ETHNIC DISTINCTIONS IN CONVERSION-APTITUDES INDIRECTLY AFFIRM
Where did the converts come from? The conversion process. Why do non-Jewish people in Israel convert? Ethnic distinctions in conversion. The influences of religious upbringing as well as ancestry. What does the future hold?
“Brit-Am Israel” has no official doctrine regarding conversion. Unofficially, the sources indicate that the Lost Ten Tribes will return and re-accept the Mosaic Code. They will do this apparently as national or tribal groupings rather than as individuals. We do not advocate private conversion to Judaism and have no involvement with it one way or another, - and that’s the way we want it. Private conversions do however occur and the interview below shows that “Brit-Am Israel” beliefs are affirmed by certain characteristics of those applying for conversion.
Whatever your religious views, if you are sympathetic to Brit-Am Israelite Identity belief, the following article contains information and opinions worth considering.
In this article, a Rabbinical Authority in Israel is interviewed and says that people of North European descent (and especially from Holland, North England, and Scotland) make the best converts and that these converts must have had “Jewish” (or “Israelite”) ancestors.
MR is a retired Rabbi who for many years worked for the Governmental Religious Ministry. MR is well known and was involved in interviewing and guiding prospective converts to Judaism. His opinions are of great interest and his observations are highly relevant to our own researches. He opines that the best converts (and at one stage the largest number) come from areas which we believe to have been settled by Lost Tribes of Israel. He also believes that these converts must have had some ancestral connection to Israel. His observations are subjective ones based on years of experience. A scientific survey would almost certainly substantiate his views. Note that this interview was conducted a few years back and that MR had already retired some time before that.Nowadays conditions have changed somewhat. A great many converts to Judaism in the State of Israel now come from Russia, the Ukrtaine, and similar areas. A good portion of them are already partly Jewish. A person who today held a position parallel to that once occupied by MR may well have a different set of experiences to base opinion upon. Note also that the views expressed are those of the person interviewed and not necessarily those of “Brit-Am”. MR is very cultured and knowledgeable and expresses himself very well but English is not his mother tongue and this occasionally may have influenced his mode of expression. The following interview was conducted and recorded by Yair Davidiy on behalf of Brit-Am.
“You had people interested in Judaism from very many countries. You had many people who came from Great Britain... Scotland. You had many people from Germany... Many people from Holland and the Scandinavian countries, Finland...”
Where Did the Converts Come From?
MR Introduces himself
<< My name is MR. I am now retired, but for many years I was a teacher for classes in Judaism. The people who came to these classes were interested in conversion, in [becoming a] “ger”, like Abraham was, -“one who comes to live”. A true convert is called a “ger tzedek” [“a righteous sojourner”], a true convert. The people were told that these [classes] were simply classes for those interested in Judaism, to learn about Judaism, but many of the participants in these classes later applied for conversion. The Conversion process was then conducted by the Beit Din (by the “Rabbinut”) in the various towns. We were just the teachers. We were not the converting Rabbis. We had no converting authority. Over the years we had many, many hundreds, maybe thousands [of pupils] who passed through this institution. You had people interested in Judaism from very many countries. You had many people who came from Great Britain, [and from] Scotland. You had many people from Germany. -It is interesting that there were less from France. - Many people from Holland and the Scandinavian countries, Finland, etc., etc.
MR Describes The Conversion Process
“There is absolutely no need to be a Jew”
<<Usually [amongst] the greater part of these people ...there were more women than men, on the whole. Of course, they were always told that there is no need to be a Jew. In the Opening Session, we would begin by trying to convince them that there is absolutely no need to be a Jew. In order to have the ability to approach God, to pray to God, or to find favor or grace in the eyes of God, there is no need to be Jewish. This was said at the very beginning! This was repeated always! This was hammered in! On the other hand, you could be a very worthy person, without being Jewish. On the contrary, we are full of respect for a good Christian...Whatever the case, it is obviously much better to be a good Christian than a bad Jew.
<<Slowly they were introduced. There are no secrets, and they were introduced [to Judaism]. There is a lot to learn. Judaism is based on learning. Judaism is definitely based on learning. It is demanded of the would-be converts to have knowledge of Judaism in order to conduct their own life and household according to the Laws and Precepts. Study, the ability to study Torah, is a necessary requirement of Judaism. The conversion process is not so much a declaration of faith as it is the proof that you have assimilated a very large body of knowledge with the idea of practicing [the Laws and Precepts] -that is, not only theoretical knowledge. Therefore [because of this requirement of acquiring knowledge] a course like our own took up to a year. By the way, we did not accept anybody into this course unless he or she had [been] already a year in the country. Because we felt that it would otherwise be unfair unless the person understood what Jewish or Israeli society is. The person had to undergo a language-training course to acquire a fair knowledge of Hebrew. Another very important requirement was that the person had to find himself an already observant family, where he would be invited, and [who] would actually in a sense “adopt” him: The idea being to see how to observe Judaism in the way it is practiced in the family. This family became like an “adoptive” family, they had to sponsor him, and in the end the candidate had to come with a member of the family before the Rabbinical Court which is comprised of at least three Rabbinical Judges. The family had to sponsor him, they had to vouch for him.... So, in this way many hundreds even thousands passed [through this process].
Why do non-Jewish People in Israel Convert?
“It was not so much the theological aspect...”
<<Many ...did it for reasons of marriage. Although according to the Law, to Jewish law, the desire to get married to a Jewish partner is not a reason to convert. On the contrary, it is a reason not to convert. The fact is that for many this was the reason, due to the marriage partner [being Jewish]. maybe it was the conclusion of family-pressure from the other side. There were also people who had passed through Kibbutzim or who had worked in Moshavim [co-operative farming settlements] and were then attracted by a certain warmth which is peculiar to Israeli society. A person does not remain a stranger, you understand, if he is anywhere a long enough time and then a bond is created to the society, to the people, to the nation of Israel. No doubt the fact that Israel is a country “under siege” also contributed to the idea of Identification. There are many reasons. It was not so much the theological aspect, as the essential warmth that they experienced whether it was from the Kibbutz society or society in general. It was easy for them to make friends. This was no doubt an important point for many of them.
<<So this is it, these are the basics. [These are] the reasons why so many came, Israeli society was attractive to them. At the beginning they felt, well, it is a secular society and maybe they could fit in very well. Only later when they came to conversion they maybe understood that [the] demands are in fact very strict, very severe, and yet most of them did in fact persevere.
OK, maybe you have questions at this point?
ARE THERE DIFFERENCES?
ETHNIC DISTINCTIONS IN CONVERSION?
“Converts who come from ‘northern countries’ ...have a much greater affinity with Judaism.... By ‘northern’ I mean Scotland, Holland, Scandinavian countries”
Brit-Am : What perhaps would interest our readers, are ethnic distinctions. Did you see any differences in ethnic distribution amongst the people concerned?
Answer : Look, I would say definitely that the people, the converts who come from “northern countries” (let’s put it that way), have a much greater affinity with Judaism than let us say people who come from the east and from southern countries. For example, we had very, very few from Italy, maybe more [but few from] the Balkans. Of course now we have the case of Russians, which is a different story, in itself. From Slavic countries there were very few. There is a definite preponderance of people from “Northern” countries. By “northern” I mean Scotland, Holland, Scandinavian countries: These definitely have greater [affinity]. The conversion process is more natural to them than it is to either Latin or even Slavic people. Definitely yes, this is definitely so, this is correct. We did have from time to time, usually for marriage purposes, we had candidates from the Far East, but very few on the whole.
There was a difficulty. On the whole we can also say that people who came from a good Christian background had less of a problem as compared to people who came from, let us say, an atheistic or non-religious environment.
Brit-Am : Did you not once [before this interview] say that Dutch people had an affinity for Judaism?
Answer : Yes of course, this has to do with the Bible, with the affinity for what they call the “Old” Testament, definitely.
“There were quite a number of Scottish people. ... They were amongst the best candidates. Also the Dutch and the Northern English”.
Brit-Am : What about the Scottish and Irish?
Answer : The Scots, yes. There were not too many Irish, not too many Irish, no. But there were quite a number of Scottish people. One must say that they were amongst the best candidates. Also the Dutch and the Northern English.
The Influences of Religious Upbringing As Well As Ancestry
“The basic concepts of religion are the same”
Brit-Am : Was there any difference in sociological abilities to adapt?
Answer : Look, again, the more religious the upbringing the person has [the better it is]. The basic concepts of religion are the same. There is more observance, maybe, in Judaism BUT the basic concepts are very similar, identical. I would say not only similar, but identical. [Likewise] In ethical behavior, in ethical externally related behavior, in family-oriented behavior.
Brit-Am : Amongst these people with whom you had contact, these prospective converts, did many of them believe they had some type of Jewish ancestry?
Answer : An interesting question, that’s an interesting question. There are many of them who claim that a grandmother told them something. [These types of proofs are usually] very flimsy, cannot prove anything but they claim that a grandmother told them something.
“A desire or affinity...There must be something in them. Otherwise it could not happen”
Brit-Am : Did any of them claim, not necessarily that they had Jewish ancestry, but that they were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes, or something like that?
