Judaism appears to be attracting a growing number of gentile converts who are drawn to the faith for its teachings and practices rather than because of intermarriages.
There has been a longtime debate in Jewish circles about whether synagogues should seek converts (apart from seeking the conversion of partners of interfaith marriages), but it seems that the issue has become a reality as Jewish education programs are drawing many Christians interested in Judaism. Moment magazine (December) reports that when the Reform Jewish education program Taste of Judaism started in 1996, it was intended to bring disaffiliated and Jews back into the fold. Today, half of all the students in the program nationwide (which has spread to 470 synagogues) are non-Jews. In areas of the country with smaller Jewish populations, “that figure rises to 80 even 90 percent,” writes Sue Fishkoff.
Figures from the Reform movement show that 13 percent of these non-Jews make a full conversion to Judaism. The rate of conversion is high enough that the Reform movement has had to create an Outreach Fellowship Program to train lay leaders to work with the influx of converts “swamping Reform rabbis.” While there is no typical convert, most cite a theological attraction, mentioning disagreements in their former faith. Former Catholics tend to mention the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus as tenets they can no longer believe, while those from a conservative Protestant background more likely find themselves drawn to the Old Testament rather than the New Testament and believe they are finding the “original” scriptures.
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