Judaism is a popular brand.

By Ted Belman

Saul Singer reported that the working group at the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute conference, recommended actions “to encourage Jewish population growth,” including encouraging conversion.

In his article, Conversion is Jewish. he traces the ebb and flow of conversion to Judaism.

At this time in history, Jews pride themselves on not seeking converts but it wasn’t always so. The high point of conversion to Judaism was just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD when 10% of the Roman Empire was Jewish.

Many pagan Romans were attracted to Judaism because they preferred the Jewish belief system with monotheism at its base and Jewish values as opposed to pagan polytheism and its values. Also Judaism was democratic and people centered whereas Romans were fascistic and elite centered.

In my paper, The Historical Jesus, I note that one of the big disputes between Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, whom Jesus appointed to lead his movement, was about the requirements for conversion.

    Paul on the other hand argued that the Law no longer applied and that anything could be eaten with anyone and circumcision was no longer necessary. Paul wanted gentile converts to be converted without the necessity of circumcision and bondage to Mosaic law and went so far as to argue that the Law no longer applied to Jews.

The legacy of this dispute has been, for two thousand years, that Christians missionized with little precondition and Jews did not.

Today, notwithstanding the proliferation of antisemitic propaganda and antisemitism, Judaism is still a very popular brand.

Singer suggests Judaism be more welcoming to converts and should lower the bar to conversion.

    We should, as a people, set a goal of sustained 2-percent growth which, if achieved soon, could result in about 30 million Jews worldwide by the year 2050. [..]

    All we need to do is change the presumption from negative to positive, train rabbis to develop and promote introductory courses in Judaism, and encourage those who in any case wish to join us and are now receiving the cold shoulder.

We have nothing to lose but our pessimism.

July 21, 2007 | 16 Comments »

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