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My Giyur experience with the Beth Din of Rome – the most ancient Jewish Community in the world

B”H

28 Adar I 5776
8 March 2016

My Giyur experience with the Beth Din of Rome – the most ancient Jewish Community in the world.

Five long years have almost passed since I wrote, on this website, my respectful and personal recommendation to Rabbi Ahron Daum’s shiurim. At the time, I was still in the introductory stage of my Orthodox road to conversion, trying to grasp the basics of Hebrew and the details of Halacha. Little did I know that this was the beginning of an intense, beautiful and intellectual journey that eventually culminated in my conversion as a fully-fledged Orthodox Jew with the beth din of Jewish Community of Rome, the most ancient Jewish Community in the world outside Israel!

Needless to say, the period of study and preparation spent with Rabbi Daum, the guide of my spiritual journey, actually proved to be quite dedicated, challenging, meaningful and engaging, offering along the way, interesting insights of the Orthodox Jewish world. I can easily vouch that Rabbi Daum’s unique method of teaching lures would-be halachic converts from just looking in from the fringes of Judaism to being fully immersed in the fabric of the modern Orthodox lifestyle, committed to the Torah, the observance of the mitzvoth and fully conscious of the responsibilities inherent in having a future Orthodox Jewish identity.

Once I had covered the advanced giyur syllabus, so aptly prepared and delivered by Rabbi Ahron Daum, the choice of undergoing the conversion process under the auspices of the beth din of Rome fell natural to me. Both my mother’s grandparents were of Italian origin. My great grandfather hailed from Salerno whilst my great grandmother came from Palermo. The country in which I live, Malta, is only 60 nautical miles south from the Italian mainland. Apart from that, I also have a comprehensible knowledge of Italian, a language which I also opted to learn in my secondary school days in addition to Malta’s two official languages, i.e. English and Maltese. However, most important of all was that a giyur certificate issued by the Rabbinic Court of the Jewish Community of Rome is valid to identify with the Jewish people everywhere, including of course, the State of Israel.

Rome’s beth din is by no means easy feat. A candidate for giyur has to be very well prepared as no stone is left unturned in the questions asked by the member of the Rabbinic Court assigned to the would-be convert in preparation for the Beth Din proper, a process which at its minimum takes twelve months to complete. All topics of the syllabus are rigorously covered, so much so, that the whole procedure saw me travelling to the Italian capital for not less than eight times in order to complete the whole programme. I have no regret for this as it makes one to take his studies much more seriously and much more in depth. It was only at the end, that I was subjected to an introductory panel of rabbis to assess my performance and suitability and later, to the formal beth din composed, in my case, of Rabbi Dr Shmuel Di Segni - Chief Rabbi of Rome, Dayan Rabbi Gad Eldad and Rabbi Yaakov Shalom Di Segni.

After having successfully passed the giyur, I underwent, in the afternoon, in the presence of the three rabbis the symbolic hatafat dam brit and on the morrow, also in their presence, I entered the mikvah and took my new Hebrew name, Yaakov Yitzhak ben Avraham Avinu. Chief Rabbi Di Segni honoured me, in the Grand Synagogue of Rome, with a personal priestly blessing after which I donned the tallit and tefillin for the first time as a fully-fledged Jew and alone prayed shacharit in that magnificent building.

For me, the great joy of conversion was the comfort of knowing that what had been so important to me since boyhood was now a reality for me. I am able to say without any hesitation, “I am a Jew”. Thanks to the dedication, experience and professionalism of Rabbi Daum, I was now the person I felt I always had been. My affiliation to the Jewish world was now, Baruch Hashem, recognised; it was official. Again, I am really indebted to all those who have helped me to get to where I am today.

M Spiteri (Malta)

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