Certainly when it comes to modern Judaism, all the acrid debates regarding conversion standards might lead an outsider to think that Judaism, apart from Orthodoxy, is actively missionizing. But as Christianity spread throughout the empire, many of these Greek and Roman converts accepted the new religion instead. They believe that all righteous people go to heaven, even those who are not Jewish. . The eternal salvation of millions depends on how willing Christians and Muslims are to convert their neighbors. This should be presented as a free invitation based on mutual respect, rather than a demand or even an expectation. As a result, they have had little opportunity to compel conversions. In addition, free market values insist that all people have the chance to express their ideas, as long as they are not dangerous. Thus, it is difficult to argue that slavery was used to proselytize; the motivation for purchasing slaves was almost certainly socio-economic, not religious. The Midrash, an ancient commentary on the Jewish law, states that the Israelite forefathers converted those they encountered. Therefore, even from the times of Rus ("shfot hashoftim"), Judaism has not been a proselytizing religion. In all situations, Jews refuse to force their ideas on anyone, and they expect similar treatment in return. In a central talmudic passage, some sages asserted that converts cannot be accepted in times of Jewish political supremacy—or in the messianic era (Yevamot 24b). Over the next four hundred years, the Jews became known as a religious group that felt no need to bring outsiders into their faith. Judaism teaches that the righteous of all nations have a place in the afterlife. I suppose that if I had food and someone else was starving I would also make excuses not to share it. As such, they are taken aback when they encounter a religion that does not proselytize. Buddhists and Jainists are pluralistic and don’t try to convert people. Jewish leaders remain divided over the issue of spreading their faith to the wider world. However, there were still converts. Judaism is an ethnic or tribal religion, meaning that it does not actively proselytize among Non-Jews and attempt to convert the world. Tikvah Israel Seminars for Post-High School Students. After all, it was assumed, Judaism is not a proselytizing religion. . Without the fear that a person will suffer eternal punishment if they don’t become Jewish, there is little impetus for Jews to make converts. Formal conversion to Hinduism isn’t really possible except among particular groups like the Hare Krishnas. Historian Salo Baron has estimated that as many of 10 percent of the population in the city of Rome were Jews. Because of economic pressures and restrictions on conversion, Jews sometimes bought slaves without converting them, a practice allowed by some talmudic sages. It begins during the life of Abraham, the faith’s founder. The Book of Esther reports that following the defeat of Haman, many local Gentiles were mityahed because "the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them." Missionary activity was dangerous not only for those doing the proselytizing, but also for the entire religion. You are unlikely to answer the doorbell and encounter a couple of rabbis eager to debate spiritual matters. Yet, did Judaism always reject active proselytizing? Judaism is only for "The Jews." Contemporary historians debate the question of whether this was a forced religious conversion or a largely voluntary political arrangement. People will join us because of our sincere love of God, of Torah, of the Jewish people, of Israel, and of humanity." Only one time in history have Jewish people had the power to force conversions. Judaism is an ethnic or tribal religion, meaning that it does not actively proselytize among Non-Jews and attempt to convert the world. When the Romans conquered the Mediterranean world, they gave the Jews considerably more freedom than they gave other religions. In Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures, God commands Abraham to move to a new region, one that has a large number of pagan peoples travelling through it. Besides, given the talmudic condemnation of many Hasmonean activities, it is hard to use their alleged proselytizing as precedent within rabbinic law. Josephus reports that the Idumeans and the Itureans, after their military defeat by Hasmonean kings, circumcised themselves and adopted Jewish practices. Around the world, Orthodox rabbis debate the level of mitzvah observance that should be expected from non-Jewish spouses or fiancées (the consensus is a relatively high standard); yet the notion of non-Jewish spouses converting, and committing themselves to following Jewish law, is accepted today throughout the Orthodox community. An opposing talmudic stream, however, embraced not only sincere converts, but also conversion as a whole, interpreting Genesis as teaching that "Abraham converted people, and gathered them under the wings of the Shekhinah [the Divine Presence]" (Sifre Deuteronomy 32). . For present purposes, let us call it an eagerness to attract Gentile converts, including concerted institutional or individual efforts to draw in new members through a relatively easy conversion process. Their opponents answer that we cannot accept Jews whose commitment to mitzvah observance is lackluster—especially if they seek to convert in order to gain the civic and social benefits of being a Jew, a motivation for conversion forbidden by the Talmud. Judaism is not currently an openly proselytizing religion. During this period, a family of zealous Jews called the Maccabeans had organized a rebellion against the Seluecid Empire.