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FAQs

Answers to questions people ask most often about our programs.

Intro to Judaism

Who attends the Miller Intro to Judaism Program?

Those who are not Jewish, but have always been a little curious. Those who are not planning to convert but are sharing their lives with Jews. Those who are considering conversion to Judaism. Those who have been Jewish in their hearts for years and want to make it official. Hebrew school drop-outs. Rabbinical school wannabes. You.

Is this class for Jews too?

Absolutely! Whether you were born Jewish but never quite learned what it was all about, you’re back after a long hiatus, or you’re just looking for a deeper understanding of your heritage, most of us could use a bit of a refresher. Jews from all walks of life enroll in the program: from people who had a Jewish day school education to those whose strongest connection was the annual box of matza on the kitchen counter.

What if I’m not planning to convert?

We are an Intro to Judaism class, not just a conversion program. Some of our students are thinking about becoming Jewish. Some are just interested in learning more. Some are already Jewish. We are eager to meet you wherever you are on your spiritual journey. We will never pressure you to convert.

Is the program friendly to LGBTQ individuals and couples?

Of course! The Intro Program welcomes all those who want to learn and experience Judaism with us.

How does it work if I want to convert to Judaism?

Completion of the Intro Program fulfills the basic learning requirements for conversion to Judaism. However, it is just the first step in the journey. Each candidate for conversion needs a sponsoring rabbi, who will work with you individually to determine what additional steps you will take to officially become a part of the Jewish People. Every person is different, and every conversion journey is unique.

* Please note that your sponsoring rabbi must be from the community in which you live. We believe that becoming Jewish is inseparable from becoming part of a Jewish community, so we are unable to provide “distance conversion.” We are happy to help you connect with a great sponsoring rabbi in your area. We love being “match-makers.”

In that case, I’m looking for a rabbi to sponsor me for conversion. Can you help?

Yes! For those planning to convert, think of the Intro Program as a personal concierge service for your whole journey into Judaism. We will help you find a local synagogue and sponsoring rabbi, and for those in Southern California, we will assist you in arranging your Mikvah (ritual pool) and Beit Din (rabbinic court) appointments. Finding your way into the Jewish community can feel overwhelming, but we’re always here to help.

What topics do you cover?

Classes cover Judaism’s biggest and most inspiring ideas as well as the nuts and bolts of daily Jewish living. Over 18 weeks, we’ll cover history, holidays, practices, texts, and values, and we’ll tour a Mikvah (ritual bath), hear from a Holocaust survivor, hold a model Passover seder, and more. In addition, we’ll start with Aleph-Bet (Hebrew alphabet) and either teach you to read or help you brush up on your Hebrew skills.

I’m in a relationship with / engaged to / married to / it’s complicated with someone who is Jewish already. Should they come to class with me?

YES! We strongly encourage couples to attend the classes together and share in this powerful, transformative experience. Most couples report that attending class together sparked inspiring and important conversations and brought them closer together.

Are you Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or what…?

The Intro Program is pluralistic and open to the whole community. Many of our students and alums consider themselves Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, or “just Jewish.” Affiliate partners and institutions teach our curriculum from across the Jewish spectrum. As we see it, our job is to help people become the Jews that they were meant to be in the world rather than forcing them into any particular box or denomination.

We are proud that the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative/Masorti) has officially adopted the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program as a highly recommended program for its communities. Read their announcement here.

I’m in a rush… Can I complete the class in less than eighteen weeks?

Yes. You can complete the Intro Program at your own pace by taking more than one class per week. You can also take your time — your registration is good for a whole year.

Just remember, if you are converting there will likely be additional requirements from your sponsoring rabbi. Talk to them about what timeline they require for completion of the conversion process.

What happens if I miss a class?

Almost everyone needs to miss a class from time to time. The Intro Program offers many simultaneous sessions all over Los Angeles. If you need to miss a class, it’s no problem to make it up at one of our other locations or in one of our other sessions. Just attend class at another time, get your instructor to sign a make-up slip, and you’re good to go.

