what we do
Distance Learning & Jewish Conversion
Rabbi Barbara Aiello is honored to be a part of an exciting new adventure in Jewish Conversion and learning program through Darshan Yeshiva. “Darshan Yeshiva was founded in September 2013 in response to the growing demand for an online Jewish school that meets the needs of students seeking formal Jewish learning in a pluralistic context.
Darshan Yeshiva offers an Introduction to Judaism and a Torah study program. In addition, Darshan Yeshiva (through the help of Atlanta based Reform and post-denominational rabbis) offers an online conversion to Judaism program. Rabbi is honored to be one of the Yeshiva’s mentoring rabbis.
On Friday, October 16, Kimberley Smith traveled from New Jersey to Florida, a journey that combined the physical with the spiritual as Kimberley began her Jewish journey to become a Jew By Choice. As a student with the Darshan Yeshiva distance learning study program, Kimberley studied with Jewish professionals, including rabbis and university professors in a program designed to bring Jewish studies and conversion opportunities to students who are elderly, disabled or who live in isolated parts of the world, far from existing Jewish communities. Founded by Rabbi Patrick Aleph, the Atlanta-based program matches students with mentoring rabbis, like Kobernick’s Rabbi Barbara Aiello, who develop supportive relationships with their students and offer guidance in the conversion process. When Kimberley completed her year long study program she traveled to Sarasota for her conversion ceremony which included an appearance before a Bet Din (a three person panel made up of rabbis and/or Jewish lay leaders) followed by the ritual immersion, or mikveh ceremony.
The ritual immersion, the “mikveh’ is a spiritually transformative experience, As our candidates immerse in the calm, clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, they take a new and important step on their personal Jewish journey.
“Thank you for a wonderful conversion experience (My wife) Diane was very touched and drawn to all she seen and heard over the days spent together & I thoroughly enjoyed the few days together in what seemed like a re uniting with old friends and family, which it was was really as the sages teach! And I came home to a big party in our house that Diane had organized of family and friends, a Mazel Tov party as she called it!!!!”
“I want to especially thank you for being my Rabbi and holding my hand throughout the (conversion) process; you are super important to me! So many, many good memories of the whole course and skyping, as well as this past weekend. I really can’t thank you enough… I could go on and on. And being Italian to boot really was the icing on the cake!”
“Barbara- you are making a huge difference in the lives of so many people. Thanks for being open to me participating in the most powerful Jewish experience I’ve had in working with people. While I’ve taught over 85 people who have converted to Judaism and sat on a bet din about 20 times, none were like this one – Amazing”
“I am grateful for the effort you dedicated to my restorative conversion. I am am particularly thankful for the dedication that Janine and Rena demonstrated in the Bet Din.” ~Eli
Mazel Tov to Eli B., who appeared before Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Darshan Yeshiva Mentoring Rabbi, Rabbinic Associate, Rena M., and Holocaust Survivor Jeanine L., for his Bet Din – a detailed conversation leading to becoming a Jew By Choice.
Following ritual immersion in the mikveh, we were honored to present Eli with his formal certificate and welcome Eli B., home to Judaism. For Eli, whose family traces their ancestry to the b’nei anusim – Jews who were forced into Christian conversion during Inquisition times, this was an important step in reconnecting him with his Jewish roots.