Jews by Choice Program

Welcome! Converting to Judaism is a serious undertaking. It is our hope that the information you find here can help you in your exploration. For more information, or to schedule an appointment to find out if our program is right for you, please contact Cantor Elizabeth Berke at jbc@ansheemet.org/ 773-868-5117.

Program Overview

This class is taught in partnership with the Louis and Judith Miller Introduction to Judaism Program at American Jewish University. Click here for resources.

Anshe Emet offers a comprehensive program for people who are considering conversion. We seek to equip people with tools and knowledge to determine if Judaism is right for them.

Through the Anshe Emet Jews by Choice program, participants will:

  • Be familiar with Jewish concepts and values
  • Be able to read Hebrew
  • Know how to create a Jewish environment at home
  • Be comfortable participating in Jewish holidays and lifecycle events
  • Feel confident as full members of the Jewish community
  • Build a foundation upon which to continue Jewish learning

Both challenging and fulfilling, our program consists of two required primary courses: the Miller Heritage class (7:00 – 8:30pm) on Monday evenings (two semesters) and Hands-On Judaism (9:00 - 10:15am) on Saturday mornings (10 months).

The Miller Heritage class provides a strong background in Jewish history and philosophy, while Hands-On Judaism is a great introduction to Jewish practice. Hebrew is offered every Monday night, from 6:00 - 6:45pm, immediately before Heritage. Students will gain Hebrew reading basics through this class, but can also opt to study Hebrew in another format. For those who want to strengthen their Hebrew skills, there is a secondary class offered in the second semester.

After the Hands-On Judaism on Shabbat mornings, students attend our Shabbat morning services. There are a variety of options: The Sanctuary service, Rose Crown Minyan, and JBC students are also welcome at the Religious School student services that begin at 11:00am. Adults attend these as well, and they are a good way to learn some of the basic melodies and prayers in a learning environment. Participants can be matched with a Shul Buddy to assist and guide you through the synagogue services.

The JBC program also includes supplementary activities, such as learners' services, field trips (including the mikvah, other synagogues for services, the Holocaust Museum), and social activities (Shabbat dinners and other gatherings). Additionally, there is a weekly email providing information on the weekly Torah portion, upcoming classes and community events and issues related to Jewish life in general.

There are a few written assignments during the course of the program. Most are brief, except a final collection of essays which are presented to the beit din prior to meeting.

Anshe Emet has a number of congregants who enjoy serving as mentors for JBC students. As part of the program, students also schedule individual meetings with each of Anshe Emet's rabbis. The rabbis, who also teach in the program, help students with questions and concerns, and are a valuable source for guidance and support. 

Action Steps

The JBC Action Steps are your guide to living a Jewish life. This is a month-by-month individual plan to build your Jewish practice at home. You work at your own pace, selecting steps which are the easiest for you, gradually building your level of observance.

While we are located in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, our JBC conversion program is available to those from other areas of Chicago. Anshe Emet is comprised of approximately 1,100 member units, including singles and families. Among our members are many Jews by Choice who are active in synagogue life and serve on committees and on our Board of Trustees.

JBC program participants include members of the LGBTQ community, a variety of ethnic backgrounds and people of all ages. Students include singles who are on their own spiritual journey, intermarried couples (with and without children), and couples who are engaged or contemplating marriage.

Click here for some recent JBC graduate's student experiences.  

Recommended Reading

The following texts support the comprehensive curriculum and cover topics taught in the Shabbat class and the Miller Heritage class as well as prepare you for the Action Steps. There are a limited number of copies available for participants to borrow from the JBC Coordinator’s office. As a participant in the JBC program, you have access to the books located in the Bennett Adult Library, you may check out non-reference books. The Library is open during synagogue office hours.

All of the listed books can be purchased at Rosenblum's World of Judaica (9153 Gross Point Road, Skokie IL) or online at www.allthingsjewish.com. Many of these books can also be found at or ordered from bookstores and www.Amazon.com.

  • Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), The Jewish Publication Society translation.
    Please note that this text is available in either English only, or English and Hebrew. The English / Hebrew version is a little more expensive, but will be of great value as you study Hebrew.
  • The Jewish Holidays by Michael Strassfeld or The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays by Yitz Greenberg
  • Shabbat: The Family Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating the Sabbath by Ron Wolfson, 2nd Edition
  • The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • To Life! A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking by Harold Kushner
  • A Short History of the Jewish People by Raymond Scheindlin
  • Jewish Literacy by Joseph Telushkin
  • How to Keep Kosher by Lise Stern 
  • Saying Kaddish by Anita Diamant
  • The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant 
  • Night by Elie Weisel
  • Entering Jewish Prayer by Reuven Hammer
  • As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg