Dianna Cahn tells of a new religious conversion course launched in Sofia, Bulgaria by Sofia’s new Orthodox rabbi, Joshua Ahrens of the Sofia Synagogue. Ahrens’ new course is a first in that it offers Bulgaria’s “unofficial” Jewish community members a path to official conversion.
Decades of Communist rule helped wipe out traditional Jewish observance in Bulgaria, but in the 20 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria’s Sephardic Jews have reemerged as a community. Today an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Jews live in Bulgaria -- mostly in Sofia, where the Jewish community has 1,000 active members. Though most are thoroughly secular and many do not qualify as Jews according to halachah, or Jewish law, the community organization is officially Orthodox.
It wasn’t until Ahrens, a German, was hired by the Sofia Synagogue’s board in late 2011 and began reaching out to introduce the community to religious life that the conversion course took real form. Sponsored by the Jewish community, the course drew about 20 interested people. Ahrens holds one weekly evening class, which is filmed and posted online for people outside Sofia. Once every few months he runs a weekend seminar like the one in early May.
Read the entire article at the JTA.