Since we are half way through our series, now is a great time for those converting to Judaism to do a few things.
First, you’ll need to choose your Hebrew name. I put Hebrew in bold because often people will think they are choosing a “Jewish” name and will pick names as far ranging as Mitzy, Pearl, Harold and Greg (yes – I had someone ask for Greg to be their Hebrew name).
So Hebrew names are in…you guessed it…Hebrew.
The Hebrew name has three parts: first name, middle name, and a last name that is already given to you.
First and middle name are entirely up to you. They need to be a Hebrew name, or word. Kveller’s baby name finder is great for this as well as a Hebrew dictionary. Check with Rabbi Patrick to make sure the name you want is…well…actually the name you want! Think “fake Asian tattoos from the 90’s”.
The given last name is ben (son of) or bat (daughter of) Avraham v’ Sarah (Abraham and Sarah). Example: Adam Aleph ben Avraham v’Sarah is Rabbi my (Rabbi Patrick’s) Hebrew name.
Note: some people choose a different last name pattern, such as their parents names Hebraicized or names of a man and a woman who have some significance to them. For example, if you like the stories of Moses and you had an aunt named Ruth who you really loved, you might choose the name “ben Moshe v’ Rut” or “son of Moses and Ruth.” Whichever you choose is up to you. I recommend Ben/Bat Avraham v’Sarah because it connects you to the ancestry of the Jewish people and to others who converted.
The group of rabbis, cantors and lay Jews you’ll meet with before conversion is called a bet din, which literally means “house of judgement” and couldn’t be any more opposite! This is just a group who gets to know you and signs your fancy conversion certificate. You can’t “fail” the bet din, so please do not be nervous. You’ll be asked questions like “what is your favorite holiday” or “what is your favorite Jewish food” or “is there a character in the Bible who is meaningful to you and why?”
Once you have met with the bet din, you’ll have your mikvah experience. This is detailed terrifically by the mikvah Mayyim Hayyim in Newton, MA.
By the way, the mikvah can be used for more than conversion.
The mikvah usually takes place Friday afternoons. See why below!
The celebration for a conversion takes place the Shabbat evening or morning after your mikvah day. Depending on the type of Shabbat experience, you can offer to read a poem, to bring special food, to sponsor the event financially, sing a song, or simply just be present. People will shower love on you, big time.
A Special Note During COVID-19
In these unprecedented times, conversion ritual and celebration is made more complicated. Every effort is taken to provide as meaningful an experience as possible. Please speak with Rabbi Patrick about specific changes to conversion and what that impacts.