​About the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters:


Conversion from one religion to another is a significant moment, not only for the person converting, but also for the religious community abandoned and the one adopted. Historical materials contain records of thousands of inter-religious conversions (individual as well as mass conversions), which can shed light on religious, social, political and legal phenomena relevant for understanding how religious communities function, how they deal with questions of identity and how and why they erect boundaries. Conversion can also illuminate the internal politics and structures of a religious community, how they interact with those perceived as “others”, as well as the dynamics of minority-majority cultures living side by side. This I-CORE will provide an analytical framework for examining political, social, religious and legal issues, communal and religious boundaries, the transfer of knowledge, and the ability to compare the process of conversion over long periods of time and between different geographical settings. The questions raised will also shed light on the role of religion in the modern world as well as the interplay of belief systems and legal and social structures in an era of hybrid identities and multi-cultural societies.


The I-CORE works on the creation of a database which will attempt to record every known record of conversion from one religion to another. The data collected by members of the Center with the active cooperation of an international group of scholars will be digitalized and translated into English so that the database will be available for anyone interested. The accumulated data will provide the raw materials for further research which will allow scholars to compare and relate to a wide range of issues dealing with conversion over a large geographical area and time period and present new interpretative outcomes.


The group selected to establish the CSOC I-CORE project was under the scientific management of Prof. Chaim (Harvey) Hames of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from the center’s inception by the I-CORE in 2012 until mid-2018. From 2018, thanks to a generous endowment by the Markus Family Foundation at Ben-Gurion University, facilitated by BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi, CSOC is now an academic research center within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The current director of the center is Dr. Ephraim (Effie) Shoham-Steiner managing doctoral and post-doctoral researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. CSOC is currently co-operating with the Seminar in Abrahamic Religions at Oxford University (part of the TORCH initiative at Oxford) and seeks to expand its international cooperation’s in the near future.​


​Supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation