Orthodox Conversion Programs In Los Angeles Working Well

According to what I hear, all of the Orthodox conversion programs in Los Angeles boast better than a 90% success rate (when success is measured by its converts staying Sabbath-observant after becoming Jewish).

I’ve not encountered an Orthodox rabbi in Los Angeles who works with conversions who has more than a couple of regrets (converts who did not live up to their Jewish pledges).

I’ve never even heard of any rabbi in Los Angeles assisting with conversions because of bribes. According to what I know, all the conversion programs are run by the book aka according to Jewish law and are run with integrity.

Before the conversion controversy in Israel 18-months ago, the Los Angeles Beit Din converted about 100 people a year. Now it’s about 30 a year.

Rabbi Avrohom Union with the RCC runs the toughest conversion program in town, graduating about 30 people a year into Jewish status. This conversion is accepted around the Jewish world as is Rabbi Gavriel Cohen‘s but he only converts half a dozen a year.

Rabbi Cohen in Beverly Hills charges about $5,000 per conversion. The RCC and the LA Beit Din charge about $600 each (not counting tutoring).

Rabbi Gavriel Cohen emails: “Dear Sir: Please some corrections – if you calculate classes and fees of any beth din they come out to be between $3000 and $5000 which most of the time we come out charging less than either amount when the candidate is advanced in commitment and knowledge. We have done for free and minimal amounts for many of our services depending on the situation.”

Conversion to Judaism is not a money-maker for any of the Orthodox programs in Los Angeles. About the only consistent cash cow for Beit Dins (Jewish law courts) is kashrut. Many of the people coming for a divorce, for instance, are broke.

Who converts to Orthodox Judaism in Los Angeles? About a third of these converts have Jewish fathers and grew up thinking they were Jewish. About half of conversions have something to do with marriage. More people convert because they are already married to a Jew than convert to marry a Jew.

More than 90% of would-be converts who are not serious about observing Jewish law leave the process voluntarily within six months as they realize what Jewish law and Orthodox community demands.

About 25% of Orthodox converts in LA started with Reform and/or Conservative conversions and decided to get more traditional.

A small group of converts were adopted as children by Jewish parents.

Many people who try to convert are Christians who want to infiltrate Jewish life. It becomes obvious in their conversion applications and in their initial interviews. I don’t know of any Christians who have made it through an Orthodox conversion program in Los Angeles.

Christian clergy sometimes convert sincerely to Orthodox Judaism, but their conversions tend to take a lot longer because their Christianity is so deeply ingrained. One 19th Century commentator (R. Yosef Shaul HaLevi Nathanson) said that priests who convert should never speak publicly in shul because their speech is so shaped by their Christian backgrounds.

I’ve had a lot of first-hand experience with conversion programs in Reform, Conservative (Ohev Shalom in Orlando and AJU in LA) and Orthodox Judaism. They were all run with integrity. They were sometimes tougher than I thought necessary.

Some people have mental disabilities and still successfully complete the Orthodox conversion process in Los Angeles. Rabbi Abner Weiss converted several of these people. They remain observant Jews and part of the Orthodox community.

What percentage of Modern Orthodox day school graduates stay Orthodox? A little more than 50% in my estimation. So the conversion programs in Los Angeles are far more effective at producing Orthodox Jews than YULA or Shalhevet.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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