I am the chair of the Rabbinical Council of America's Geirus policies and standards committee. We have converted people who match that profile as long as we are confident that they live in circumstances where they can live an observant lifestyle.
Answered by: Rabbi --- Not Active with JVO Suspended
In the case of a 16-17 year old it would depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to: Maturity, reasons for converting, parental support and ability to practice Judaism. Study is important but practice is also necessary.
This is very much an individual decision. Such an individual should seek out a rabbi to explore their options.
The question of helping in the conversion of a “minor” leads to several questions. The first is “why”? What prompted the initial inquiry into Judaism? Is the choice of Judaism an affirmation of Judaism or a rejection of one’s family’s heritage? And what is the relation with the parents? There is a difference between parents who might support this choice or who might not care, and those who might be even hostile to the conversion.
According to Jewish tradition, a Jewish male becomes an adult upon Bar Mitzvah at age 13. That offers adult responsibilities in our tradition, but does not accord majority in civil law. A change in status might be against the law prior to one’s 18th birthday.
The greatest desire would be for the family to rejoice in that their child had found meaning in religion, even if it is not the family’s faith. If that is not the case, the young person could celebrate and observe the beliefs and tenets of Judaism, and upon majority, undergo formal conversion. In this instance, believing oneself to be Jewish and observing the laws and customs of Judaism is tantamount to the formalization. One might refer to Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #50, 1984
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