I have had the honour of working with the Melbourne Beth Din during my time as President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and I was involved in the review of the processes of the Beth Din and its conversion program and also assisted in presenting the recommendations made based on the findings of the report.
I am glad to see the great work that the Beth Din continues to do in assisting people wishing to convert and that the program offers a high standard and provides the candidate the ability to learn about Judaism in a thorough yet encouraging manner.
The reality is, however, that their are so many facets when it comes to converting to Judaism. One huge aspect is the Shule or community that the person chooses to attend and with which to affiliate. The role of the shule and it’s respective rabbi/rebbetzin, is to assist the candidate to have a place of worship, in close walking proximity to where they live, that welcomes them as part of the community. A Shule community plays such an integral part in the life of a Jew and to those who are going through the conversion process. It is being there for them on a weekly basis, guiding, encouraging and including them in the different things that occur in the Shule.
Coming to a new Shule on a Shabbat or festival can be intimidating and possibly scary, in particular where most of the people there have already spent many years together in the same shule. It is our role together and all the Shule members to welcome them and make them feel at home. I am constantly impressed and grateful to our shule members who make the numerous candidates who have come to our shule feel like it’s theirs. It involves inviting them over for Shabbos meals, involving them in the events and ultimately helping them feel like they belong. This can make all the difference to helping them through the challenging process of conversion.
It is an absolute privilege and honour for us to do so and I have found those who have converted and joined our community have been the most amazing assets to not only our Shule but to the Jewish community at large! May we as South Caulfield Shule, the Melbourne Jewish community, continue to be a shining light in this regard and make all those who genuinely wish to join the Jewish people feel welcomed, cared for and supported.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a beautiful weekend ahead!