Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Forward 50 2015

Bethany Mandel

What do you do when you discover that your rabbi filmed you naked in the mikveh as you were converting to Judaism? You pull out your cell phone at 2 a.m., type up “a bill of rights for Jewish converts” and watch as your blog post goes viral by morning.

At least, that’s how you react if you’re Bethany Mandel.

A young Orthodox stay-at-home mom in New Jersey who often writes about politics from a conservative perspective (including, recently, for the Forward), Mandel, 29, was one of Rabbi Barry Freundel’s victims. She’d long been dissatisfied with the treatment she received as a convert, but it wasn’t until the scandal broke that she felt emboldened to rock the boat. Once her “bill of rights” went up online, it was shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, steeling other converts in turn.

Mandel’s 10-point list of demands included the creation of a safe governing body for converts to turn to when they feel victimized, the right not to have to provide “papers” proving converts’ Jewishness for synagogue or for school and access to an accelerated conversion process for those who are of patrilineal descent, like Mandel herself.

To her surprise, the Rabbinical Council of America invited Mandel to join a committee to evaluate protocols for RCA conversions. She accepted the offer and addressed that body’s annual convention, sugarcoating nothing. “I don’t think it was brave standing in front of dozens of rabbis, telling them the system had failed us,” she recounted in the Forward, “but I do think it was necessary.”


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.