Advice about contacting rabbis to discuss conversion

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
Hi! Do you have any advice re: contacting a rabbi to discuss [reform] conversion? I am disabled and struggle with a lot of anxiety (especially around communicating clearly and needing accommodations!) Please let me know if you’d rather I message you off anon. Thank you and have a great day <3

Realsocialskills said:

A few things (this is US-centric advice; it’s somewhat different in other countries):

The short version: Send them an email, say you’re interested in conversion, and ask to meet with them. If you can’t find their email on the synagogue website, there will probably be a general office email — email that and say you want to meet with the rabbi about conversion. (If you’re a college student, you might want to start with the Hillel rabbi, but you don’t have to.)

Probably what will happen next is that they’ll set a time to meet with you. Probably what will happen at that meeting is that they’ll ask why you’re interested, along with general getting-to-know-you kinds of questions. They’ll also probably want to know if you’re dating anyone, and they may want reassurance that you understand that Judaism is not a form of Christianity.  

They’re likely to tell you to take an introduction to Judaism class, through their synagogue or through a local organization. Not everyone does this, but it’s really common. Conversion almost always takes at least a year, in part to make sure that prospective converts have a clear sense of what they’re getting into.

There’s a myth that rabbis tell you to go away three times — *some* Orthodox rabbis do that, but it’s *really* uncommon in liberal movements. I know a lot of rabbis, and none of the rabbis I know would do that. You don’t have to prove your worthiness, and you don’t have to be sure what you want. 

It’s ok to feel anxious and uncomfortable. Most people do when considering conversion, especially when making first contact.

In terms of needing accommodations — there’s a *huge* range of where Jewish communities are in terms of accessibility (I’m working on improving this). I can’t tell you what your particular community is like, or how they’ll regard disability. (One thing I can say is that Jewish conversation patterns are different than the mainstream, and some people find them intrinsically more accessible. But again, I can’t say what your experiences will be access-wise.)

Also, religious descriptions of Judaism and books written for people considering conversion can sometimes be misleading about what communities are actually like. One way to learn some of the things those sources don’t cover well is to look at Jewish humor. This huge set of Jewish jokes may help.