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Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism (after Finally Choosing to Look There)

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A renowned political speechwriter rediscovers Judaism, finding timeless wisdom and spiritual connection in its age-old practices and traditions. After a decade as a political speechwriter—serving as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama, a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama, and chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign—S A renowned political speechwriter rediscovers Judaism, finding timeless wisdom and spiritual connection in its age-old practices and traditions. After a decade as a political speechwriter—serving as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama, a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama, and chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign—Sarah Hurwitz decided to apply her skills as a communicator to writing a book . . . about Judaism. And no one is more surprised than she is. Hurwitz was the quintessential lapsed Jew—until, at age thirty-six, after a tough breakup, she happened upon an advertisement for an introductory class on Judaism. She attended on a whim, but was blown away by what she found: beautiful rituals, helpful guidance on living an ethical life, conceptions of God beyond the judgy bearded man in the sky—none of which she had learned in Hebrew school or during the two synagogue services she grudgingly attended each year. That class led to a years-long journey during which Hurwitz visited the offices of rabbis, attended Jewish meditation retreats, sat at the Shabbat tables of Orthodox families, and read hundreds of books about Judaism—all in dogged pursuit of answers to her biggest questions. What she found transformed her life, and she wondered: How could there be such a gap between the richness of what Judaism offers and the way so many Jews like her understand and experience it? Sarah Hurwitz is on a mission to close this gap by sharing the profound insights she discovered on everything from Jewish holidays, ethics, and prayer to Jewish conceptions of God, death, and social justice. In this entertaining and accessible book, she shows us why Judaism matters and how its message is more relevant than ever, and she inspires Jews to do the learning, questioning, and debating required to make this religion their own.


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A renowned political speechwriter rediscovers Judaism, finding timeless wisdom and spiritual connection in its age-old practices and traditions. After a decade as a political speechwriter—serving as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama, a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama, and chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign—S A renowned political speechwriter rediscovers Judaism, finding timeless wisdom and spiritual connection in its age-old practices and traditions. After a decade as a political speechwriter—serving as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama, a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama, and chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign—Sarah Hurwitz decided to apply her skills as a communicator to writing a book . . . about Judaism. And no one is more surprised than she is. Hurwitz was the quintessential lapsed Jew—until, at age thirty-six, after a tough breakup, she happened upon an advertisement for an introductory class on Judaism. She attended on a whim, but was blown away by what she found: beautiful rituals, helpful guidance on living an ethical life, conceptions of God beyond the judgy bearded man in the sky—none of which she had learned in Hebrew school or during the two synagogue services she grudgingly attended each year. That class led to a years-long journey during which Hurwitz visited the offices of rabbis, attended Jewish meditation retreats, sat at the Shabbat tables of Orthodox families, and read hundreds of books about Judaism—all in dogged pursuit of answers to her biggest questions. What she found transformed her life, and she wondered: How could there be such a gap between the richness of what Judaism offers and the way so many Jews like her understand and experience it? Sarah Hurwitz is on a mission to close this gap by sharing the profound insights she discovered on everything from Jewish holidays, ethics, and prayer to Jewish conceptions of God, death, and social justice. In this entertaining and accessible book, she shows us why Judaism matters and how its message is more relevant than ever, and she inspires Jews to do the learning, questioning, and debating required to make this religion their own.

30 review for Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism (after Finally Choosing to Look There)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Sperber

