A memoir about an unusual spiritual journey.
In her first book, freelance writer Himsel chronicles her slow transition from the cultlike religion of her youth to her conversion to Judaism. Raised in rural Indiana, the author followed her parents into the Worldwide Church of God, a quasi-Christian religion founded by radio evangelist Herbert Armstrong. The religion, steeped in end-times teachings, required members to adhere to Old Testament laws and holy days while eschewing many of the traditions of mainstream Christianity. Himsel was raised to assume the imminent end of the world and to see her salvation as based on how thoroughly she followed church teachings. Nevertheless, she managed to move onward, entering Indiana University. In 1981, while in college, she left to study in Israel to pursue her intense interest in the area’s biblical history. At the time, she knew almost nothing about modern-day Israel or modern Judaism. Over time, however, her connection to Judaism grew—through Israel and through American Jewish friends—while her faith in her parents’ church waned. Eventually, while living in New York, a Jewish boyfriend and a pregnancy forced the issue of conversion, leading to yet another journey. Himsel admirably narrates her life story in page-turning prose that is both entertaining and moving. Her tale of conversion is unique given that she started in what can only be seen tangentially as a Christian denomination. The since-discredited Worldwide Church of God both stunted the author’s spiritual growth and led her to the foundations of Judaism. To many readers, it will seem that Judaism was a natural next step for Himsel. One unresolved issue is the author’s oft-expressed yearning for “the Spirit,” for a moment of certainty and full belonging. Unfortunately, she never seems to find this moment, nor even a full feeling of belonging, whether as a Christian or a Jew.
An intriguing tale of one woman’s search for identity and community.