Choosing a Jewish Life

Title: Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends
Published by: Schocken
Release Date: 1997, 2016 updated and revised
Pages: 236
ISBN13: 978-0805210958
Buy the Book: AmazonBookshop


Choosing a Jewish Life helps you understand the extraordinary journey of self-discovery and of spiritual and intellectual growth that converstion to Judaism can and should be.

Recommended by educators and rabbis, and required reading in many classes for those considering conversion, Choosing a Jewish Life contains information and advice about selecting a rabbi, a synagogue, a denomination, and a Hebrew name; it explains what happens at a mikveh (ritual bath) and offers guidance on finding your footing in the Jewish community, religion and “tribe;” it addresses concerns about relationships with your family of origin.

Choosing a Jewish Life anticipates questions, doubts, and concerns, provides a comprehensive explanation of the rules and rituals of conversion, and discusses the process of creating an authentic Jewish identity.

Now available as an audiobook!


“As a rabbi and convert, I appreciate this book for its sensitivity to the complex feelings of those who are exploring paths to becoming Jewish. I will give it to every interfaith couple, and recommend that they give it to their parents.”
—Rachel Cowan, Co-author of Mixed Blessings

—Dru Greenwood, Director, Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

“Will deeply enrich the journey of anyone who is converting to Judaism.”
—Rabbi David Woznica, Director, Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at the 92nd Street Y


From the Introduction

When I first fell in love with Jim, I realized that I’d found a life-partner, someone with whom I could imagine having a family. But that prospect made me suddenly aware of my need to transmit a sense of Jewishness to any child we might have.

. . . Unlike my parents and grandparents, I could not impart a purely ethnic and historical Jewishness to my child. I would have to teach her how to be a Jew on my own terms. But what were my terms? What Judaism could I — American-born and Jewishly illiterate — pass on? How could I become a link in this chain, authentically and honestly?

In search of answers, I began to study and to make a few tentative forays into Jewish practice. Jim not only supported me, he joined me.

When Jim and I started talking about a wedding date, he made an appointment with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner to discuss the possibility of conversion. Because in the process of my Jewish explorations, Jim had found a spiritual and communal home for himself.

Jim’s conversion curriculum became part of my remedial Jewish education. We met with the rabbi regularly and read the books he assigned. We attended an “Introduction to Judaism” course with about 100 other people, and made our first attempt at learning Hebrew. As we planned our wedding, we discovered the joyful wisdom of Jewish ritual.

One week later, we were married under a huppah — a wedding canopy — made out of a prayer shawl that was my wedding gift to him.

There were really two new-minted Jews under that canopy. Were it not for Jim’s conversion I wonder if I would have ever asked myself, What kind of a Jew am I? Had I not met Jim, I wonder if I would have ever discovered Shabbat or begun my forever- ongoing Jewish studies. Had I not met Jim, I doubt I would have written a book about Jewish weddings, or Jewish baby rituals, or Jewish family life. I certainly would not have written this book.