TURBULENT SOULS by Stephen J. Dubner


A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family
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A deeply affecting story of three people’s intense religious journeys: from Judaism to Roman Catholicism on the part of the author’s parents, and the reverse for Dubner himself. A writer and editor at the New York Times Magazine, Dubner traces the loneliness, loss, and estrangement that led his parents away from their second-generation inner-city Judaism to a particularly fervent Catholicism—and thus toward each other—in the years during and following WWII. Florence and Solomon Dubner raised the author and his seven siblings in near-poverty, but with much happy familial cohesiveness, on a small farm in upstate New York. There, “the Dubners lived in the District of Devotion that bordered on Fanatical.” Although Solomon’s father broke with him completely after his baptism, neither of Dubner’s parents had second thoughts about their conversion (although Sol in particular had some vestigial Jewish traits, including a love for gefilte fish and a penchant for singing “My Yiddishe Mama—). That their son reapproached and ultimately converted back to Judaism might be credited to “the cunning of history,— although Dubner’s encounters with an outspoken Jewish drama teacher and a close associate of the Lubavitcher Rebbe played a role. The latter part of Dubner’s memoir portrays his own journey as well as his investigations of who his father really was and why he might have converted, in addition to a genesis of the Dubner family tree (leading to a trip to Poland) and an account of his protracted attempts to get his mother to accord Judaism a measure of theological validity. Dubner writes reflectively and nontriumphantly of his own struggles to feel comfortable as a Jew and to resist the kind of religious absolutism and chauvinism that, as a adolescent and young adult, “nearly suffocated— him. His engrossing book will interest not only serious Jews and Catholics, but all whose lives have been torn by intrafamilial religions schisms. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1998
ISBN: 0-688-15180-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998


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