A PLACE OF LIGHT by Rhonda Shapiro-Reiser


Email this review


A somber and earnest novel, highlighting the controversial matter of women's roles in orthodox and traditional Jewish religion--through the quests of two Reform rabbis, a man and a woman. In 1948 Madeline, to the horror of her Brooklyn parents, works for the Communist party, aware, however, that this flawed group of ""comrades"" hampers the realization of her dream, her cause. Then, outside a picket line, she meets Aaron Stern, a surprisingly amusing and fascinating ""Yeshiva boy"" at the liberal rabbinical school--who has rejected his family tradition of the ""Loemer Hassidim"" even though Aaron is the sect's only post-Holocaust survivor). And when Madeline is violently raped by Illi, the Party's unstable killer, her dreams are dead; and she decides to marry Aaron, although her love for him is also dead. (She will never forgive him for ""wanting her to fail."") Jump, then, to 1967 Jerusalem--where American woman Lynda, pursuing her dream, is finally allowed by Aaron's old school friend Nathan to study Talmud, in a ""woman's class,"" of course; and though expected to marry, bear children, and assume her ordained subordinate role, Lynda refuses to be distracted from her spiritual quest. So, when Aaron, now a successful but spiritually dissatisfied Illinois rabbi, arrives with his family in Jerusalem, he finds Lynda at prayer: ""The light about the girl. . . seemed to come not from the ceiling but from something else. . . . And he knew. . . that the light was his."" Thus, Lynda will forgo marriage to a brilliant yeshiva student, following Aaron back home to be ordained as a Reform rabbi. (At one point Illi appears again, as a terrorist, and Aaron barely survives death.) It is Lynda, you see, who has ""the soul of a rebbe. . . God had given her the gift meant for him."" And finally Lynda and Madeline, former foes, find their various freedoms. . . as Rabbi Lynda is reconciled to her marriage, her pregnancy. Primarily for readers aware of the ongoing debate: a careful, insistent lesson-tale, not too theologically strenuous.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1983
Publisher: Poseidon/Pocket Books--dist. by Simon & Schuster