Opening the Doors to Judaism

In May 2017, Russian-born Rabbi Alona Lisitsa presented ten conversion candidates from Spain and Portugal to the European Beit Din in London. The fi rst female Reform Rabbi in Israel to be appointed to a religious council, Rabbi Lisitsa’s comprehensive conversion course, which includes on-site meetings and counsel, has been attracting individuals interested in Judaism since its launch in May 2014.

To date, 25 candidates, including children, have successfully converted and become active members of growing congregations in the Iberian Peninsula. On that same Shabbat morning in May, one of the newly converted families, Yael and her two children, Moshe and Miriam celebrated their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at London’s congregation Shir Hayim. Warmly welcomed by the congregation, this was
the second time Shir Hayim opened its doors to Rabbi Lisitsa’s students after the Beit Din. During the service, the other converts were publicly acknowledged, embraced as members of the people of Israel, and called to the Torah to be blessed.

“I cannot think of a more moving and meaningful ending for the long and challenging process of return and conversion for these candidates. This is a moment when Jews from different geographic and cultural contexts are united in prayer, in Torah, and in peoplehood” Rabbi Lisitsa reflected.

With the backing of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), Rabbi Lisitsa is helping to revitalize an inclusive and welcoming Judaism across the Iberian Peninsula after more than 500 years of dormancy. As a result of her work, Congregation
Ohel Yaakov, in Lisbon, joined the EUPJ in 2016, and a new Reform congregation, Bnei Sefarad, in Valencia was established.