Page 90 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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LAWRENCE J . EPSTEIN
Conversion to Judaism: A Guide to
Books in English
I
n t e r e s t
in
c o n v e r s io n
to Judaism is growing. A great deal
of the interest has emerged because of the rise in intermarriage
among Jews. Many non-Jewish partners in intermarriages have
converted to Judaism, greatly increasing the number of con­
verts. Conversion has, in this sense, been identified as a means
to prevent an intermarriage (if the non-Jewish partner converts
prior to the marriage) or as a remedy to intermarriage (if the
conversion takes place after the marriage). Much sociological,
educational, and autobiographical literature has been produced
that makes conversion an adjunct to the question of intermar­
riage.
However, interest in conversion has also emerged independ­
ently of intermarriage. Many people are converting to Judaism
because of a spiritual experience independent of any romantic
attachment. Additionally, conversion’s historical place in Jewish
thought and history is being re-examined. One reason for this
re-examination is that the rebirth of Israel has focused attention
on the appropriate role and mission of the Jewish people in
the world as a “light unto the nations.”
The examination of that historic mission has included con­
sideration of the role of welcoming converts to Judaism. In ad­
dition, the rebirth of Israel has brought increased attention to
the historical era of the Second Temple, when Israel last had
national sovereignty. That was an era when there were very
large numbers of converts to Judaism, so the subject inevitably
is included in studies of ancient Israel.
Despite this recent increase in interest, the literature on con­
version to Judaism is sometimes difficult to locate and not always
accurate or stylistically graceful. There are some excellent ma­
terials available and, no doubt, more will emerge. Part of the
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