Ba’al Teshuva, Convert – Which Customs to Follow?

My parents are Jewish but I grew up with almost no observance in my home. In fact, I would have to go back several generations to find religious ancestors. I began becoming religious as an adult and I have generally been following the customs of my teachers and my new community – for things such as the version of the prayers I say, and the Tzitzit and Tefillin I wear. Is that legitimate, or should I be adhering to my family customs? My ancestors actually hail from the Netherlands, where most Jews are Ashkenazi but there is also a large Sephardic community.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It’s nice to hear of your spiritual growth and my wishes that it continue! Since your parents are not observant, you are no longer bound to the family or community customs (minhagim) of your more distant ancestors. Thus, theoretically you can choose the customs you’d like – whether to be Ashkenazi or Sephardi, a Litvak or Hassid, etc. However, the common custom is to adopt the practices of the teachers who had the most influence on you or of the community you have joined. The same is true of a convert, who has no earlier family customs.

(Source: Teshuvot V'Hanhagot I 354.)

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Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try Note also that this is not a homework service!

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