Accompanying family | What is it?
The conversion process involves more than academic learning. The person applying to join the people of Israel needs to familiarize himself not only with the sources of Judaism, the laws and Jewish history, but also meet and join one of the pillars of Jewish existence: the Jewish family. Therefore, one of the requirements imposed by the courts on potential converts is that they be guided by an accompanying family.
Many candidates for conversion were asked, “What made you want to convert?” Often the response is that what had appealed to them was the very form of Jewish family life, that is, natural warmth, education, sitting around the table on shabbat, which is so lacking in the secular world.
The accompanying family which opens its doors to the conversion candidate, becomes a symbol and a living example of a Jewish home based on a foundation of tradition and family values. The accompanying family shows the convert the beautiful face of Judaism in practice. He thereby comes to more fully understand the meaning of Jewish existence and how it is realized through daily living.
Many converts who have visited Jewish homes were impressed and identified with the families as well as learning a lot through personal example, the atmosphere in the home, the relationships between family members, conversations at the shabbat table, spending time together in the living room and walking to synagogue together.
The accompanying family also serves as support for the conversion candidate. During the conversion period, and sometimes even beyond it, some of the converts live alone, without a social framework, without family. The accompanying family provides an entree into Israeli society- assisting with both their spiritual and social absorption.
Often a strong personal bond forms between the families and the converts, whether it be with parents’ generation or the children, and that bond often strengthens over the course of the conversion year and continues to grow well after the official conversion.
An accompanying family should contribute, teach, and support the person who is converting. Usually, the family itself benefits from being part of this adoption of sorts, as its members learn about the convert’s life and perspective. Often, the family is privy to a fascinating personal story of heroism and discovery as well as true spiritual seeking and a strong desire to be part of the culture of Israel and the people of Israel.
Imposing the task of converting immigrants onto the conversion courts, doesn’t exempt the average Jew from fulfilling his part in the process.
We face a national challenge, a challenge that requires the involvement of religious communities and families. The accompanying families can serve as a bridge for immigrants to Israel and thereby make the conversion process significantly more pleasant.
“AMI- Personal Conversion Ulpan” is making concerted efforts to match accompanying families to converts in a way that maximizes the experience for both sides.