“Converts who request funding should probably be explicit about the costs and their own contribution to the process”

Some people were bewildered that there was anything other than minor administrative costs associated with conversion. A Canadian rabbi said that even those minor costs are waved if a convert cannot pay them. The reliance on home hospitality and free study opportunities should keep converts in the black while they’re trying to become blue and white. “They keep their day job,” the rabbi said, “and the deeply personal, internal process takes place at their pace during their internal spiritual journey.”

One academic felt that sponsoring converts at this stage would not be preparing them for a future of expenses associated with living Jewishly. “Judaism is actually an expensive religion — it entails (significant) costs. If the cost of conversion classes is a barrier, the cost of being Jewish — kosher food, High Holiday seats, Jewish day schools, etc. — will undoubtedly become a barrier as well.” In other words, the Jewish GoFundMe problem never ends.

This practical concern was eclipsed by a deeper one: Asking others to cover the cost of conversion and study may imply that converts have not put enough personal investment into the process. In the words of one senior rabbi: “Why should I pay for you to convert? Why don’t you pay for me to learn how to swim? Conversion is a serious business, and the prospective convert needs to be prepared to sacrifice many things, money being the least of them.” Another rabbi was concerned about the transactional nature of such an approach: “…conveying crowd-enthusiasm for purposefully choosing Judaism feels important,” but it “might be worthwhile to couple crowd-funding with commitment-fortifying affirmations of behavior and belonging.”

A recommendation: Converts who request funding should probably be explicit about the costs and their own contribution to the process. It would help compassion live more comfortably beside personal agency.

Erica Brown, “GoFundMe”, The Jewish Week (5 August 2016), 34.