My rabbi feels I am ready to go before the beit din. He gave me a list of questions to answer in an essay. I would love to hear from others what questions they were asked, what they wrote for their rabbis, and what the Beit Din was like. I am very nervous that I am not ready and will not "pass" the Beit Din.
Here are the questions:
1) Discuss the process that lead me to becoming Jewish.
2) What are the Jewish practices, values, and beliefs that I find most appealing?
3) describe my pattern of Jewish observance and how I hope to grow in observance.
4) Describe my sense of identification with the Jewish community and synagogue.
5) What are your plans for future Jewish study?
Here is this reader's answer:
I too worked myself into a tizzy over how I would "fail". What if they wouldn't let me in? What if everything I said was rubbish and they thought I wasn't good enough? What if, what if, what if. That's because I misunderstood the point of the beit din. It's not a test, and even if you consider it one you'd be hard pressed to find enough "wrong" answers to fail. What they want to know is that you have a high level of sincerity and integrity. How that plays out is different for everyone, and they know that, so 10 different beit dins will elicit 10 different stories, but they'll all have high levels of sincerity and integrity. The fact that you have come this far and are fretting about it itself shows you are putting a lot of thought into it, and are thus sincere. They'll pick up on that.
How often you attend services and how well you know Hebrew and how you celebrate holidays, that's not what they want to know. They may ask you but only as a device to see what's behind it. It's not like they're going to say "sorry, you failed because you didn't spend the required 200 hours in synagogue last year". There isn't a requirement like that, but there is a requirement that you you will attend as much as reasonably possible. Or perhaps you have a good reason to rarely attend, like if you are shy and prefer to study/pray/contemplate/etc. privately. They know that not everyone is a standout Barbra Streisand, but however your observances and study play out, are they honest?
They want to know that your decision to convert is sincere, that whatever your reason for doing so is true, and that once done you'll keep it up. If you say "well, I tried being a Catholic but I hate all that incense so I became a Hari Krishna but you know it's impossible to look good wearing an orange bedsheet so I thought I'd try being a Jew"...nah, that's not going to fly. You can be sure that rabbis hear from people like that, but much earlier in the process. You've "passed" at that level, and now your rabbi has essentially let you in by agreeing you should have the beit din.
I was torn by this issue: people said "if your rabbi thinks you're ready then so will the beit din rabbis", to which "I said, well, if it's that easy, why have the beit din at all? The fact that it exists means there's a chance of failure." I think with hindsight there isn't a chance of failure. They're not looking to keep you out, they're looking to invite you in. But it's a process, and even though you can't "fail," you do have to do it to prove that your motives are genuine.
I was struck by the warmth of my three beit din rabbis. It started off with one saying with a smile on her face, "so tell us, how is it that you are sitting here in front of us today?" which was a clear indication for me to answer item number 1 on your list. I had essentially the same list, even though mine was Reform in California. Remember that they will know you aren't "fully Jewish" in various observances and understandings, because you are a beginner. They don't expect you to have become "fully Jew-compliant" and then convert -- it's the other way around: you convert in order to become fully Jew-compliant, which is a life-long process.
Re: integrity, I think it's better to say "I don't know xyz and haven't done abc but I want to and I will and this is how I will," rather than recite the few things you have done. You aren't proving what's already happened, you are presenting how the future will be.
After all my worries of how I would fail, I now look back at my own beit din with great fondness and wish I could remember half of what I said! Good luck and please let us know how it turns out.