Friday, January 22, 2010

A Curriculum for Conversion to Judaism

I've been asked to post my curriculum for potential converts to Judaism. It's a curriculum I developed under the guidance of Rabbi Herschel Solnica, z"l, and I used versions of it in training several people who ended up converting to Judaism. [Note: This is formatted for Firefox, and does not show up well in Internet Explorer.]

I am posting a digest here, but please note that every teacher should tailor every curriculum for every student, and that is certainly true for conversion candidates. This is just a skeleton.

Also, please note that all potential gerim first read through Chumash and discussed it with me, and read several other books, before embarking on this curriculum.

I. Evolution of Torah

A. Pre-Sinai

B. Sinai (and why Verbal and Written)

C. Through the second Temple

D. Writing down the Verbal Tradition

E. End of Ordination; new calendar

F. Mishnah/Gemara/Savoraim

G. Gaonic System

H. Crusades, Rishonim

I. Expulsion, Acharonim

II. Shabbat

A. Zachor - Remember

1. Kiddush

2. Havdalah

3. Kvod Shabbat

4. Oneg Shabbat

5. The Shabbat meal, Singing

B. Shamor - Protect

1. Definition of Melachah (task) (Mishkan) (method and goal)

2. DeOrayta – Biblical prohibitions - Avot (Central Categories) and Toldot (sub-categories)

3. DeRabbanan – Rabbinic prohibitions

4. Muktzeh – Items which are “set aside” from Shabbat use

5. Cooking on Shabbat

6. ‘MiMtzo Cheftzecha veDaber Davar’ – ‘Not to pursue your needs, or speak your speech’

7. Tirchah - Strain

8. Transport between areas on Shabbat

9. Techum

C. Shul (Musaf, Keriat haTorah)

III. Holidays

A. Sanctity of Time

1. Sanhedrin sanctifies time; 'Tikriu Atem'

2. Each day has a defined nature, annually; time is spiral, not linear

3. Re-experienced; 'L’harot et atzmo'

B. Calendar

1. The court-designated New Moon - Kiddush haChodesh Al Pi Beit Din

2. The old system of Signals

3. S’feika deYoma - The doubtful day

4. Birkat haChodesh - Blessing the new month

5. Kiddush Levanah - Celebrating the new month

6. Ibbur haShanah - Intercalating Adar 2

7. Hillel II and others cementing the calendar

C. Joyous celebrations

1. Rosh Chodesh

2. Rosh haShanah

3. Yom Kippur

4. Succot, Hoshanah Rabbah

5. Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

6. Chanukah

7. Tu biShvat – Tax day – beginning of fiscal year

8. Purim, Purim Katan in a leap year

9. Pesach, Pesach Sheni

10. The Omer, and Lag baOmer

11. Shavuot

12. Tu b’Av

D. Fast days

1. Tzom Gedaliah (Fast of Gedaliah)

2. Yom Kippur

3. Asarah beTevet (10th of Tevet)

4. Taanit Ester (Fast of Esther)

5. Taanit Bechorim (Fast of the First-born)

6. Shivah Asar beTammuz (17th of Tammuz), the 3 Weeks

7. Tishah be’Av (9th of Av)

8. Yom Kippur Katan

9. The “BeHaB” Cycle

IV. Keeping Kosher – (Reading assignments here)

A. Kosher entities

B. Non-Kosher parts of kosher entitites

C. Methods of absorption of taste

D. Mixtures of meat and milk

E. Bugs, and Bliah from bugs

F. Notein Taam and Taam Lifgam, and kosher equipment

1. Halachic reality and Practical reality

2. Why not just have one pot and wait 24 hours?

G. Fish and meat

H. Kashering Utensils and Ovens

I. Areas of difficulty

1. Sink

2. Microwave

3. Dishwasher

4. Guests, Housekeepers

J. Waiting between dairy and meat

K. Tithing

L. Other produce issues

1. Insects

2. Arlah [First 3 years of a tree]

3. Kilayim [Mixed species]

4. Yashan/Chadash [Using the new year's grain]

5. Challah [Tithing dough]

6. Shemitah [The Sabbatical Year]

M. Gezeirot MiShum Shmad - rabbinic sumptuary laws

N. Tevillat Kelim - immersing kitchen equipment

O. What is a “reliable Hechsher?”

V. Kosher Speech

A. Slander

1. Motzi Shem Ra - Lies

2. Lashon haRa - Truth

3. LeToelet - Justifications

B. Sheker, and Shalom Bayit [Lying for peace] exceptions

C. Onaah - Oppression

1. Fraud

2. Causing pain

D. Lifnei Iver - Causing the blind to stumble

1. Meisit - Inducing sin

2. Misayeia - Aiding sin

3. Lifnei Iver - Triggering sin

VI. Blessings

A. After eating

B. Before eating

C. On forms of benefit other than eating

D. Other blessings

1. Asher Yatzar - After using the washroom

2. Oseh Maaseh Bereishit - Recognizing Divine Creation

VII. Laws of Family Purity

VIII. Jewish Philosophy

A. Who is Gd?

B. What is the Torah?

1. Development of Torah (Spoken, verbal)

2. The Mitzvah of Torah study

C. Roles of Jews and non-Jews

D. Reward and punishment in this world and the next

E. Individual and Community

F. Roles of men and women

G. Evolution and Creationism

H. Mashiach


  1. Wonderful.
    Perhaps you can convince your chaverim at the Beis Din of Toronto, whose giyur standards are nothing less than draconian (their 500-question test includes demai) to adopt your curriculum. (See what I wrote about them here:
    and here:

    Good luck.

  2. This brings back memories. Dragon once showed me this while she was working through you.

  3. Thanks for posting this. Remarkably similar to what I seem to recall seeing years ago from Rav Herbert Bomzer.

  4. I wonder how many of our yeshivot and day schools are as thorough as this -- all of us could benefit from your well-planned and carefully developed curriculum.

  5. AddeRabbi-
    Thanks for commenting. I definitely think people who would be Jewish should learn about demai, but no, I wouldn't put it on an exam.

    R' Mordechai-
    Interesting. I've never met him, but I know a couple of his gerim.

    Anonymous 12:04 PM-

  6. I love the name of your blog and this post hit my email because I have a google alert tracking anything on the Internet about "conversion to Judaism." I am myself a convert. As well as a so-called "Rebbetzin-in-training (wheels)." Thanks for sharing your curriculum.

  7. Hello Aliza,

    Thanks for visiting, and for your comments. I don't have a set reading list, although I do recommend a few books for people who come to me with general interest in Judaism. I go with the classics for general background: Chumash, The Source, To Be a Jew, occasionally Jewish Literacy.
    Good luck in your 'training'!

  8. something happened to the code. This page is nearly unreadable

  9. UPDATE - while the page doesn't work in Internet Explorer, in Firefox it's fine.

  10. Anonymous - Thank you for catching that. I'll add a note at the top; maybe when I have a moment I'll create a downloadable file of the curriculum as well.

  11. there should be public list of rabbis who use potential converts as slaves for years with no intent of ever converting them. This should be public. I am sure lots of people are aware of this scandal but no one says anything. In my experience this is what about 50% percentage of converts go through.--especially guys. the pretty girls usually have an easier time of it for some strange reason.
    I could say right now two places to stay clear from.

  12. I'm not at all sure that studying the Christian doctrine of "Creationism" makes for a better Jew ... except perhaps as a negative example of how not to think.