Converts to Judaism: Stories from Biblical Times to Today


Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
6.1 X 0.8 X 9.1 inches | 1.01 pounds
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About the Author

Lawrence J. Epstein is professor emeritus at Suffolk County Community College, where he taught courses on Jewish Thought and Culture. The founder of the Conversion to Judaism website, he has written on the subject for a wide range of publications. He is the author of a number of books, including The Basic Beliefs of Judaism and Conversion to Judaism: A Guidebook.


Converts to Judaism: Stories from Biblical Times to Today is the right book at the right time for a critical issue facing American Judaism. It is enlightening as well as entertaining, highlighting the history of conversion to Judaism over the entire timespan from Abraham up until today. The work is important not only for its information and analysis but because the author makes a compelling argument for a pro-active approach to bringing in new Jews into our religion and people.--Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan
This is an important book that should be read by every Jew who is proud that Judaism has no missionaries, yet still encourages and welcomes all non-Jews who want to join us in building a peaceful pluralistic world of transnational religious communities.--Rabbi Allen S. Maller, editor of Makhzor Tikunay Nefashot
Lawrence Epstein has written a fascinating, essential book about conversion--its history, the whys and hows, current issues, and why we need to encourage it. This book is must-reading for anyone thinking about conversion, anyone who has converted, Jewish professionals, and all other Jews!--Rabbi Carol Levithan, The Rabbinical Assembly
With this book, Lawrence Epstein has presented us with two amazing gifts: an accurate portrayal of Judaism's positive history of conversion and a hopeful and practical depiction of how conversion can save the future of the North American Jewish community.--Stephen A. Karol, rabbi emeritus, Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook, New York
Combining scholarship, compassion, and lucid prose, this book illuminates Jewish communal policies regarding would-be Jews throughout history. Epstein's work will serve as a critical framework for all present and future discussions regarding conversion.--Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue
Who knew that Sammy Davis Jr. was a convert to Judaism who refused to perform on Yom Kippur, or that Ivanka Trump converted when she married Jared Kushner in 2009? Epstein provides a fascinating read about the various people who have converted to Judaism over centuries, and the circumstances of their conversions. Many of those converts faced extreme reactions: the family of Warder Cresson, for example, had him committed to a mental institution in 1848. Epstein organizes material into eight chapters, covering different historical periods, from converts mentioned in the Bible up to modern conversion in the United States and Israel. Each chapter contains anecdotes, reflections from rabbinical authorities of the period, and discussion of the clashing viewpoints on conversion among Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews. Concluding with a chapter on lessons from this history, Epstein admits he is strongly in favor of conversion. 'This is especially crucial in a Jewish age marked by increased intermarriage and increased assimilation, ' he writes. Superbly researched and insightful, Epstein's work takes readers on an enlightening journey through Jewish history.--Publishers Weekly
Epstein has long taught and written about conversion to Judaism. He points out that, from its beginning. After all, Adam and Eve weren't Jews, nor was anyone else before Abraham converted by God and thereafter obliged to convert Sarah and others. The eight pithy chapters of this very compact overview trace the fortunes of conversion to Judaism to the present, when it has again become a mission for many Jews, after a long time in modernity during which it was commonly accepted that one couldn't be a Jew unless one's mother was a Jew. Epstein points out, however, that Jews are often uncomfortable with the word mission because of its strong association with a Christianity that coerced conversion to it. . . .[A] good primer on a little-known reality.--Booklist
A warmly narrated story not only about Judaism's history of giyur (proselytism or conversion), but also the evolutionary development of the Hebrew people as Jews. Epstein, a professor emeritus from Suffolk County Community College, has a publishing record reflecting Jewish thought and culture. While not sourced directly in the text, the book's collection of references found at the end will assist the reader in learning the history of converts to Judaism from Ruth in biblical times to the present and the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis, Jr. In each of the eight chapters, Epstein through the use of anecdotes and rabbinic thought and commentary, supplemented by discussions, covers the debates within the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox communities regarding the advisability and opposition to conversion. This is a good contribution for a synagogue library that has an interested audience from young adults to adults, interested or somehow involved with the intricacies of the history of Judaism and the role of conversion in it. Similarly, the wealth of information provided would serve any Chavurah (Fellowship) a treasure trove of topics.--Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews