The Theory and Practice of Welcoming Converts to Judaism: Jewish Universalism
|Author: ||Epstein, Lawrence|
This is a new theological interpretation of Judaism focusing on the Jewish covenantal obligation to offer Judaism and welcome converts. The term "Jewish universalism" is applied to the theory because the central idea of the interpretation is that Judaism is a universal religion. This is supported by an analysis of the basic theological concepts of Judaism (God, the natural world, humanity, chosenness, revelation, covenant, mission, the nation of Israel, and redemption). These concepts are understood to emphasize the Jewish mandate to offer Judaism without requiring it. It includes other arguments for welcoming converts besides Jewish universalism and how these arguments are related. This book is an original synthesis of current scholarship, and the first that provides a detailed, systematic theological interpretation of covenantal obligation.
"Anyone who is considering conversion to Judaism or who is interested in this important matter would do well to read Epstein's book. I do not know of any other author who has presented the principles, the history, and the arguments surrounding this issue as clearly and concisely as he." - CCAR Journal: A Reform Jewish Quarterly
"An incisive rejoinder to the question of Jewish particularism. . . . This first part especially should be required reading for all Jews regardless of age. It contains a systematic survey of essential Jewish concepts from which emerges the idea of Jewish Universalism. In clear precise language Epstein crystallizes such profound concepts as God, Humanity, the Jewish People, Election, Revelation, Covenant, Mission, the Nation of Israel and Redemption. . . . This book provides the conceptual underpinning both for this outreach [to converts] as well as for Jews continuing to be Jews. The American Jewish community should take the message of this book to its heart." - Lena Romanoff in The Jewish Spectator
"This book is remarkable for the clarity of its language. Epstein explains difficult concepts with a linguistic precision that draws us effortlessly into his argument. All scholars, rabbis, and readers with an interest in Jewish thought will find this book to be extraordinarily intellectually stimulating. The book makes readers see familiar theological territory in a new way. In some fundamental way this book challenges long-held assumptions about the very purpose of Jewish existence. In that sense, it is a book to be read not only for its provocative thesis or felicitous style, but also for the importance it can have if its message is heard." - Douglas Rathgreb
". . . a compelling, creative and potentially controversial argument in favor of an active effort to win converts to Judaism. . . . His argument is also a reminder to the Jewish community which has focused its energies so intensely on physical survival an