STRANGER IN THE MIDST by Nan Fink

STRANGER IN THE MIDST

A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 There is a saying that it's hard to be a Jew. In this deeply moving memoir, Fink, a cofounder of Tikkun magazine, shows that it's equally hard to become a Jew. Fink's tale is filled with sad ironies. Having confronted, as a child and a teenager, anti-Indian and other racist sentiments in her Waspy, northern California family, she converted to Judaism only to discover the existence of Jewish chauvinism. Married to Michael Lerner, with whom she founded Tikkun, and thus solidly ensconced in the progressive, supposedly feminist, part of the Jewish community, she had to face sexism from the journal's predominantly male editorial board. And, having to suffer incomprehension and rejection from her family because of her conversion (one aunt, invited to Fink's housewarming, smashed the new mezuzah she had nailed to her doorpost), she also found that she had to overcome a shocking degree of suspicion and mistrust of converts within the Jewish community. But most affecting in this memoir by a woman whose ingenuousness lends both fragility and strength to her narrative, is Fink's description of her spiritual journey--of her attraction to Judaism; her sense of dislocation after converting, unsure of the solidity of her Jewish identity but no longer belonging in the Gentile world; her growing dissatisfaction with certain aspects of Judaism (especially its patriarchal nature) as she grew more familiar with it. Her marriage to Lerner did not survive these conflicts, and for a while, Fink became alienated from Jewish life. But eventually the author crosses what she calls her Red Sea--a difficult passage to a distant shore, one in which she fears she might drown. Fink rediscovers the Jewish roots of her spirituality in the mystical tradition and in the Jewish renewal movement. This an instructive look at the conflicts, internal and external, of a convert's life. But most impressive is Fink's commitment to finding the true meaning of Jewish prayer and practice.

Pub Date: March 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-465-08200-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997