The Challenge of Accepting the ‘Other’: Jewish Attitudes Toward Converts

Dr. David Kraemer
By :  David C. Kraemer Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics Posted On Jan 4, 2021 / 5781 | Monday Webinar The Other in Jewish Text and Tradition

Download sources

One of the best ways to understand the identity of a community or people is to consider what happens when someone who is originally an “other”—a “foreigner”—approaches to become a member of the community. How does the community respond? Does the community permit the “foreigner” to become one of its own? What residual attitudes are expressed toward one who began as “other” and  part of the community? In the case of Jews and Judaism, all of these questions pertain to the case of the convert. In this session, we will examine how the convert has been viewed and treated in Judaism, from antiquity and through the ages. By doing so, we will gain a more nuanced understanding of who “we” are. 


We live in a time of such polarization—political, racial, economic, religious—that the gaps between us sometimes feel insurmountable. But this is not a new condition for Jews, either within or outside of the Jewish community. This webinar series will explore those gaps between “us” and “the other”: Israelites and other ancient peoples; men and women in the Bible and Talmud; Jews by birth and Jews by choice; the founders of Hasidim and their opponents; Israelis and Palestinians; and more. 

From the ancient Near East to the American civil rights movement; from medieval philosophers to contemporary Jewish educators: how have Jews related to those we define as “other,” and how have we marginalized sub-groups within the Jewish community? What is our obligation to those we perceive as different? How have Jews challenged communal norms from within? JTS scholars guide us in an intellectual journey through Jewish history and text to understand how these gaps have been understood and, at times, bridged.

View All Sessions in Series


At JTS, we are committed to providing the Jewish community with outstanding classes in Judaic studies. We hope you will partner with us so that we can continue to do so. Did you know that you can sponsor a learning session to honor a loved one, celebrate an occasion, or commemorate a yahrzeit? To learn more visit the Community Learning sponsorship page or email