Answer : I have never heard of this, no. I can say that the urge to become Jewish [is ancestral]. One can say in a definite way that the average Gentile does not want to convert. I mean, there is no need for it, but he does not want it [anyway]. On the contrary, he is very much put off by it [-the idea of conversion]. You can say that [concerning] those who have a desire or affinity [to convert that] there must be something in them. Otherwise it could not happen.
Brit-Am : In the light of your own experiences what implications do you see for the future? And knowing Brit-Am beliefs about the Lost Ten Tribes having migrated to Western Europe, do you see any implications?
Answer : The implications are that the barriers that used to exist between Jews and Gentiles have come down considerably. The barriers are much lower than they once were. It is much easier today, than it was. There is a two-fold reason. One is that Israel is again a national entity. That is attractive. The second reason is that, for appearances’ sake only, Israel appears as a secular country, therefore the barriers are lower. Also, of course [there is] a weakness of religion in the home country.
“One of the reasons [for conversion]:…There is Jewish blood there!”
Brit-Am : Do you have any thoughts in the light of your own experiences, regarding our claims that the Lost Ten Tribes went specifically to places in West Europe?
Answer : We know from historical sources that the Roman legions who took part in a war against Judea over many, many years took with them, into captivity, slaves and Jewish women. No doubt through slavery, through [the offspring of] intercourse with Jewish women, etc., tens of thousand, maybe millions, came as settlers to northern Europe, came to Germany, [etc] This may be one of the reasons from whence this Jewish blood [evident in conversion] came.
Brit-Am : You would say therefore that whatever the historical explanations are...?
Answer : There is Jewish blood there!
Brit-Am :Of the people with whom you had contact, how many would you say were genuine?
Answer : Genuine converts? Look, we mentioned the fact that many converted for marriage reasons, OK? But eventually they learn and they become genuine afterwards. Also many of them would like to assimilate into a secular Israeli society and not a religious observant society, right? There is a big difference. But there are many genuine conversions. If you want me to estimate, as to how many become “geri-tsedek”, righteous converts, I would say fifteen per cent.
What Does the Future Hold?
“We are coming very rapidly to a point of coming together again... This is really the Messianic process”.
Brit-Am : Just out of interest, for the record, what is your own reaction to those my Brit-Am publications that you have seen?
Answer : I think it is wonderful. I think it is very inspiring. There is no doubt that we are coming very rapidly to a point of coming together again, before there was a... divergence. Jews were exiled ...and Christianity spread among heathen tribes, as it were. Today, there is a renewed interest. We are living in a period when we can come together again. Before there was a movement away from the Holy Land. Today, there is a renewed interest, a searching for roots and so forth, and coming together. This is really the Messianic process.
Brit-Am : Do you think there is any room for the Jewish authorities to open up to them?
Answer : To open up to them? NO. It is not done. It is not good. Even the Prophetic pronouncements never speak about conversion. They only say that they [the nations] will respect Israel. THOSE WHO ARE FROM THE LOST TEN TRIBES, MAYBE YES, BUT THAT IS ALREADY A DIVINE PROCESS, which we do not know. If you take Isaiah 2 as a model, it also says that many will come to the Mountain of the LORD but not for conversion purposes. That the teaching will go forth from Jerusalem, -yes; but not for conversion.
Comment: The ideas of MR are his own and are not those we agree with on all points. Yair Davidy was born Jewish though during his years in Israel he did happen to come in contact with quite a few converts to Judaism. These converts were mainly from Western Europe. All believed that they themselves might have some degree of Jewish ancestry. Nearly all of them were open to the possibility that the Lost Ten Tribes went to Western Europe and for some of them this was one of the motivating factors in their conversion. This point is perhaps at variance somewhat with one of the expressed impressions of MR. Compared to to the numbers MR dealt with, Yair Davidy’s impression is based on an acquaintance with relatively very few cases. It may be that those whom Yair met were exceptional. On the other hand this type of idea is the kind one would usually be inclined to keep to oneself and only if questioned closely to express it.
Conclusion: From the above and from other sources we can see that Israelite ancestry to some degree is a factor in Conversion to Judaism. Until recently most converts and the best ones came from “Brit-Am” areas and therefore the knowledge that these areas are those of Israelite ancestry is reinforced.
Brit-Am is not in favor of converting non-Jews to Judaism
For a discussion of this matter, see:
1. Thomas Gray: Brit-Am has "a callous disregard"?
Why Not Convert LTTs to Judaism?
(a) Christianity is a Tool of Divine Providence
(b) No Need to Become Jewish
(c) Some Do Become Jewish
(d) The Tribal Aspect
(e) The Messianic Aspect
(f) Personal Limitations