Conversion History: Middle Ages

In the face of persecution and legal restriction, codifiers of Jewish law chose survival over proselytization.

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    2.        Jews wouldn't adjust their rituals to make it easier to convert to Judaism; and

    3.        the Jews insisted on really persuading gentiles and having real motives for conversion so that, for instance, when the Jews were persecuted, they simply found it difficult to accept that gentiles sincerely wished to convert a persecuted people.

Opposition to conversion became the Jewish tradition. Persecution and understandable fear had turned a principal obligation of the Jewish covenantal relationship, the spreading of God's sovereignty through offering Judaism, into an activity spurned by the Jews themselves. Such attitudes toward conversion transformed the self-understanding of the Jewish mission itself from the original one of being a light unto the nations to keeping the religious commandments and waiting for the messiah.

Missionary quiescence, like nationalistic quiescence, became the tradition. Judaism almost stopped being taught to gentiles and no serious tradition of teaching the Noahide laws ever was developed.

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Lawrence J. Epstein is the author of numerous books, including Conversion to Judaism: A Guidebook and Readings on Conversion to Judaism.