GENERATION J by Lisa Schiffman

GENERATION J

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With a blessedly light touch, Schiffman, formerly an editor with the San Francisco Review of Books and until recently a nonobservant Jew, relates her beginner’s quest for a Judaism she can genuinely practice and believe. Generation J is that vast mÇlange of youngish, contemporary Jews who, born into already assimilated families, are fragmented in their Jewishness and ambivalent toward Judaism. Schiffman’s search is for outwardly Jewish behavior that doesn—t compromise her happy interfaith marriage or her values of experimental openness and tolerance. The burden of the assimilated Jew who wants to observe Judaism is the self-consciousness that blocks easy entry into the world of ritual acts that virtually define the religion. That self-consciousness, which in the wrong hands becomes self-righteousness, veers towards humor and self-mocking satire in this for the most part delightful spiritual narrative. But Schiffman identifies the problem with her idiosyncratic approach to Judaism when she confesses that “groups, especially ones made up of religious Jews, made me uncomfortable.” Her body tatoo of David’s star seems her easy substitute for the much more difficult embodiment of Judaism in flesh-and-blood communities. And so her parting pronouncement to the reader—“I refuse to reject myself”’sounds a pyrrhic victory over assimilation, since she has not come to terms with a large part of the Jewishness she claims to own: its boundedness to communal structures that inevitably submerge the very idiosyncrasy that has enlivened her story up to now. Schiffman’s challenge will be to sustain her winsome, ironical tone as (and if) she enters more deeply into Jewish community. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-251577-2
Page count: 176pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999