    While my approach to Judaism differs quite a bit from that of Hurwitz, I very much enjoyed this book. Readers should know that the book embraces a vision of Judaism that probably best fits into the "liberal Jewish" world-view (i.e., Reform/Reconstructionist/Conservative), though Hurwitz does try to present Orthodox positions in a number of places. That being said, the book does a very nice job explaining to readers why Judaism is worthy of a modern, educated person's attention. As Hurwitz says in While my approach to Judaism differs quite a bit from that of Hurwitz, I very much enjoyed this book. Readers should know that the book embraces a vision of Judaism that probably best fits into the "liberal Jewish" world-view (i.e., Reform/Reconstructionist/Conservative), though Hurwitz does try to present Orthodox positions in a number of places. That being said, the book does a very nice job explaining to readers why Judaism is worthy of a modern, educated person's attention. As Hurwitz says in the introduction, if you are looking for peace of mind or spiritual connection; looking to understand yourself more deeply; looking to become a better person; or looking to lead a more meaningful, impactful life, then Judaism might be the answer. Of course, Judaism is a 4,000 year old civilization that can be intimidating to the uninitiated. Finding the right approach is key when dealing an intellectual tradition that often assumes a certain base of background knowledge. As someone once said about the Talmud, which Jewish tradition compares to the sea in that it has no beginning or end, the trick for the newcomer is to find a place where the shore slopes gently down into the water. Hurwitz helps you do just that. A number of people have asked me over the years for advice on where to start learning more about Judaism. This book probably comes closest to what they are looking for. While not a "how to" book, Hurwitz helps you see why Jewish practices are worth pursuing and gives you some direction for how to pursue your own Jewish journey. Whether it is the inspirational practice of prayer and meditation; the soothing calm of weekly Shabbat observance; the communal experience of the major holiday seasons; or the intellectual challenge of grappling with centuries-old texts, there is something in the Jewish tradition for everyone--but only if you know where to look. Hurwitz guides you through each of these topics, and more, giving you a taste of each. Finally, she includes a list of resources for those looking to learn more.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    I appreciate this book. Sarah Hurwitz makes reference to the fact that Jews don't proselytize. But, she says, she's sharing, and sharing is okay. I appreciate that. I was out and about in the world from 1961 to 2005 without any other Jews ever reaching out to me, which I've wondered about. ...Although the fact is that if they had, I expect I would have blown them off. When you're not ready, you're not ready. But the reason Jews don't proselytize is that they wouldn't let us, and then we made lemon I appreciate this book. Sarah Hurwitz makes reference to the fact that Jews don't proselytize. But, she says, she's sharing, and sharing is okay. I appreciate that. I was out and about in the world from 1961 to 2005 without any other Jews ever reaching out to me, which I've wondered about. ...Although the fact is that if they had, I expect I would have blown them off. When you're not ready, you're not ready. But the reason Jews don't proselytize is that they wouldn't let us, and then we made lemonade out of lemons and adopted the position ourselves. Also, being a Jew is not without its dangers -- as we can see of late even in that supposed mecca, America. So, inviting someone to be a Jew, or to own their Jewishness, carries with it the possibility of somehow bringing them into harm's way. All these motivational possibilities on the unconscious level, of course; I'm not implying intentionality. So what Sarah Hurwitz has done is excellent. She has written about Judaism for those born into it but detached from it (or others who are curious), nor has she been deterred from telling what it is or why one might wish to consider it. In each section, starting with bible stories and eventually incorporating topics such as God, mitzvot (commandments), self-improvement, prayer, Shabbat (the Sabbath), and the holidays, she begins where people are likely to be and carries them along to somewhere new. For example, the bible stories: she begins with the stories in their childhood versions and that to a modern sensibility sound "shocking, appalling and quite bizarre." She contrasts those stories in their near-telegraphic form with Homer, where everything is spelled out in full and nothing left to the imagination, explaining the bible as a launchpad to interpretation. In fact, any given reading is interpretation, and it's often the culture in which we're embedded that dictates what we hear and see in the stories. An even earlier hurdle is that we may be conditioned to run as fast as we can from anything calling itself religion. In fact, in the circles I move in, those bragging they don't have a racist bone in their bodies are few while those claiming they don't have a religious bone are many, so her point is well taken. Since people now and over the eons have gotten something from religion, there will be those who have reached a point of exploration. Ms. Hurwitz is addressing those people. The book is remarkably positive. It's not an apology. Here, her political savvy as former speechwriter for Michelle Obama no doubt comes into play. Also her tone is psychologically astute: not being defensive, she avoids strengthening erroneous associations. The book is informative, reflecting her own journey of learning and growth. Yet I do think her aim is more self-help then memoir, not to take away one little bit from her effort. The book fills a need. Bravo, Sarah Hurwitz!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Char

