Is It Way Too Expensive To Become A Jew?

Income correlates with IQ. Why would Judaism want people who can’t keep up financially? They will more likely be a drain on communal resources. As a convert to Orthodox Judaism, I’m glad that converting to Judaism is hard. It keeps the quality of converts at a high level. In Los Angeles, most of those who convert to Orthodox Judaism are still observant of the Sabbath after five years.

Bethany Mandel writes:

In the world of Orthodox converts, there’s an apocryphal tale of a convert who, upon balking at the cost of conversion, was told by their conversion rabbi, “If you can’t afford this expense, you won’t be able to afford being Jewish.” What is even more disappointing than the fact that becoming Jewish has (for many) a prohibitively large price tag, is that this conversion rabbi had a point: If you can’t afford a $500 fee for the Beit Din, you’re unlikely to be able to afford Jewish life.

The cost of being an Orthodox Jew is famously astronomical. Recently for the Times of Israel, an anonymous American father of four wrote about how his family “does Jewish” for $40,000 a year. It’s an astronomically large sum for most non-Jews to consider — and a paltry amount for anyone in the Modern Orthodox world the father occupies.

But what people don’t realize is that for converts, the financial burden of Orthodoxy is sometimes simply too much to bear. Five years ago, Orthodox convert Skylar Bader wrote a similar story on her blog. In a post called “Why Being An Orthodox Jew Is Expensive,” Bader listed the high costs assocated with taking on observant Jewish life. Outside of standard costs like a nominal mikveh fee and a few hundred dollar honorarium for the rabbis on the Beit Din, those converting to Orthodox Judaism must purchase all new dishes, pots and pans, move to and then live in a Jewish community, and purchase ritual objects like mezuzahs and tefillin for men.

In addition to the expected expenses associated with secular Jews becoming Orthodox, converts often face the added expense of paying for tutoring out of pocket. While outreach (kiruv) organizations exist to teach secular Jews about observance with the hopes of steering them towards an Orthodox lifestyle, these options are not offered to non-Jews hoping to become Jewish, and are usually limited to those who are already Jewish. Those in the conversion process are often forced to pay out of pocket for classes and one-on-one tutoring. While the time of those tutoring is of value, converts, already buckling under the weight of the thousands of dollars required to adopt an Orthodox Jewish life, are unable to pay up for additional tutoring, which is often required.

A lot of Jews would love to be Modern Orthodox but they can’t afford it. I think the Modern Orthodox have the highest average IQ.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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