There are a number of government offices involved in conversion. The Israeli Rabbinate oversees the actual religious conversion, and the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for related matters having to do with Israeli citizenship. The policy set by the Ministry of the Interior dictates that the only people who may convert in Israel are Israeli citizens or authorized permanent residents. Other foreign citizens must apply to a vaadat charigim (committee for exceptional cases). The vaadat charigim is made up of representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Legal Department of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Office of the Chief Rabbi.
Please note: The vaadat charigim has directed its coordinator to reject any application from foreign nationals in one of the following categories:
1. Illegal residents
3. Local residents or a resident of neighboring countries
4. A foreign citizen holding a B-1 visa
5. A temporary resident holding an A-5 visa who has lived in Israel for less than one year
An applicant who is not in one of the above categories is to complete an application form, with a copy of one’s Israeli I.D/passport and send it to the regional conversion court according to your current address, and call to make sure a file was opened.
If the request meets the basic requirements, it will be transferred to the appropriate local office of The Conversion Division, and the candidate will be invited to an interview with the conversion coordinator at the local office. The coordinator will decide if the application is worthy of consideration by the committee, and if so the committee will decide if the applicant may begin the conversion process.
One must bring the following documents to the interview with the coordinator:
1. two recent, clear passport-type photographs
2. a certificate, authorized by an apostille and accompanied by a notarized translation to Hebrew, that the applicant has no criminal record abroad
3. if presently in Israel, a summary of one’s registration at the Ministry of the Interior
4. one’s CV / resume (in Hebrew)
5. a detailed request letter in Hebrew. The letter should include an explanation of one’s motivation to convert, be it religious, social, marital, or family related. It is customary for the letter to mention such things as Jewish family members, a connection to Jewish communities in Israel or abroad, Jewish study, relationship(s) with religious and/or traditional Jewish families. We recommend the letter be more than just a cold, factual accounting. It is appropriate that it contain one’s heartfelt feelings, hopes and desires, as well as one’s fears and anxiety.
6. letters of recommendation from Israel and abroad attesting to one’s longstanding and continuous connection to Judaism and one’s observing a religious life-style. If, for example, one previously studied Jewish subjects, one should ask for a letter from his/her teacher(s). If one participates in Jewish community activities and/or attends synagogue services, he/she should ask for a letter from the synagogue rabbi or other synagogue officers. If one spends shabbatot with a religious family, he/she should ask family members to write on his/her behalf. Letters written in a foreign language are best translated to Hebrew.
If you are married to a Jew or are in a serious relationship with a Jew, bring similar letters of recommendation for him/her.
7. information on previous conversion procedures/attempts in Israel or abroad, with relevant documentation
According to the committee’s regulations, an answer should be given to the applicant within 3 months from the time he/she submitted the request. A positive answer will allow the applicant to extend his/her visa until the end of the conversion process (the extension is not automatic — one must go to The Ministry of the Interior to extend it). Only after the vaadat charigim has approved one’s application may he/she begin the conversion process and enroll in an ulpan giyur (conversion study center). If the vaadat charigim rejects one’s application, he/she has the right to send a written appeal to the Director of the Vaadat Charigim, and if the appeal is not accepted, one may apply again if he/she later successfully fulfills the citizenship requirements of the Ministry of the Interior.
Towards the end of the conversion studies, the applicant will be invited to another interview with the conversion coordinator of the local office, and according to his/her recommendation the committee will decide if to approve the completion of the conversion at the Beit Din (Jewish court).
Please note: Candidates who are eligible for Aliyah, and have a letter of approval from The Nativ section of The Prime Minister’s Bureau or from The Ministry of the Interior, can register for conversion studies without submitting a request to the vaadat charigim. A letter of approval from The Jewish Agency will be transferred for further examination by the head of the vaadat charigim (We suggest you contact ITIM for assistance in this matter).
Foreign citizens who want to submit an application to convert while they are abroad should fax all the documents immediately to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org The request should include serious recommendations from local rabbis.