    This was a very messy book, in the best of ways. Rather than your run-of-the-mill Judaism 101 books that present matter-of-fact descriptions of Jewish holidays, rituals, and ideas, Hurwitz chronicles her honest attempts to learn about Judaism and integrate it into her life. She has plenty of concerns, questions, disagreements, amazements... like anyone would when (re)learning about a religion from scratch! What results is not a cookie-cutter list of expectations for anyone trying to live Jewishl This was a very messy book, in the best of ways. Rather than your run-of-the-mill Judaism 101 books that present matter-of-fact descriptions of Jewish holidays, rituals, and ideas, Hurwitz chronicles her honest attempts to learn about Judaism and integrate it into her life. She has plenty of concerns, questions, disagreements, amazements... like anyone would when (re)learning about a religion from scratch! What results is not a cookie-cutter list of expectations for anyone trying to live Jewishly, but an honest and thus realistic attempt to adopt Jewish rituals and ways of thinking into her life. I also appreciated the unexpected topics Hurwitz chose to cover in her book. There are the expected chapters, like on holidays and the Torah. But there are also explorations of the different theological conceptions of G?d (anthropomorphic, pantheist, humanist...) and the different formats of prayer (the siddur of course, but also hitbodedut, meditation...). One might expect these topics to be too advanced for this basic introduction, but Hurwitz handles them deftly and concisely, with plenty of reading recommendations at the end for a deeper dive into each topic. My favorite parts were when these attempts bumped up against Hurwitz's former role as head speechwriter for Michelle Obama. How could she truly keep shabbat during a political campaign or with the 24 hour news cycle? How often were Jewish ideas about mitzvot and ethics reflected in the speeches she had written years earlier?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    This wasn't quite what I was expecting--I was expecting (and would have preferred) more of a personal narrative and not just a summary of Jewish beliefs (which I already knew). But it was nice to read a book that articulated reasons for Judaism, and why traditional, albeit modified, practice is still relevant and meaningful in an age of "pick what appeals to you." This wasn't quite what I was expecting--I was expecting (and would have preferred) more of a personal narrative and not just a summary of Jewish beliefs (which I already knew). But it was nice to read a book that articulated reasons for Judaism, and why traditional, albeit modified, practice is still relevant and meaningful in an age of "pick what appeals to you."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Rose

    *Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life--in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)* by Sarah Hurwitz is a beautiful book about Judaism. If will stirr your soul and touch your heart. If you are Jewish it will remind you of the beauty of your religion. If you aren't it will teach you about a wonderful centuries old religion. This is a beautiful book. I highly recommend it. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy *Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life--in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)* by Sarah Hurwitz is a beautiful book about Judaism. If will stirr your soul and touch your heart. If you are Jewish it will remind you of the beauty of your religion. If you aren't it will teach you about a wonderful centuries old religion. This is a beautiful book. I highly recommend it. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    A beautiful and honest glimpse into a very personal journey. A must read!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This book was disappointing to me. While it’s an excellent introduction to basic Judaism, I did not find the spiritual journey the title promised. If you are new to Judaism, this would be a good text; if you are familiar with Jewish ritual, the liturgy, the holiday cycle, Torah and commentaries, you will find this book lacking. My three star rating reflects the excellent quality of writing and the introduction to the fundamentals of Judaism. However, I found the book to be more reportage than pe This book was disappointing to me. While it’s an excellent introduction to basic Judaism, I did not find the spiritual journey the title promised. If you are new to Judaism, this would be a good text; if you are familiar with Jewish ritual, the liturgy, the holiday cycle, Torah and commentaries, you will find this book lacking. My three star rating reflects the excellent quality of writing and the introduction to the fundamentals of Judaism. However, I found the book to be more reportage than personal journey, and that is not what I expected from the title.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Going to wait a day to get my thoughts in order before writing my review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    This book is ideal for you if you're a Jew who's been wondering why it matters to be Jewish, what all these rituals and beliefs are all about, and how your liberal ethics are so tied into a 4,00-year-old tradition with so many elements that could repulse you. Sarah Hurwitz has been and to some extent still is that Jew, and she will speak to you in a language of rebelliousness, curiosity, and the search for justice and meaning. It will truly be a conversation, not a lecture. Whether or not you ag This book is ideal for you if you're a Jew who's been wondering why it matters to be Jewish, what all these rituals and beliefs are all about, and how your liberal ethics are so tied into a 4,00-year-old tradition with so many elements that could repulse you. Sarah Hurwitz has been and to some extent still is that Jew, and she will speak to you in a language of rebelliousness, curiosity, and the search for justice and meaning. It will truly be a conversation, not a lecture. Whether or not you agree with her, you will recognize a kindred spirit, and you will understand yourself better at the end. You would think this book wouldn't appeal to someone like me: 62 years old, male, with a lifelong commitment to making a meaningful Jewish life. On the contrary! I found Hurwitz' personal story of connecting to Judaism inspired me, and the more personal and quirky it was, the more real it seemed to me. Beyond that, she reviewed things I knew, making them fresh for me with her perspective, and she taught me some stories and ways of looking at things that I had never heard or seen before. I love learning from younger people, especially from women! For instance: Or perhaps the Kaddish isn't a prayer about praising God at all, but rather a prayer to console God. This seems to be the point of a moving midrash about Moses' final days in which Moses begs God to let him keep living. Moses' soul also pleads with God, asking not to have to leave his body. But God refuses to relent, and the story concludes, "God kissed Moses on the mouth and drew his soul from him with the kiss. And He [God] wept and said, 'Who will now rise up me against the evil-doers? Who will now stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?'" I am not Moses. Even Moses wasn't Moses all the time. But I like to think that when I die, God will notice the Dennis-size hole b'alma di v'ra kiruteih, in the world God created according to God's will. And let us say, Amen.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sari

