Reform Judaism enhances conversion classes with distance learning

Reform Judaism is launching an innovative online learning programme for conversion candidates. The fortnightly classes will begin in April.

The online sessions, to be led by Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, will complement regular classes arranged and taught in synagogue communities. They will benefit students living in remote areas or smaller communities and those who might be constrained by illness or disability. Students will have the support of a sponsoring rabbi and it is expected that all candidates participate in some form of local Jewish community activities and services.

Before the candidates appear before the Beit Din they must have attended in person a number of Shabbat services and all the main festivals at an established Reform congregation.

Watching and participating in streamed services, especially with a local group, is also beneficial; however, except for in exceptional circumstances, this cannot be seen as a substitute for personal attendance.

Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, Convenor of the Reform Beit Din said: “Reform Judaism welcomes potential converts to Judaism with compassion, combining modernity with Jewish tradition.

“In the past we have exceptionally conducted Beit Din hearings by Skype and I am delighted that we are able to expand the boundaries of inclusion in this innovative way.

“Nevertheless, Judaism is a communal tradition and it is vital that candidates can also be present in a community to experience the reading of the Torah, hear the shofar, feel the changing atmosphere of the services through the day on Yom Kippur, wave a lulav and experience a Passover Seder.”