“Sociological conversion” to faith

As a side note to the Chelsea Clinton wedding, some people have wondered whether this means Chelsea is joining the Jewish faith. In the midst of this wondering, David Breakstone of the Jerusalem Post speaks to a sociologist and introduces me to a new term:

“Many non-Jewish spouses are going through sociological conversions rather than rabbinical conversions,” Prof. Steven Cohen, eminent sociologist of American Jewry and personal friend, tells me in another article on the subject that appeared in this paper. “They’re becoming in effect members of the Jewish community without official rabbinical instruction or authorization. Sociological conversions may be the biggest denomination of converts today.”

This term apparently means that people can become Jewish without adopting Judaism. As one writer at Haaretz.com says, “In the Israeli reality, it is no longer true that the only way to join the Jewish people is to adopt the Jewish religion.”

It would seem these “sociological conversions” could have a large impact on what is means to be Jewish in the future.