    I was profoundly moved by Sarah Hurwitz's book, "Here All Along:..."and I have been recommending it enthusiastically to friends and family members. It is well written and inspiring. I have added it to my Favorites list. I was profoundly moved by Sarah Hurwitz's book, "Here All Along:..."and I have been recommending it enthusiastically to friends and family members. It is well written and inspiring. I have added it to my Favorites list.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I’ve been interested in learning more about my Jewish heritage (although never raised in the Jewish faith) and was recommended this book by someone who works at a book store. Really glad she did! It was exactly what I was looking for: an open account of Hurwitz’s experiences with Judaism and a sort of introduction to various Jewish teachings, beliefs, holidays, and how to “get started.” It definitely has lead to more questions but that’s the process, right?!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kaylee Wolitzer

    This book took me a long time to get through. It's not a bad book, but I wasn't motivated to pick it up and got easily distracted when reading it. I was very excited about it when I first started it, and eventually ended up mildly annoyed at it. I don't regret reading it and I do feel I gained something from it, I just didn't quite get out of it what I was hoping to. For me, there was a little too much of the author's opinion and information on the author's own journey of discovering Judaism, an This book took me a long time to get through. It's not a bad book, but I wasn't motivated to pick it up and got easily distracted when reading it. I was very excited about it when I first started it, and eventually ended up mildly annoyed at it. I don't regret reading it and I do feel I gained something from it, I just didn't quite get out of it what I was hoping to. For me, there was a little too much of the author's opinion and information on the author's own journey of discovering Judaism, and discussion of how difficult it was to write the book. I wanted more substance, more of why Judaism is fascinating, little known facts about the religion, inspiration. I didn't learn a whole lot that was new to me, for all the time the author spent discussing how often she learned new things on her journey. I did enjoy the statistics she shared about modern Jewish practices in the US which made me feel less alone in how I think and how I practice. Importantly, I learned that there are lots of Jews who have differing opinions on God or may not believe in God at all but are still very much Jewish and that these beliefs can still have a place in the Jewish community. Reading about all the different beliefs and practices that can still be part of a Jewish identity really made me feel more connected to Judaism as I realized my own beliefs can harmonize with my Jewish identity. I'm not giving this book a star rating because I don't know where to put it. I don't want to disrespect the author by giving it a low rating just because it wasn't what I was expecting. I'm sure it will be a helpful read for others.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Things I liked: -The author is a liberal ba'al tshuva, which I thought was interesting and a story worth telling. Most stories about folks who return to Judaism or to great observance are about folks who turn to Orthodoxy. I like that Hurwitz finds a meaningful life in liberal Judaism, and she talks about how she has integrated Judaism into a very modern life. -I learned some stuff about Jewish meditation/mindfulness/spirituality that I didn't know before. Things I didn't like: -There was a lot of J Things I liked: -The author is a liberal ba'al tshuva, which I thought was interesting and a story worth telling. Most stories about folks who return to Judaism or to great observance are about folks who turn to Orthodoxy. I like that Hurwitz finds a meaningful life in liberal Judaism, and she talks about how she has integrated Judaism into a very modern life. -I learned some stuff about Jewish meditation/mindfulness/spirituality that I didn't know before. Things I didn't like: -There was a lot of Judaism 101 in this book, which I didn't need and didn't want. Really, the book could have been a New Yorker feature in length, talking about the author's personal experience of finding meaning in a liberal, Jewish life and it would have had a lot more impact. The last half of the book was weighed down by this. -I don't know how much I can trust the information in the book - the author is obviously well-researched, but she is very much a lay person. -A lot of the content was literally summarizing other writers - felt like a book review at times. -The author talks an awful lot about her important job as an Obama administration speechwriter. That's a cool job, and some personal background is obviously very important, but it was too much. -Please never use the word "seminal" to modify the word "feminist."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shoshanna

