The Covenant Grants

Post-Conversion Support for Jews by Choice

Organization: Mishkan Chicago, Chicago, IL

Grant Year: 2023

Project Director: Rabbi Steven Philp

Type of Grant: Ignition

Grant Amount: $20,000 (1 year)


Adult Education

Mishkan Chicago – To launch an initiative that supports the ritual, learning, and communal needs of Jews by Choice in order to empower them to take an active role in their Jewish journeys beyond the conversion process.

What communal needs inspired the creation of Mishkan’s project, Post Conversion Support for Jews by Choice?

Traditional conversion programs provide Jews-by-Choice a structured and supported journey into the Jewish community, and then upon their conclusion, folks are often left to build their Jewish lives on their own. As someone who has experienced this transition first-hand, I strive to create new opportunities for continued education, connection, and support post-conversion.

How do you envision this project will create inclusive community for Jews by Choice?

At Mishkan, we encourage people to bring their whole selves to their Judaism. For Jews-by-Choice, this can present opportunities and challenges that are unique to their own experience. A portion of this project will be devoted to the creation of affinity groups, with initial spaces for converts who identify as queer, people of color, and those who are raising Jewish children to provide a supportive environment built on a shared identity that shapes and impacts their Judaism. We will also launch a mentoring program aimed to provide Jews-by-Choice an opportunity to draw from their owned lived experience to support students through the conversion process. These spaces, coupled with other educational opportunities, will serve as an important reminder that Jewish learning is a lifelong process.

What is your favorite Jewish text, as it relates to this project and your work in general?

In Exodus 23:9 we read, “You know the soul of the stranger, because you were strangers.” I believe feelings of otherness, which we all experience at some point in our lives, are not a fault or a flaw, but an incredible source of empathy that drives connection between people. Many converts know what it is like to stand at the edge of community, waiting to be invited in. It’s no surprise to me that Jews-by-Choice are often the first to welcome strangers at Mishkan Chicago. Through my rabbinate, and as a convert myself, I hope to use our memory of being othered to create more courageously compassionate and radically inclusive communities now and in the future.