Judaism offers to everyone the unique opportunity to
be an integral part of building upon and continuing
a tradition that goes back to the days of Abraham and
Saraha tradition unparalleled in the history of
That tradition is open to allnot just born Jews.
The biblical prophet, Isaiah, fervently believed in
Israels mission as a universal faith. He looked
to the day when the House of God would be called "a
house of prayer for all peoples."
During the Talmudic period, commencing approximately
2,200 years ago, Jewish missionary efforts were so successful
that in the First Century the world Jewish population
increased to between two and five million. However,
in the Fourth Century the Edict of Constantine established
Christianity as the official state religion and made
conversion to Judaism a capital offense. Conversion
efforts therefore ceased but resumed to some degree
in medieval times. Then, in the late Fifteenth Century
when the Spanish Inquisition reinstituted capital punishment
for the "crime" of conversion to Judaism,
together with a doctrine of "heresy," Jewish
conversion efforts ceased and the rabbis developed a
tradition of discouraging converts. This post-Inquisition
development has led many Jews to assume erroneously
that Judaism does not welcome converts, when in fact
there have been long periods in Jewish history when
Jews actively sought proselytes. In its truest ideals,
Judaism is a loving, meaningful religion that welcomes
Many Jews believe that if there were a visitor from
another planet who was seeking the kind of religious
identification that would make the most sense from a
rational standpoint and would have the most positive
impact on civilization, she or he would find that Judaism
would be the most appealing. If you were to add to this
the emotional satisfaction, warmth, and support that
come from being a part of the Jewish familythe
Jewish communitywith its religious traditions,
culture, and history unique among all peoples of the
earththere is little doubt among most Jews who
have experienced these feelings that Judaism is very
special and there is nothing else like it in our world.
Obviously, the warmth and emotional attachments underlying
these feelings cannot be gained overnight. Like most
good things, it takes time and effort, but the rewards
of personal satisfaction and growth can be great.
If these few pages have whetted your appetite to learn
more about Judaismthe religion and the cultureand
what it can mean for you; if, on the basis of what you
have read, you believe that there is much about Judaism
that is compatible with your own personal philosophy;
then, seek to learn more. The more you learn about Judaism,
the more appealing it will be and the more it can contribute
to your life and to your personal search for happiness.
This booklet has just begun to touch on the many possibilities
of what Judaism offers for you.
You have an opportunity to be part of the continuance
of a remarkable tradition that is 4,000 years old but
is yet so relevant and meaningful to modem times. You
have an opportunity to know the fullness of the love,
compassion and understanding that are an integral part
of Judaism. You have an opportunity to be part of a
unique religion, culture and community of people that
emphasizes this world, rather than the next, that pursues
social justice and freedom for all as part of the Jewish
tradition of universalism.
There is a story drawn from Jewish literature about
a cynic who approached a learned rabbi with a closed
fist. "Rabbi, you are supposed to be a great sage.
I have a question for you. In my hand, I hold a small
bird. Is it dead or alive?"
The rabbi knew that if he said the bird was alive,
the cynic would crush it and then open his hand and
show a dead bird. If, however, the rabbi said the bird
was dead, the cynic would open up his hand and let the
bird fly away. "Dear friend," said the rabbi,
"the answer lies in your hand."
For those who are considering the possibility of choosing
Judaism and ask, "Why should I choose Judaism?"
or "What can Judaism do for me?" the more
you investigate, the more you study and learn, the more
you will find. Ultimately, "the answer lies in
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