    Really liked this one! Only reason not five stars is that sometimes I feel like this book doesn't lend itself to the audio format, not because of Hurwitz's narration, which was great, but it's not exactly narrative. I have found in other non narrative non fiction books (like Rebecca Traister's) that I absolutely love them, but sometimes have trouble concentrating. So maybe take a star off of me, not the book. A little 101ische, but I think that's actually good! This book could be for the Jew curi Really liked this one! Only reason not five stars is that sometimes I feel like this book doesn't lend itself to the audio format, not because of Hurwitz's narration, which was great, but it's not exactly narrative. I have found in other non narrative non fiction books (like Rebecca Traister's) that I absolutely love them, but sometimes have trouble concentrating. So maybe take a star off of me, not the book. A little 101ische, but I think that's actually good! This book could be for the Jew curious, new Jews, Jews who are ancestrally Jewish, but not that connected, any Jew who wants to learn more about different parts of Jewishness and Judaism. I feel like we all have gaps and Hurwitz does an incredible job of breaking down ideas and histories and holidays and practices. I hope more Jews read this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I often read a book to prepare for the High Holidays, and this one I suggested for the September read for the Jewish Book Club on Goodreads. Although I doubt they will thank me for it. Plenty of people in that group were rather critical and unenthused. I admit myself, that while there were things I greatly enjoyed about it, mostly the premise, I found myself rather whipping through whole pages, and not necessarily getting "the feeling." But here's what I deeply appreciated about it. For one, its I often read a book to prepare for the High Holidays, and this one I suggested for the September read for the Jewish Book Club on Goodreads. Although I doubt they will thank me for it. Plenty of people in that group were rather critical and unenthused. I admit myself, that while there were things I greatly enjoyed about it, mostly the premise, I found myself rather whipping through whole pages, and not necessarily getting "the feeling." But here's what I deeply appreciated about it. For one, its a labor of love and hard work to write a book. Especially a vulnerable and personal one. And when you are an established name, known for writing. That's a big deal. Congratulations Sarah, on both the journey and the book. There was a lot to appreciate about it. For one, there are hundreds of books about people turning into the wonders of Judaism in a life changing kind of way. I myself have read about 25 of them. But this one is different, because the author was an non-affiliated kind of cultural Jew, and her journey took her into becoming involved with new experiences and learning, but into the world of the Reform Folk Elite. Those of us for whom religion and its rites are important, but that we do not become "Balteshuva", where our lives and communities become defined entirely by it, by dress, interaction, and way of life. As the head speechwriter for Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and General Wesley Clark, our author Sarah Hurwitz is very much in the world and its consciousness, and in fact that was a great part about the book. Relating how Jewish values show up in democratic values. How reform Jews wrestle with the idea of chosen-ness, about what it means to be LGBT, African American, and other marginalized populations, and our responsibility and alignment on those values. Hurwitz wrestles with parts of the religious ideology that does not fit with modern current thinking, and does a great job wrestling with certain questions - such as if there is a God, why doesn't he jam up the trigger on school shooters? These are the modern day questions we are asking that are applicable. How does someone find spirituality in tough times, that fits in with our modern days questions, that the Torah/Bible may not feel like the answer fits? I appreciated that. I also appreciated some other reminders that were good to hear. One that stays is that you can only have a transformative experience if you put yourself into it. I think that's true. We have to meet our spirituality halfway, it can never be delivered on a plate. I also appreciated the uncanny experience of hearing her New York September 11th story about the town in Canada that just took in all the people just because. Not because they were any religion or race or country affiliation, but because the town just did what it needed to do to welcome fearful strangers. She takes these concepts that are Jewish concepts and shows how they are values we all share. From the Obamas, to everyone. But uncanny to be reading that on September 11th. That exact section. Gave me chills. Rosh Hashanah, well less uncanny, but still in line energetically. The author describes her experience as one where she was never really connected as a kid, and had some conceptions of what she knew that felt critical or distancing. I felt while I was reading that I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. Much