The Only Game in Town: Navigating the Conversion Charade

**FILE2003** A women converts to Judiasm that was done at the Rabinic Court in Jerusalem on July 21, 2003. Photo by Flash 90 *** Local Caption *** ?????? ???? ???? ?????

Dr Michal Kravel Tovi, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University, discusses her new book When the State Winks: The Performance of Jewish Conversions in Israel, an ethnographic account of the arduous conversion process female migrants from the former USSR choose to undergo in the hope that it would accelerate their integration into Israeli society.



This season of the Tel Aviv Review is made possible by The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which promotes humanistic, democratic, and liberal values in the social discourse in Israel.


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Photo by Flash90: A women converts to Judaism.

2 comments on “The Only Game in Town: Navigating the Conversion Charade

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    Back about 1998 I was in Tel Aviv, at a cafe near the sea, sort of a shed like structure, sitting at the only table with shade (having been oft warned of ultraviolet rays there). A late 20s couple came with a young infant and sat it directly in the sun, on a table. My guilt kicked in and I said we could switch. The man said “that wouldn’t be kosher” and went off to order. I was rather shocked. When he came back, his wife said in stage whisper “he is American.” I could see tension leave him, but he ignored me thereafter. Soon, by phone calls and later a guest, I realized he was likely a Soviet immigrant.

    One million admitted celebrates the founding ideal of Israel, but it also induced much social economic competition, and I wonder today if the idea of a truly pan Jewish open Israel has the enthusiasm of its past. Would another million be celebrated?

    In any case, Jewish Conversion when not of the doctrinal pedigree would be a way to enter networks otherwise competitively barred. Even when no obvious advantage is evident, entering appears to break one obstacle. Conversion becomes a hope for greater social economic access later–if not for self, for children.

  2. Jessica says:

    Thanks Murray, much appreciated.

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