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ISSUE NO. 187 -  TEVAT - SHEVAT 5778 -  JANUARY 2018

Two Great Autobiographies About Young Jewish Men Coming of Age With Special

Two Great Autobiographies About Young Jewish Men Coming of Age With Special

When you’re a Jew in America, you are always an ‘other’. Even if you grow up in a neighborhood filled with Jews, as you mature and go out in the world, you meet people with a totally different belief system, mindset about what is right and good and moral, and you are always challenged about what you believe.

When Jews pray, we glorify God. We don’t pray for things or events. We don’t really worry about an afterlife. Our commitment is always to community. However, that is not clear to a young child. I know Passover is our most dramatic even involving children, as we have ritual ways to eat, we have the four questions, and we explain , in our dinner ritual, why we do what we do. But that is not like getting candy and toys on Easter and Christmas (even though it is a gift giving holiday for children—-by ritual).

I found these books pretty much around the same time at book swaps. “My Sense of Silence” is by Lennard J. Davis ( University of Illinois Press, 2000) is probably out of print, but can be found on Amazon. It’s mostly about growing up with deaf parents, not necessarily about being Jewish. However, because they were Jewish—Orthodox, that somewhat added to his complexities. For those who don’t know , Deaf Culture is a culture. American Sign Language is not universal, but it is a complex language. Also, in most families, the children interpret for adults. Many people are born deaf, some become deaf, and, amazingly enough, even though Jews are a minority, there is a minority of deaf Jews. Davis describes his frustrations and how he coped, and how difficult it was. Then, in retrospect, he realizes that his parents did the best they could…although he also understands that he has a lot of responsibility as a young child. This is a short book, very well written, and would be a good read for young adults dealing with maturing and parents, deaf or not.

The other book was a best seller: “Choosing My Religion,” By Stephen Dubner (Harper Perennial 1998). Dubner was raised a devout Catholic by parents who converted from Judaism to Catholicism. He writes very well about it—not really discovering his Jewish routes until he was a mature adult. His childhood was fine, considering that he was one of 8 kids and his parents could barely support themselves without farming. He hardly met any of his relatives.

It was a girlfriend who encouraged him to learn more about his family’s history, and why his parents converted from Judaism to Catholicism. As a Jewish woman whose sister decided to become Christian, I’m somewhat familiar with the dynamics of what went on. Judaism is full of questions. Catholicism is full of answers …as well as absolutes. It’s impossible to get straight answers about faith from our scholars. Forget asking your parents. But we Jews are such a minority, it is a big blow when one leaves our flock and chooses to join another. Dubner does a thorough job of researching his family, as well as exploring his own beliefs, returning to Judaism in the end, for personal reasons. If you have ever pondered why you believe what you believe, this book chronicles how one man made decisions.

Source: Disparateinterest's Blog

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