Through conversation, journal entries, and actual e-mail dialogue, Judaism Online: Confronting Spirituality on the Internet tells the true story of one woman's remarkable spiritual journey. In her search for fulfillment and meaning, Susan M. Zakar moved from fundamentalist Christianity to Conservative and Reform Judaism to long stints of almost ignoring God, to, in the end, Orthodox Judaism.
Written over the Internet and based on a 30 year journal, this unique volume is a discussion between Zakar and Rabbi Dovid Y.B. Kaufmann, who became her Mentor after she raised the question of women's role in Judaism on the Internet. The frank conversations that ensued confront issues of spirituality, Jewish law and observance, relationships, and truth with sensitivity and understanding.
Sympathetic to the dilemma of faith in a secular world, yet recognizing the enduring value of a life committed to Torah and mitzvot, Judaism Online shares the challenges and triumphs of the convert and also clearly demonstrates the remarkable potential the Internet offers for spreading the beauty of Judaism.
A note from the author:
In Judaism Online I look back at my journey from fundamentalist Christianity through Reform and Conservative Judaism and my ultimate confrontation with what it really means to be Jewish.
Judaism Online is a conversation between me and David Kaufmann, who mentored me over the Internet during the last leg of my journey home. Interestingly, at the time I write this, we have yet to meet face to face, yet his insights, shared in dozens, perhaps hundreds, of email messages, helped me find a sure footing on the path. These messages, along with entries from my journal, provide a "real time" glimpse into my life along the way.
As Israel struggles with the question of "Who is a Jew?", this book explores what that question meant in my own life. It is at times intensely personal, at times philosophical. I would hope that every convert would find it inspiring, every rabbi who is involved with conversions would find it enlightening, and everyone else would find it to be a great read.
September 30, 1998
A definite must read for anyone, any age, any religion! This was a truly amazing book as it describes a woman's struggle to find a true religion and faith. As she tells her story, her co-author interjects with diffirent insights and stories. It was a truly inspirational book of a difficult but satisfying journey of one soul bringing three others with it. A soul with wings.
June 8, 1998
Absolute MUST READ for anyone thinking about Conversion This book provides the reader with insight to the turmoil which exists in the mind of the person who is looking to change their life.
It provides the reader with basic fundamental insights to Judaism which were never addressed in a public way.
[email protected] from Brooklyn, NY ,
Hallie Canter Yeshiva University New York, NY:
Zakar, Susan M. and Dovid Y.B. Kaufmann. JUDAISM ONLINE: CONFRONTING SPIRITUALITY ON THE INTERNET.
Jason Aronson, New Jersey, 1998, ISBN 0-7657-9984-7, hardcover, $40.00.
Don't let the title fool you. The Internet is not the subject here, only the means to an end: the discovery of a Jewish soul. Through a lengthy exchange of letters and E-mail, a woman and a rabbi discuss the essence of Judaism, her search for meaning, and her evolving identity and commitment as a Torah Jew. What sets this book apart from others by or about ba'alei teshuvah (returnees to Judaism) is the background of the author. Herself non-Jewish by birth, Ms. Zakar grew up in an nominally Christian home. Since childhood, however, she felt different, far more spiritual and sensitive than her family and religiously inquisitive. Involvement in Christian fundamentalism left her dissatisfied, and her dawning awareness of monotheism led her haphazardly toward Jewish thought.
Like many ba'alei teshuvah stories, this one carries its seeker to Orthodoxy as the ultimate stop. Ms. Zakar came in initial contact with Judaism through other denominations, and drifted in and out for a few years until meeting the Jewish man who became her husband. After her non-legal conversion, then marriage, she and her husband joined Reform and Conservative congregations, keeping kosher at home and attending services, but finding untenable the styles of belief and observance. An eventual encounter with the Orthodox community and outreach professionals (including Rabbi Kaufmann) introduced her to the Torah lifestyle. Eventually Ms. Zakar and her children underwent an Orthodox conversion - "the most important event of my life," she writes in her journal. But this event, as she learns, is only the beginning. Frankly she describes the joys and the struggles and obligations of her new life, the never-ending attainment of moral perfection, and the submission to Divine will.
A double yasher koach! to both authors -- to Ms. Zakar, a deep, tenacious inquirer; and to Rabbi Kaufmann, a patient, attentive listener (reader?). His philosophical feedback carries half the book and one good reason alone for buying this book. The "virtual Judaism" here would inspire many for the outreach potential of the Internet.
For all adult Jewish libraries.
Hallie Canter Yeshiva University New York, NY
Published: April 1998.
Published by Jason Aronson
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