Miriam Yudelson Katz was one of my first and is one of my most loyal readers. Plus, she lived in Cleveland AND we’ve met In Real Life. That makes her a VIP around these parts. So when she asked me to review her mother’s new memoir, I made up my mind to put it at the top of my priority list.
I didn’t need to worry. From the moment I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.
Firstly, “knowing” the protagonists’s daughter and some of her life’s story, it was a sad and suspenseful journey to read about the backstory that led up the pivotal events of her life.
For me, it was also a precious insight into worlds I knew nothing about – the Reform community of the South in the 60s. The Yudelson’s journey toward greater observance and deeper religious connection was fascinating to me. The way that journey was framed by the Passover seders was a haunting and beautiful literary technique as well as a powerful Jewish message – that the linkage of our faith from one generation to the next is what it’s all about.
The stories of my native Cleveland and of the non-Orthodox Jewish communal life, a community that I was not a part of until my adulthood, was equally interesting for me at my juncture in life. There were many other treats, like the ladder analogy of personal growth, one that I use regularly in my teaching.
But it was the account of the wrenchingly raw grief that the author chronicles that honestly kept me riveted. I’ve experienced different types of grief and loss in my life, and the account of how the traditional Jewish shiva plays its part in the necessary psychological stages of this process was so real and so powerful.
This is an unvarnished account of one woman’s journey in her Judaism. It describes without apology the successes and failures of various communities to meet the needs of a Jewish family seeking community and fulfillment. Every educator should read this book to see what he or she can learn, but more importantly, every human should read it to deepen his or her understanding of the most basic human needs: for love, for life, for solace, for meaning. You’ll thank me.