Will my conversion be recognized in Israel?

If you converted outside of Israel through a Jewish community that is recognized by one of the major international Jewish movements (for example, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Rabbinical Assembly, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, etc.), your conversion will most likely be recognized for Aliyah*.

While Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform are accepted for Aliyah, the reality is very different. Under pressure from the Rabbinical Authority of Israel, the Israeli government is skeptical of conversions not performed within an Orthodox framework, especially if they were performed inside of Israel. As such, Reform and Conservative conversion cases often take months, if not years, to process and are more likely to result in a request for additional evidence or outright denial. This outcome can be challenged through administrative procedures or in court.

If you did not convert through a recognized Jewish community, your conversion may still enable you to make Aliyah. In this case, the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority will ask for information about the rabbi who supervised your conversion and the religious authority, if any, to which this rabbi belongs. You will be required to show nine months of participation in a recognized Jewish community post-conversion, and upon your move to Israel, you will receive a temporary residence visa. Your citizenship will be granted once you produce documents showing 21 months of post-conversion participation in a recognized Jewish community within Israel and abroad.

*Aliyah, or making Aliyah, in this context, means moving to Israel as a Jew.

Do your rabbis officiate weddings?

Yes, our rabbis do officiate weddings (as well as other lifecycle events).  We would be glad to speak with you about celebrating life’s most meaningful moments. Please contact us at intro@aju.edu, to schedule a time to speak.

How do I register?

You can see all currently available courses and register for them here. Or you can call us at (310) 440-1250.

How much does it cost?

Our highly subsidized tuition is $376 for an individual and $576 for a couple, including digital course materials. If you don’t have enough for tuition right now, don’t panic. Through the generosity of various alumni and friends of the program, we make sure that no one is turned away. Call us to discuss payment plans, scholarships, and other options.

When is payment due?

You can pay online at the outset of the class, or you can make payments. Class tuition, minus a small tuition deposit ($50/person), is refundable up to the fourth week of class. You read that right! You can try us out for the first month; it’s basically risk-free.

Do you offer financial aid for tuition?

We offer payment plans for those who would prefer to pay over time. Scholarships are granted in certain cases only. Please email intro@aju.edu.

Mikvah

Who can immerse in the mikvah? 

Any Jewish person of any age or gender identity can immerse at the AJU Community Mikvah. However, we require a guardian for those under 13.

I want to immerse my baby in the mikvah. How old do they need to be before immersing? 

We have facilitated immersions for babies as young as 2 weeks old, though we recommend that you consult with your pediatrician for babies under 8 weeks.

Can I wear contacts or eyeglasses in the mikvah?

Contacts and glasses must be removed before immersing in the mikvah. If you need a prescription to read, please bring glasses with you. You can bring them into the mikvah, use them to read the blessings, and then place them on the side of the pool while immersing. If you wear contacts, we have contact cases and solution you can use to store them.

Do I need to remove nail polish? 

Yes. Regular nail polish is not allowed in the AJU Community Mikvah. We do have nail polish remover and cotton balls, but please try to prepare before arriving. Gel and acrylic nails are okay.

Do gel or acrylic nails need to come off before immersing? 

No, but please wipe them with nail polish remover before going into the mikvah. We will provide the supplies for this in our prep room.

I have a piercing that’s difficult to remove. Does it need to be taken out before immersing? 

At the AJU Community Mikvah, it is fine to immerse with a piercing, especially if it would cause you harm to remove it. In general, the goal is to remove anything that separates you from the water. However, according to Jewish law, if you cannot remove a particular piece of jewelry, you can immerse after rotating it under the water. Likewise, acrylic nails that have been on for more than 30 days are considered a part of your body and do not have to be removed.

My friend wants to immerse right after me, really quickly, without making an appointment. Is this okay? 

Unfortunately, no. We book appointments for an hour because immersing in the mikvah is a beautiful ritual that deserves spaciousness. We would hate for you to be rushed through this sacred process when you will get the most out of it by being in true ceremony. Additionally, every person who immerses in the mikvah is a cost to our facility, and that is part of why we ask that each person immersing has their own appointment.

