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Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,659 ratings  ·  97 reviews
Married to a convert herself, Anita Diamant provides advice and information that can transform the act of conversion into an extraordinary journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Here you will learn how to choose a rabbi, a synagogue, a denomination, a Hebrew name; how to handle the difficulty of putting aside Christmas; what happens at the mikvah (ritual bath) or a
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Schocken
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♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody!
The author is a real person and when you read her book you can't help but fall in love with her and her Judaism. She is distinguishably brilliant and has a charming good sense of humor. I have always needed a book like that to tell me where to start if I am contemplating the "choosing" of Judaism. I admire her boldness. I love people with conviction who stand up for something and indeed she beautifully stands up for her Jewish faith.

In the house of some Egyptian Jews, I told Joyce in excitement
Michael Doyle
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book really lays out the details of becoming a Jew-By-Choice, from why others have made the decision, to what to expect from your rabbi and your learning experience during your months of study, to the actual rituals of conversion, post-conversion celebrations, and your first year as a new Jew. Written from a liberal (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) perspective, the book is written for both prospective converts through marriage and those considering Judaism for personal reasons. It ...more
Dec 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am getting into a bad habit of reading others reviews before I write my own, which makes me want to react to other reviewers' comments. I will limit myself to this: the subtitle says it pretty well, "A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends." This is about conversion and the issues surrounding it. I think she does a nice job and I saw myself in here quite a bit. For those looking for more about Judaism, the history, the traditions, the beliefs, and the debat ...more
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was my first Jewish related book that I read. The reason why it interested me is because a friend of mine is Jewish. I tend to read up on what other people are, in order for me to better understand certain aspects (thus is why I have a couple of Mormon books in my already-read list).

I just so happen to come across this book on a bookshelf of another friend of mine. I think this book is a starting point in getting to "know" the makeup of Judaism. I definately ALWAYS thought of Jewish/Judaism
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone converting or who knows someone who is
Shelves: judaism
I read this book as part of my conversion process. It pretty much answered all my questions regarding the process of converting, the ambiguity surrounding 'who is Jewish?', converting children, dealing with friends and family, and being naked in the mikvah (which I was a little nervous about). I recommend this book to anyone who is converting or knows someone close who is converting, it is full of good information and useful tips about how to spend your life as a new Jew. ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This book had quite a bit of good information in it, but it is very focused on conversion to Judaism because of/in preparation for marriage. As someone who is considering conversion as a single person, not all of it was super useful. I did appreciate Diamant’s celebratory attitude toward conversion, though.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a book my rabbi has frequently recommended to me in my conversion journey, and I have to say that reading it from cover to cover has been hugely helpful. The layout is very easy to follow, which I have found has made it easier to revisit certain passages. It didn't exactly cover my situation (in a relationship with a non-Jew, converting to Judaism for myself, most rabbis will not even allow this), but it covered a lot of ground, and it has been helpful in my understanding of the conversi ...more
Jadis LeFeu
Oct 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: White straight former christian women engaged to Jewish men
Shelves: non-fiction, judaism
This book is palpably aimed at former Christians converting to Judaism because they're engaged to a Jew, so there is a whooooole lot that is not relevant to me as a person, but there's a good overview of the history of conversion to Judaism, and some details about the mikvah process that were nice. The author just really did not imagine me existing in her target audience. ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While I agree with the criticisms expressed here, that the book is overbroad in some areas and assumes too much in others --and that it is unapologetically non orthodox--no one is going to read this book in a vacuum. As part of my (for lack of a better phrase) "coming out" as a Jew by choice, this book was instrumental in relieving a great deal of anxiety about the process and really helped me decide to ultimately take the (in this case literal) plunge. After years of reading about Judaism in th ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
The book was very informational and helpful. At times though I did not feel it was for me. I am someone that wants to convert and do not have a Jewish fiancee or significant other. I think at times that was who the book was for. If you are converting and your significant other is Jewish I highly recommend this to you. However, if you are converting for reasons that don't include the above I would say read but know some parts of the book will not be applicable to you. Overall a book I do not regr ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This a nicely written handbook but only for those who have no idea about Judaism and already want to convert.

Author talks about very basic things. I think she focused more on reform and conservative perspectives, rather than Orthodox.

The description of conversion process sounds easy, while in reality the process is not that smooth.

