Am I a Jew? Lost Tribes, Lapsed Jews, and One Man’s Search for Himself

Theodore Ross. Penguin/Hudson Street, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59463-095-8
In 1982, when Men’s Journal editor Ross was nine, he moved with his divorced mother to a small Mississippi town. She instructed him to hide his Jewishness and to say he was Unitarian. By the time he was an adult, Ross had developed a furtive fascination with Judaism and continually asked himself if he was a Jew and what it really meant to be a Jew. His quest took him around the country, sampling a variety of ways of being Jewish. He met a Catholic priest from Albuquerque, N.Mex., with a genetic marker linking him to the Israelite priesthood. Ross visits “Sukkah City,” which draws 100,000 to New York’s Union Square for an architectural design contest for a ritual “booth.” Ross joins a frenzied all-male circle of dancers at an ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn wedding and visits a Reform temple in Kansas City, Mo., that’s ousting its rabbi for bringing back long-abandoned traditions like bar mitzvahs. This effort lacks the depth, clarity, and originality of the best books on Jewish spiritual journeys like Paul Cowan’s 1982 An Orphan in History, and Ross’s kvetching about the loss of his heritage feels contrived. His encounters with various Jews nevertheless offer moments that are perceptive and provocative. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 08/30/2012
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FORMATS
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-101-59016-4
Paperback - 275 pages - 978-0-14-218039-6
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