Why are so many converting to Judaism?

I have been working with potential converts to Judaism for nearly two decades. These individuals have been coming from all over the world in their quest to become Torah observant Jews. Their journey is a long one, but their determination and resolve usually results in their becoming exemplary Jews. However, in recent years, the number of conversion candidates has multiplied dramatically. Why in the face of so much negative press against the Jewish people and at the same time, a significant rise in anti-Semitism worldwide, do so many Gentiles wish to become a part of the Jewish nation?

The Torah has a separate commandment to love the convert which is found many times. This is strange since we are also commanded not to remind a person that he once was not Jewish. The Rabbis’ rationale for this apparent paradox is that every convert is different. No two stories are identical as to why this person wished to become Jewish. Therefore, we have to make an extra effort to love them and appreciate the hardships they needed to go through to get to Judaism.

Despite all of this, an analysis of the convert might give some insight into this wave of conversion. In the classic work, The Kuzari by Rav Yehuda Halevi, we read of the search for truth by the king of the Chazars. The king learns from his discussions with a Christian and Moslem scholar that G-d once loved the Jews but rejected them because of their sins and they were banished from the land. Therefore, to many Gentiles who were raised with this attitude that the Jews were rejected and despised, in view of current events and the events of the past sixty seven years, the Jewish people do not seem very rejected.

The emergence of the State of Israel out of the ashes of the Holocaust, into a modern homeland to more than six million Jews, does not look like the Jews are rejected. Israel is probably the biggest reason why so many Gentiles are questioning the validity of the religions from where they came. For centuries, nobody (except for the Jews who never stopped praying for a return to Zion) ever believed that the Jewish people would come home. When one looks at the prophecies of the prophets that are coming true today with the ingathering of the Exiles, and the Land producing once again, a thinking individual will start to wonder why this is happening. When they ask their scholars for answers, they are not satisfied. They find answers in Judaism.
When the prime minister of Israel walks into the U.S. Congress and is welcomed with such respect and admiration, something big is happening. No other leader in the world gets that kind of reception whether you agree or not if it was right for Prime Minister Netanyahu to go there in the first place.

One who is searching for truth does not have a hard time figuring out the good guys and the bad guys in Israel’s conflict. But somehow in the face of barbaric brutal terrorist attacks and the firing of thousands of rockets at its cities, Israel survives. A thinking person might come to the conclusion that maybe the G-d of Israel is protecting them.

For all of these reasons, when we look at what is unfolding in the world, it is much more clear why so many non-Jews want to become Jewish. The Kuzari would have said that we need to look at the evidence. Rav Halevi’s argument in the twelfth century was that the majority of the world accepts that there were ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, and the revelation at Mount Sinai. Therefore, the Torah must be true. Today, we can add to the evidence that the Jewish people have come home and are rebuilding the Third Commonwealth. Is it any wonder why more and more Gentiles want to be a part of this truth?

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for more than twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the nearly seventeen years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.