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JST 552: Conversion to Judaism from the Bible to the Present

This class will study conversion in Judaism from its Biblical roots to the present day. We will begin with the Bible looking at the notion of a "ger" ("stranger" but later also "convert") in the Torah, and reading the Book of Ruth, the classic Biblical tale of conversion. Next we will explore ancient rabbinic texts, including specifically "The Tractate on Converts" (Masekhet Gerim) to see what the ancient Jewish sages thought of conversion and what rules they prescribed for it.  The course will then will examine practices and attitudes during medieval times, reading and discussing Maimonides's "Letter to Obadiah the Convert."  Conversion to Judaism in the present day will be compared to practices and attitudes of the past.  The course will also seek to understand the role conversion plays in today’s Jewish communities.  Attention will also be given to conversion as a model for the "return" to Judaism or to Jewish practice among born Jews, and generally as a model for adult re-commitment and re-identification among present-day Jews. 

 

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