Dear Rabbi Simon,
[This question was forwarded from a family member who lives overseas.] A quick question. I've never heard of a giyur le-humrah before and it has come up for my friend. It has been really intense watching her go through the experience of having her Judaism questioned. I am really curious about what it even means. Can you give me some insight on this? When is it used and how long have we been doing this? Who makes the decision that someone needs to do this and what is taken into consideration? I know it's a lot of questions but I am so confused about this and really need to seek some answers. Can you help?
Thank you! Anonymous
Giyur le-humrah is not a monolithic halakhic category. It is a term (sometimes used euphemistically and imprecisely) for a corrective or “just-to-be-sure” conversion procedure for one whose Jewish status is uncertain. This may be due to a prior doubtful conversion, or that of his/her mother. Sadly, it is not rare today—a result of spurious conversions conducted by innumerable rabbis and so-called rabbis for a range of reasons, both fair and foul. The nasty part is that the “victims” are often completely blameless, as the original, questionable, conversion took place in his/her infancy/childhood, or even in the previous generation.
I hope this helps to answer your question – even if it does little to alleviate your friend’s distress.
Rabbi Rashi Simon