chronicle of London)

One of the most senior figures of British Orthodoxy has called on Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks to make conversion to Judaism easier. Does anyone hear a common thread here? Orthodox rabbis all over the world are calling for easier conversions. I can already hear the “they’re not really Orthodox” backlash amounting.

“Two decades later, FSU immigrants making their mark in Israel” (JTA)

Are potential immigrants from the Soviet Union staying away because they fear discrimination because of their mixed Jewish parentage? This article says, “Yes!” Now, what are we going to do about it?

“With our sights set on the heavens” (Jerusalem Post)

“If conversion is a process in which a non-Jew makes a conscious decision to tie his or her fate to the Jewish people, argued Amsalem, what test of loyalty could trump the willingness to give one’s life if necessary for the Jews’ protection?” A good question, indeed.

“Yada, Yada, Yada” (New Voices Blog)

Born Jewish Carly Silver asks: “Where do converted Jews fit into the traditional inheritance of Jewish society?” While Carly talks circles around the question and highlights an instance where Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t so funny. I would have liked to see the same piece from the perspective of a convert but probably, a convert would have spent the same amount of page length trying to confirm their Jewishness.

“Law panel considers bill to allow local authority rabbis to perform conversions” (Jerusalem Post)

“Conversion should be carried out with a smile and a welcome,” said Rotem. “The process of becoming a Jew is difficult enough as it is.” And he’s hoping a new bill will ensure that smile and welcome are ready for all would-be converts.

“Racism, Israeli Style” (Huffington Post)

Is it racism or is it biased sentiment against converts that complicated things for Ethiopian students beginning this school year in Israeli schools?

“Haredi rabbis attack Shas MK for leniency on conversions” (Jerusalem Post)

Why am I not surprised? Who didn’t see that one coming?

“All in the family or not” (Jerusalem Post)

If you’re Jewish…then you better be ready to prove it. Here’s what happened to one man who couldn’t. (After reading this, everyone should go put their Jewish proof documents in a safety deposit box.)

“20 years in a Dream” (Jerusalem Post)

One Russian Jewish immigrant discusses the issues (including conversion) facing his community in Israel.

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