of the book felt like conversations I have had with her, and in fact, I thought she would really appreciate it. I think a big thing with this book is audience, who is right for this conversation? But the globally focused arguments and points, I know would touch her and she would find it meaningful. I just knew there were parts of this that were meant for her. But for me? A few of the complaints in the Jewish Book Club, was that it was like 101 for those already in the know, and I think by the time I was deeply into the book I was tiring of that too. I think that part felt a little teach-y and less connected for me. There were a lot of quotes from the "greats" in Jewish learning. She has read and studied with them all. She didn't miss even one of them. They were all in there Kitchen Sink/Bris style. I did feel that while I enjoyed it, I did not feel like I was gaining a deeper spiritual experience. I was reminded of the feeling of reading How's Your Faith by David Gregory. Another news reporter/journalist writing about his deeper journey into Judaism, and he too studied with a lot of the greats. It tested his marriage, and other difficult beliefs. He had to resolve a lot. He interviewed Popes and Cardinals, and religious leaders of all faiths, plus presidents and world leaders. But the journey was his own. He got the title How's Your Faith from President George Dubya Bush, who knew of his journey, and used to always ask about it... How's your faith, David? I was deeply moved by that book. It was personal, and its struck me more deeply. I respect Sarah's experience however, and not everybody's journey has to be the same. It reminded me of reading Kamala Harris's book after I read Michelle Obama's, where (and you all know I love Kamala and feel deeply touched by her), no one holds a candle to the connectivity that Michelle is able to convey. But we need a Michelle and a Kamala, and a David and Sarah, and every one of us in our uniqueness. That was another piece of the book that touched me. That we are all going to connect uniquely and express uniquely on this planet. And that maybe God is about connecting, in all those varied ways. Prayer is about connecting. Rites are about connecting. That was one of the more deeply feeling parts of it for me. And one I will take away. Shana Tova Sarah - and for everyone may this be the beginning of a renewed era and chapter, and may we all be blessed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Humanist, wise, and filled with the kind of historical context that every Jew yearns to have at their fingertips. I want to read it again, take notes, think more deeply, and truly appreciate what Ms. Hurwitz has accomplished.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    I wish Goodreads had an option for a sixth star, something you could use like only once a decade or so, for a book that was the most meaningful thing you've read in a while. That's what this book was to me. I love being Jewish, like love love love being a Jew. But I didn't love Judaism for a long time. I saw it as an archaic religion that was antithetical to what I love most about being a Jew - caring about justice and learning and inquiring. This book helped me see why Judaism is inherent in th I wish Goodreads had an option for a sixth star, something you could use like only once a decade or so, for a book that was the most meaningful thing you've read in a while. That's what this book was to me. I love being Jewish, like love love love being a Jew. But I didn't love Judaism for a long time. I saw it as an archaic religion that was antithetical to what I love most about being a Jew - caring about justice and learning and inquiring. This book helped me see why Judaism is inherent in the things I love most about my identity, not in opposition to them. I learned about so many Jewish practices that I never even knew existed. When reading Hurwitz describe her struggles with various ideas about G-d, I identified so strongly that I was like "wait did I write this book?" I couldn't find myself fully buying any of the concepts she laid out, but neither did I fully reject most of them. I love the idea that Judaism doesn't really say what G-d is, rather it is explicit about what G-d is not (and that G-d is not corporeal and all-powerful) because that's where I'm at right now. I loved her discussions of the Jewish calendar and the deeper meanings of holidays I had never even considered. I loved how she wrote so beautifully and respectfully about Jewish traditions around death. Basically, I just loved this book. It made me so proud to be Jewish and so eager to learn more. I don't think I'm exactly the same kind of Jew as Sarah Hurwitz is - she explicitly says she does not belong to any denomination, while I identify fairly strongly as reform - and she does follow some practices that are more traditional than what I do. But I felt so connected to her and her writing the entire way through. I've made more highlights in this book than any book I've ever written. I think I'll revisit this in the future, and I never really re-read books. I would recommend it to any Jew.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Catelyn Silapachai

