Finally it happened – the first meeting with the local Beth Din!
This wasn’t one of the three meetings that the Beth Din requires for conversion, but rather an initial meeting to assess my viability as a candidate. Because of COVID-19, the Beth Din still isn’t hosting meetings in person, so the meeting took place over the phone with the Rosh Beth Din and my sponsoring rabbi. The conversation took place almost exclusively between the Beth Din rabbi and myself, and my rabbi was just there for support and verification.
To begin with, the rabbi asked me to give a little bit of information about my background: How I grew up, whether my parents are religious, where I lived, what some of my interests are. We talked about dogs and how my dog sheds entire tumbleweeds on a regular basis. The conversion was casual and the rabbi was very friendly; although I was a little nervous, I didn’t feel judged or pressured to give certain answers.
After we talked about my past, we talked about how I came to know Judaism and why I was interested in converting. The rabbi seemed impressed with my extensive history and familiarity with Judaism, and that I already knew about the holidays, could read Hebrew, and had traveled to Israel. He asked me if I could say the candle-lighting prayer on Shabbat, and when I said yes, he asked me to say it for him; I did, and he told me I got it exactly right and that my pronunciation was great!
He asked what other prayers I knew; how observant I already was; what my job was like, working for an Orthodox Jewish family now and in the past; how readily I could read in Hebrew.
Overall, we talked for about an hour, and then he asked me if I had any questions. I told him that my sponsoring rabbi and I had initially met a year ago, and that I had been increasingly observant since then. I recognized that all that time wouldn’t “count” toward the conversion, but I wondered whether, considering nobody can attend synagogue during COVID-19, the general timeline for the conversion would be affected either way. He said everybody wants to know that, of course, but that it totally depends on how meetings go and how much the candidate has learned and the progress they’re making.
That was about a month ago, and although I’ve asked my rabbi for any updates, he says the Beth Din is aware that I’m ready for my first official meeting but is quite backlogged. In the meantime, I’ve got a little blessing cheat sheet in a plastic sheet protector that I carry around with me so I can memorize the prayers over food, and continue to do all the other things I’ve done so far. Hopefully the next meeting will come soon!
Shabbat Shalom, and shavua tov.