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AM I A JEW? by Theodore Ross


Lost Tribes, Lapsed Jews, and One Man's Search for Himself

by Theodore Ross

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59463-095-8
Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin

Men’s Journal articles editor Ross embarks on a sampling mission of Jewish experiences.

Born to Jewish parents, when the author was 9 years old, he moved with his mother, divorced and with a failed medical practice in New York City, to Mississippi. Fearing the repercussions of professing their religion in that place at that time, and not altogether comfortable with Judaism in general, she told her children to say they were Unitarians, and little of real Jewishness touched their lives. Time passed, and Ross wanted to know more about his Jewish identity. “The result has been a furtive fascination with Judaism,” he writes, “one that compels and repels in equal measure.” That ambivalence serves him well as he investigates some of the more eccentric strains of Judaism to see if they speak to him of his Jewish identity. Ross’ voice is both questioning and questing, the passion tamped but alight, and a few communities were seemingly amenable to his way in the world: Reboot, “the Jewish illuminati,” were obvious candidates, but the author wondered about their distinctive efficacy regarding identity, and a Classical Reform Congregation was enticing—liberal, principled, rooted, free of stereotypes—but its cult of synthesis interweaving Judaism and Americanism felt muddled. Ross is a fine practitioner of the kaleidoscopic research approach, but for clear reasons he was not going to join Hasidic, ultra-Orthodox or Crypto-Jewish groups. His lack of faith did not deter him, and he found meaning in contemporary Judaism’s “iconoclasm, abstract monotheism, and social justice,” and its undetectable Supreme Being.

A pleasant collection of honest, critically discriminating encounters with the Jewish faith and culture.