Converts to Judaism: Stories from Biblical Times to Today

Converts to Judaism


From the biblical story of Ruth to the star conversion of Elizabeth Taylor, Converts to Judaism tells the stories of people who have converted to Judaism throughout history. The book introduces readers to origins of Judaism and shares the first conversion stories of the people who helped the early Jewish faith grow. Subsequent chapters trace the trajectory of Judaism.



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Converts to Judaism: Stories from Biblical Times to Today illustrates the important, and sometimes surprising, role Jewish converts have always played in Jewish life.

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“Superbly researched and insightful, Epstein’s work takes readers on an enlightening journey through Jewish history.”Publishers Weekly

“Who knew that Sammy Davis Jr. was a convert to Judaism who refused to perform on Yom Kippur, or that Ivanka Trump converted when she married Jared Kushner in 2009? Epstein provides a fascinating read about the various people who have converted to Judaism over centuries, and the circumstances of their conversions. Many of those converts faced extreme reactions: the family of Warder Cresson, for example, had him committed to a mental institution in 1848. Epstein organizes material into eight chapters, covering different historical periods, from converts mentioned in the Bible up to modern conversion in the United States and Israel. Each chapter contains anecdotes, reflections from rabbinical authorities of the period, and discussion of the clashing viewpoints on conversion among Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews. Concluding with a chapter on lessons from this history, Epstein admits he is strongly in favor of conversion. ‘This is especially crucial in a Jewish age marked by increased intermarriage and increased assimilation,’ he writes. Superbly researched and insightful, Epstein’s work takes readers on an enlightening journey through Jewish history.” – Publishers Weekly 

“Lawrence Epstein has written a fascinating, essential book about conversion—its history, the whys and hows, current issues, and why we need to encourage it. This book is must-reading for anyone thinking about conversion, anyone who has converted, Jewish professionals, and all other Jews!” — Rabbi Carol Levithan

“Combining scholarship, compassion, and lucid prose, this book illuminates Jewish communal policies regarding would-be Jews throughout history. Epstein’s work will serve as a critical framework for all present and future discussions regarding conversion.” — Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue

Converts to Judaism is the right book at the right time for a critical issue facing American Judaism. It is enlightening as well as entertaining, highlighting the history of conversion to Judaism over the entire timespan from Abraham up until today.” — Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan

“With this book, Lawrence Epstein has presented us with two amazing gifts: an accurate portrayal of Judaism’s positive history of conversion and a hopeful and practical depiction of how conversion can save the future of the North American Jewish community.” — Stephen A. Karol, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook, New York

“This is an important book that should be read by every Jew who is proud that Judaism has no missionaries, yet still encourages and welcomes all non-Jews who want to join us in building a peaceful pluralistic world of transnational religious communities.” — Rabbi Allen S. Maller, editor, Makhzor Tikunay Nefashot

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