From Publishers Weekly
Historically, Jews have had an ambiguous and ambivalent attitude toward non-Jews who adopt the Jewish faith. Today, however, many Jews view conversion as one means of countering the losses to the Jewish community that result from high rates of intermarriage. Weiss, a rabbi who founded the Washington Institute for Conversion and the Study of Judaism based in Rockville, Md., is clearly among those who believe that the Jewish community should be aggressive in supporting initiatives to foster outreach efforts leading to conversion. She offers instruction to non-Jews who are interested in converting; most of these potential converts' interest in Judaism arises out of the decision to marry a Jew, although occasionally someone is attracted to her classes because Judaism appears to make more sense than other faiths. The book consists of autobiographical statements by Weiss's students who tell their life stories and frankly describe their struggles to become JewsAstruggles that include opposition from family members and the oft-agonizing first steps in carving out a Jewish identity. The book also contains effusive testimonials to Weiss's sensitive shepherding of these converts into the Jewish community. It concludes with a short history of conversion to Judaism, which might have been better placed at the beginning. The autobiographical stories are designed to inspire readers who are considering conversion, and it will achieve this objective for some. Others may find this anecdotal approach too simplistic. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Rabbi Bernice K. Weiss is the founder and director of the Washington Institute for Conversion and the Study of Judaism, located in Rockville, Maryland. Following an undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh, and graduate work at George Washington University, upon graduating from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 1989, she entered the rabbinate. Rabbi Weiss received the prestigious Melton Senior Educators Fellowship for Jewish Education in the Diaspora and spent 1995/1996 at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A member of the United Jewish Appeal Rabbinic Cabinet and the Washington Board of Rabbis, she has served as interim associate rabbi for the 1200 families of Congregation Har Shalom, also in Rockville. The unique program of the Washington Institute is derived from Rabbi Weiss' experiences as a parent and active participant in the Jewish Community of Greater Washington. Her areas of expertise, upon which she speaks include: Journeys into Jewish Life, Living Judaism/Loving Judaism, the History of Conversion and the Conversion of History, and Setting the Course for Adults Studying Judaism.