The book also would not be helpful for anyone reading outside of USA. Author talks about conversion in US and gives links and tips to local sources for more informa
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was one of the first books I read after meeting my (now) husband. Before getting too deep into a relationship with him, I wanted an idea of what it might be like should we decide to marry. It was very helpful for me, and helped me realize that choosing to be Jewish was something I wanted/needed regardless of the outcome of our relationship...the bonus is that three years later we were married!
May 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Indispensible for my conversion process...I still pick it up every now and again, it inspires me.
Jillian Coleen
Nov 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Good information for what to expect through the conversion process, but still leaves me wanting to know more. An btw, family and friends - I'm just learning, not making any decisions on anything :) ...more
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish
Anita Diamant makes Judaism a home for Jews-by-choice in her book Choosing a Jewish Life. Along my conversion process, countless mentors and friends have recommended Diamant's work. One rabbi told me to "just read anything written by Anita Diamant". Choosing a Jewish Life created instant comfort and reassurance in all my doubts and questions about adopting Judaism as my way of having a relationship with God. Diamant's book speaks to you like a friend and answers your questions in the most plural ...more
Kyra Boisseree
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-lit
I am actually surprised and really impressed by this book! I was expecting it to be very much like "here are all the mitzvot you'll be obligated to observe, are you sure you want that? are you sincere??" but instead it was really positive and enthusiastic about conversion! It didn't treat Judaism as some kind of burden, and it was really warm and understanding the whole way through. Where I expected it to focus on big religious questions and ~WHY~ people convert, it instead focused on the concre ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by my rabbi for those who are in the process of or considering undergoing the process of converting to Judaism. This is not a long read, but it is a thorough one. From ideas of finding the right rabbi and right denomination for you, to announcing the news to family and friends, to figuring out how to maintain ties to your family and their traditions, this covers a host of topics. It helped me answer a lot of questions and gain insight as to why certain rituals are impor ...more
Andy Karas
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
As good an instruction manual as you can find for becoming a Jew-by-choice. Of all the books my rabbi suggested, this was the best nuts-and-bolts resource to get me up to speed on the requirements of conversion in a straightforward way. It doesn't - and it isn't designed to be - a manual that prompts the deepest or most ultimately meaningful reflections on your journey, so you should look elsewhere for that. Still, you should have some materials that don't grapple with the penumbras of jewish th ...more
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good book on an interesting subject, although I teensy bit starry-eyed (IMHO).

It is not easy to become Jewish. The first paragraph on p. 72 spotlights this issue head-on. Judaism in America is not really a faith or even a shared set of religous beliefs. There are Jews in America who pray three times each day and others who have never set food in a synagogue. Judaism in America is an ethnicity or perhaps maybe even better, a shared identity. American Judaism is full of emotional contradictions
R.E. E. Levy
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I cried at least four times reading this book. There were so many moments where Diamant's poignant way of sussing out the heart of the Jewish people moved me to the core. I was a left a little wanting by how much of the book focused on jews-by-choice (but that is who the book is for so I can't fault that) because as an ethnic Jew on the path to conversion a chunk of the information was simply not meant for or not specific to me. I was left wanting more and will definitely be picking up her other ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am glad to have read this book. I'm not quite its target audience, being British, and approaching Liberal rather than Reform, and having already "given up" Xmas, which I don't care for as a festival anyway! But I am grateful for the information that *is* pertinent to me as someone actively exploring Jewishness and welcoming it into my life and self. ...more
Melvin Marsh, M.S.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism, conversion
Very easy to read and a staple of conversion courses. Written by a Jew by Choice who has been through the process. Revised version is out of date (1998). Non-comprehensive. Previous readers fill Jew by Choice forums with additional questions with questions not covered in the book. Primarily assumes a white heterosexual female reader.
Hal Schrieve
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-books
Though this book is more about the internal reasoning for beginning conversion or returning to Jewish practice than it is a manual, it was something that was useful for me to read at the start of this year as I contemplated what it would mean to convert and how people would respond to me.
Jessica Wicks
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Favorite Author Offers Advice

I loved her writing (The Red Tent)long before I began my own journey to become a jew by choice. Her advice is useful and well taken. I would recommend this to anyone setting out on the road to conversion.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read and very infomative

As I’m starting my journey into Judaism, Choosing a Jewish Life has answered some of my many questions. I recommend this book for anyone considering a Jewish life.
Dominique Butler
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Choosing a Jewish Life was the first book I started reading for the kickstart of my conversion earlier this summer! It's so refreshing and reassuring as a new jew-by-choice. It absolutely should be a staple in a new converts library and will highly recommend it to everyone. ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

An amazing piece of work to be read by anyone interested in what it means to be Jewish. Whether you’re planning to convert or not, this has such a positive, encouraging, and educational message anyone can really enjoy this.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book assumes that all converts are married to someone born Jewish. Therefore, it ignores the potential challenges present for an interfaith marriage/family where one person is a convert.
It makes sense why this perspective isn't given, but just thought I'd note it for anyone else.
Kevin Frégeau-Strasbourg
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A must-read for any people converting or considering converting to Judaism. There is also many stories about people who converted.
this book was my jumping off point... i now feel introduced to a whole new world and will continue expanding my knowledge and the place Judaism holds in my heart.
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Belief in God 1 9 Apr 06, 2013 11:23AM  

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Anita Diamant is the author of thirteen books -- including THE RED TENT. Based on the biblical story of Dinah, THE RED TENT became a word-of-mouth bestseller in the US and around the world, where it has been published in more than 25 countries.

Her new book, a work of nonfiction. PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE. A NEW CHAPTER IN THE FIGHT FOR MENSTRUAL JUSTICE will be published in May 2021., As different

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