    **Thank you Random House for his gifted book!** I was raised in the evangelical Baptist church and cannot even begin to describe how meaningful this book is to me. To see the same "Old Testament" (as Christians say) historical events and figures through the lens of Judaism was so moving and powerful. The "meaning" of these Biblical stories is not set in stone as I was led to believe. The Christianity I was raised with is very black and white and the mere existence of the Talmud and Midrashim was **Thank you Random House for his gifted book!** I was raised in the evangelical Baptist church and cannot even begin to describe how meaningful this book is to me. To see the same "Old Testament" (as Christians say) historical events and figures through the lens of Judaism was so moving and powerful. The "meaning" of these Biblical stories is not set in stone as I was led to believe. The Christianity I was raised with is very black and white and the mere existence of the Talmud and Midrashim was a revelation to me. You mean, scholars can have different opinions? How life-giving! I loved learning about the Jewish way of thinking about giving and charity, Jewish views on animal rights and suffering, Jewish grieving practices, Jewish views on life after death (or lack there of). I could go on and on, but the point I'm making is: this book is not just for Jews. Christians or those raised Christian will learn so much that will put your own experiences and traditions into context. Clearly, Hurwitz is not the first or only Jew to write a book on any of the aforementioned topics, but I found it to be a personal and accessible introduction.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    This book! The author’s insights as a modern believer of an ancient faith and tradition are powerful. For me personally it detailed how my religion - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - is similar to Judaism and added to my understanding of things like Shabbat/Sabbath Day and the Torah to living in a way that makes others lives better and more just. She even describes building a testimony or belief in God and scripture study as a way to hear God’s word to you. While not all of her t This book! The author’s insights as a modern believer of an ancient faith and tradition are powerful. For me personally it detailed how my religion - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - is similar to Judaism and added to my understanding of things like Shabbat/Sabbath Day and the Torah to living in a way that makes others lives better and more just. She even describes building a testimony or belief in God and scripture study as a way to hear God’s word to you. While not all of her thoughts get an ‘Amen’ from me, it’s still fascinating just to see her perspective. She vulnerably lets you in on her faith journey returning to Judaism and in on building faith in God in a world that often pushes against faith. Also I loved learning more about the religion of some of my ancestors and friends.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    If the author was Michelle Obama's speechwriter (among other impressive credentials), you know the book will be well written. While it veers too much into Judaism 101 territory (rehashing stuff I already learned), it's thought provoking and relatable. Hurwitz's mission to rediscover her religion means that we get to benefit. The book can be summarized in the following quote (p. 233): "That is the paradox at the heart of this book: To create the kind of Judaism that is worth choosing, we need to If the author was Michelle Obama's speechwriter (among other impressive credentials), you know the book will be well written. While it veers too much into Judaism 101 territory (rehashing stuff I already learned), it's thought provoking and relatable. Hurwitz's mission to rediscover her religion means that we get to benefit. The book can be summarized in the following quote (p. 233): "That is the paradox at the heart of this book: To create the kind of Judaism that is worth choosing, we need to start by choosing Judaism."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly W

