Christian theologian Cox reports on experiencing and embracing Judaism in his interfaith home.
When Cox (Divinity/Harvard; Fire From Heaven, 2001, etc.) wed Wellesley religion professor Nina Tumarkin, it marked the beginning of his life in a Jewish household. After 14 years of marriage and participating in each other’s rituals and traditions “as far as our consciences [would] allow,” Cox here takes on the daunting task of serving as guide to a religion that is not his own. He succeeds with remarkable grace. Loosely organizing his book around the progression of the Jewish year, Cox leads the reader through holidays both great and small, as well as marriage, death, and bar and bat mitzvahs. Common Jewish practices that may mystify gentiles (sukkah booths, Yom Kippur fasting) are explained, and personal experiences with his family and spiritual advisors are relayed. Though he finds common ground with some Christian practices, Cox is a careful guide, cautioning against a wholesale appropriation of Jewish tradition as a mere adjunct to Christianity. Nor does he shrink from the hard issues. “Anti-Judaism is not peripheral to Christianity,” he asserts, going on to discuss some grand old institutionalized traditions of anti-Semitism. This clear-eyed view is not reserved for Christianity; Cox examines some of the uglier points of Jewish history as well, including the violence of Purim and the myths of Chanukah. Serving as a broad introduction to Judaism, Cox’s study also offers guidance to interfaith couples searching for ways to embrace the religious traditions of both spouses; his chapter on “December Madness” and his position on the great Christmas tree debate are particularly useful.
Warmth, humor, and first-rate scholarship illuminate this elegant, thoughtful work, which should be of great interest to those considering intermarriage, and those (including Jews) who simply would like to learn more about Judaism.