I can’t afford the mikvah. What should I do?

Please ask your rabbi for financial aid resources. If this is unavailable to you or you don’t have a relationship with a rabbi, please let us know, and we will find a way to accommodate you. 

Why does the mikvah cost money? Shouldn’t it be free?

While access to Jewish rituals should be free to all, the AJU Community Mikvah facility has costs associated with running it. Of the few open community mikva’ot in North America, all operate with fees. Our costs cover pool and facility maintenance, staff salaries, and general operational expenses. 

Can a person with a disability immerse in the mikvah?

Yes. Those with disabilities can immerse in the AJU Community Mikvah. However, if they need assistance getting in and out of the mikvah or standing and immersing, they will need to bring a certified aide to assist them. Even if they cannot immerse fully or need to hold on to someone or something, they can still have a kosher immersion. The Mikvah staff are unavailable or certified as physical aides to people needing assistance. We do not have a Hoyer lift, so if they are in a wheelchair, we regret that we cannot accommodate them at this time.

Will you check my body before I enter the pool?

No. At the AJU Community Mikvah, we believe everyone should maintain bodily autonomy. We will explain what preparation needs to happen before the mikvah, but you will take care of the rest. Additionally, there is nothing that you can do to ‘un-kosher’ the mikvah. If you feel you are ready to immerse, you are ready.

Is the mikvah kosher?

The AJU Community Mikvah is kosher, as certified by Rabbi Ben Zion Bergman z”l, a global authority recognized for his knowledge of halakha (Jewish law). As the only pluralistic mikvah in the Pacific Southwest, we welcome Jews of all denominations to come and immerse themselves.

How far out can I book an appointment? 

We book up to 90 days in advance.

How can I book an appointment?

You can schedule a session at AJU Community Mikvah here.

How many witnesses do I need for my immersion?

One non-related Jewish adult witness is needed for the conversion of an adult, a niddah session, or a pre-wedding appointment for a woman (also considered niddah). Three non-related Jewish adult witnesses (usually three clergy) are needed for the conversion of a child. For all other types of appointments, a witness is not necessary, but it is recommended.

How do I reschedule my appointment?

You can access your original confirmation email and click “change appointment” or call us at 310-440-1221.

I have more questions. Who can I talk to?

You can email mikvah@aju.edu or call 310-440-1221.

BCI

Will I be the youngest/oldest one at BCI?

Chances are, no. The average age is 24, although the program is open to adults from 18 to 29 years old.

Who participates in BCI?

BCI attracts young adults from around the world, creating a dynamic, pluralistic, and one-of-a-kind Jewish community. As any BCI alum will tell you, a core part of the experience for each participant is getting to know young Jewish people from a full range of backgrounds. Our cohorts tend to be diverse in terms of religious background and Jewish knowledge, region of origin (including across the U.S. and around the world), race, gender, sexual orientation, political ideology, hobbies, interests, and more.

What if I can only attend part of the program?

Because of the unique community-building process that takes place at BCI throughout the course of the program, we only accept participants who can commit to being at BCI for the entire duration of the program.

How religiously observant is BCI?

BCI is a pluralistic program that strives to create an environment that will make everyone feel comfortable, no matter their religious background, while offering participants many opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. BCI is not affiliated with any particular movement. The kitchen at BCI is Glatt Kosher and is under orthodox rabbinic supervision. We observe Shabbat at BCI but occasionally use instruments during Shabbat services and play music after dinner on Friday nights for Israeli dancing. When these occur, there are always alternatives provided.

What if I don’t know Hebrew?

You do not have to know Hebrew to come to BCI. Hebrew texts are used for Beit Midrash (Jewish learning) sessions; they are always accompanied by English translations.

What if English is not my first language?

While BCI is an international program, speaking and understanding English is a requirement for participating in BCI. All of our programs are conducted in English, and participants are expected to converse in English with each other in public spaces.

How do I get to BCI and back?

If you live outside of Southern California, you will need to fly into LAX on Tuesday, June 28th. Once you arrive, BCI will provide transportation from the airport to the campus. If you live in Southern California and/or are not flying into LAX, you will be responsible for arriving at BCI by the evening of Tuesday, June 28th. On the last day of BCI, we will provide transportation to LAX. Transportation is only provided to LAX. You are more than welcome to extend your ticket, but any additional travel arrangements/costs will be your responsibility.

What if I have food allergies?

Not to worry! The food at BCI is incredible! Before the summer, we’ll ask about your food allergies so that we can make sure the kitchen is stocked with the right food for you. At dairy meals, we always provide a non-dairy option, and at meat meals, there is always a vegetarian and a vegan option. All meals provide clear labeling for dishes that are gluten/dairy-free and vegan/vegetarian.

Is all my food covered by the program cost?

Yes.

Will I get cell phone reception at BCI?

Some providers do get reception (i.e., T-Mobile, Verizon), but since BCI is located in a valley, there is no guarantee that you will have consistent reception. Check your provider’s website for coverage (the ZIP is 93064). BCI does provide free wifi access in the main buildings.

I’m a smoker. Will I be able to smoke at BCI?

BCI is a smoke-free facility. That is, you are not allowed to smoke anywhere except in the specifically designated smoking area in the parking lot. This is for both health reasons as well as safety, as the summer is high fire danger season. Please note that you will need to bring all the cigarettes you want with you when you come. We will, however, be happy to purchase the nicotine patch or gum for anyone who may be interested in quitting while at BCI.

Can I get mail at BCI?

Yes. People can send mail to you at:

Your Name
c/o BCI
1101 Peppertree Lane
Brandeis, CA 93064

Is there internet at BCI?

While BCI does provide free wifi access in the main buildings, the more physically and mentally present you are, the more you will get out of it. In order to facilitate this level of presence, participants are not permitted to use their computers, smartphones, or other internet-enabled devices during programming. During free time, you may use your computers as desired…though you may find yourself wanting to go on a hike instead.

I have my own car. Can I leave to see friends/family? Or can people visit me?

Due to safety reasons, as well as the intimate nature of the experience, BCI participants are required to stay on the grounds at all times, and visitors are not allowed.

Can I get college credits for attending BCI, and how many?

For the 10-Day Program, BCI-ers can earn 3.0 college credits through American Jewish University, which you can transfer to your home institution. To earn credit you will have required activities, learning, and assignments that you will complete during the 10 days of the program. A final grade will be issued and you will be eligible to request AJU transcripts for the credits you have earned.

I have more questions. Who can I talk to?

Email us: bci@aju.edu.

What is the tuition?

Tuition for the 26-Day program:
Due to the incredible generosity of the Ziering family and our other BCI supporters, we are able to offer this year’s program at a cost of $600. However, if you apply by the Early Bird deadline of March 18th, the cost is only $450. Scholarships are available as needed, and processed after a participant has been accepted into the program. International participants are additionally eligible for a travel reimbursement scholarship.

Payment for the Early Bird deadline is due within four weeks of your acceptance date. Full refunds are available for cancellations made by May 1, 2024. If you are accepted after the Early Bird deadline, payment is due within two weeks of your acceptance date.

Tuition for the 10-Day Program:
At BCI, we are committed to maintaining a unique experience that is financially accessible to all young adult Jews who wish to participate. Due to the incredible generosity of our supporters and of Marilyn and Sigi Ziering, BCI is able to offer the 10-Day BCI Experience on a sliding scale of $300 – $3,000. The tuition fee covers meals, housing, staffing resources, and all program-related expenses for the full duration of the program.

We never want finances to be a barrier to participation. If you have any concerns or questions about payment, or feel unsure about how much to pay, please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Myra Meskin, BCI Director (bci@aju.edu) who can talk through it all with you.

Opening Doors

We are not offering the Opening Doors workshop at this time.

The Partnership Project
(Marriage for Life)

We are not offering The Partnership Project retreat at this time.