    Michelle Obama's speechwriter writes about her personal journey to rediscover Judaism. It is much more about Judaism than a memoir about her experiences in politics, but I did appreciate the stories when they were scattered about. Even though I don't have the same history growing up Jewish and going to Hebrew school, I related a lot to her perspective on religion and searching for meaning in life. This was a great book for both Elissa and I to read as we are trying to determine how much and in w Michelle Obama's speechwriter writes about her personal journey to rediscover Judaism. It is much more about Judaism than a memoir about her experiences in politics, but I did appreciate the stories when they were scattered about. Even though I don't have the same history growing up Jewish and going to Hebrew school, I related a lot to her perspective on religion and searching for meaning in life. This was a great book for both Elissa and I to read as we are trying to determine how much and in what way Judaism will factor into our growing family.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Krueger

    I read this book after a zoom discussion withSarah Hurwitz via my synagogue. I was struck by how smart Hurwitz is. And her approach to Judaism was totally different from anything I had ever known. So I read this book. Hurwitz, who was a speech writer for both President and Mrs. Obama, writes in an easy, conversational style that drew me in and invited me to read an entire book on Judaism that was interesting and informative on a level that actually spoke to me. Wow! It’s a very good read and has I read this book after a zoom discussion withSarah Hurwitz via my synagogue. I was struck by how smart Hurwitz is. And her approach to Judaism was totally different from anything I had ever known. So I read this book. Hurwitz, who was a speech writer for both President and Mrs. Obama, writes in an easy, conversational style that drew me in and invited me to read an entire book on Judaism that was interesting and informative on a level that actually spoke to me. Wow! It’s a very good read and has me thinking about my religion in a very different way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M. Cook

    From my Jewish friends, I know this book has been inspirational. For those of us with different backgrounds who have a curiosity or even critically important need to know more about the Jewish faith, this guided tour through ancient and modern interpretations from a contemporary, female outlook is not only surprising but refreshingly human. Sarah's ability to translate centuries-old wisdom and tradition to modern-day spiritual understanding is remarkable. From my Jewish friends, I know this book has been inspirational. For those of us with different backgrounds who have a curiosity or even critically important need to know more about the Jewish faith, this guided tour through ancient and modern interpretations from a contemporary, female outlook is not only surprising but refreshingly human. Sarah's ability to translate centuries-old wisdom and tradition to modern-day spiritual understanding is remarkable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    —1.5 for commentary on other religions but otherwise enjoyed

  25. 4 out of 5

    Baylee Less

    Sarah Hurwitz wrote the book I’ve been searching for my whole life. A book that showcases and struggles with Judaism the same way I have throughout my life. A must read for anyone who’s Jewish, interested in Judaism, or just interested in adding more meaning to their life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    matt

    The thoughtfulness and sincerity of this book were a consistent delight. I learned much, and found myself taking notes and reading parts out loud to Allison. I feel like I have a better (though still limited) perspective on many friends’ experiences over the years.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I’m giving up on this book. I wanted to like it, I really did, but no. The intro is great. She basically writes the story of my own childhood experiences with Judaism. Good start. But the chapter I was really looking forward to on God, was such a let down. I persevered through a couple of not very relatable or useful chapters after that, only to be struck dumb by the chapter on Shabbat, another one I was actually looking forward to. Her arguments are facile and don't really bring anything new to I’m giving up on this book. I wanted to like it, I really did, but no. The intro is great. She basically writes the story of my own childhood experiences with Judaism. Good start. But the chapter I was really looking forward to on God, was such a let down. I persevered through a couple of not very relatable or useful chapters after that, only to be struck dumb by the chapter on Shabbat, another one I was actually looking forward to. Her arguments are facile and don't really bring anything new to finding religion/spirituality in your own life. In fact, her whole pitch seems to boil down to I had a mini not quite mid-life crisis, went on a spirituality retreat, and found God. Ugh. Her chapter on God includes a dozen different Jewish interpretations of God but she quickly dismissing atheism as if there's only one possible perspective to atheism and it includes a dismissive view of all God-believers as morons. I can't believe I kept reading past that low point.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Inspiring, heartening, moving. Hurwitz reminds me why I love being a Jew, showed me things I didn’t know, inspires me to be more engaged and informed, and helps explain parts of me that just fall into place now.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sean Ozée

    I absolutely loved this book. It’s a slow burn so you’re going to have to be patient at the beginning. Sarah’s honesty and inquisitiveness will get your attention. It’s a wonderful book for those curious about Judaism and Jewish spirituality.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erika Dreifus

    Terrific book.

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