Tag Archives: Read the Spirit

A Second Life for My First Book

am thrilled to share with you that my first book, This Jewish Life: Stories of Discovery, Connection and Joy, has just been rereleased by a new house — Read the Spirit Books, the publishing arm of ReadtheSpirit.com. As with weddings, there is something old (original favorites), something new (wonderful additions), something borrowed (joyful images dancing across a cover beautifully designed by illustrator Rick Nease) and something blue (my name at the bottom, although that leans a bit toward teal.)

David Crumm, former Religion Editor of the Detroit Free Press and the brainchild behind ReadtheSpirit.com, has been a devoted friend and supporter of the book since he reviewed the first edition.  I am grateful that his long-intentioned goal to breathe new life into This Jewish Life, sharing it with non-Jewish readers nationwide, has now come to fruition.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, I  interviewed Jews from across the country about their most transforming Jewish experiences, casting wide the net to include stories from all ages, both sexes, as well as a broad range of Jewish practice and non-practice. At the time the book-fairy tapped me on the shoulder and planted the idea in my head, I was raising my kids, creating a Jewish home into which I was constantly bring new traditions, customs and experiences. I thought it would be cool to read about other Jews’ positive Jewish encounters and found there was no such book around. Enter that book fairy mentioned above. At the time I had never written anything more than a 1700-word article, and quaked at the thought of what could be involved.  Book fairies, I learned, are an insistent bunch, for which I am ultimately grateful. The writing of This Jewish Life, and now its republication, continues to bring wonderful people my way, Jews and non-Jews alike eager to learn about Jewish life and customs.

This Jewish Life now contains fifty-four stories organized around what I call the twin timelines of the Jewish calendar — life cycle events and holidays. Each section begins with an explanation of the holiday or life cycle event so that readers have some context for the stories that follow. You can read excerpts on my author’s page at ReadtheSpirit.com as well as learn more about many aspects of Jewish life and culture.  The book is available in e-versions on Amazon; paperback available any day now. Send me a message via my FB Reading Room if you’d like to have, or give, an autographed copy.

Many thanks to Joe Lewis for reviewing the book so swiftly, candidly and praisefully.

“Look. Listen. Learn. Live. Love.”

My very good friend and editor, David Crumm, is on an amazing journey. He and his son Benjamin are taking a 9000 mile driving trip around the country over the next 40 days. Well, now they’re down to about 34 days as the trip started last week. He is reporting, a la Charles Kuralt, from his journeys. Or perhaps more in the spirit of William Least Heat Moon whose 1982 Blue Highways is a masterful meandering along the American’s back roads.

Crumm is retracing a journey taken thirty years or so ago when he was a senior at the University of Michigan. And his son, now a college senior, is with him. That right there is worth the price of admission. I am green with envy at the thought of having that much car, travel, talk time with an adult child. He is endeavoring to give his readers the small snapshots of America as he traces not only paths to out-of-the-way places but the paths of people’s hearts, their values and what makes them proud to be Americans.

David, former religion editor for the Detroit Free Press, and I crossed paths back in 2003 when he came to the house to meet me and review my first book, This Jewish Life. I have written for his site — Read the Spirit— in the past and he has chosen me as one of Read the Spirit’s Jewish voices. David will be bringing out a new edition of This Jewish Life (now out of print) through DCMedia, the publishing house he runs in connection with the site, a vast and varied online community of all things religious and spiritual. We also have in the works a collection of my parenting essays, tentatively titled Walking by the Way: Universal Wisdom from a Real Jewish Mother. OK, enough self-promo.

David is a great guy, a fabulous journalist and good friend. His journey across America provides a moving slice of life of where we are today and what we value. So, bookmark the site and check it out each day with your morning latte. Or read it at night before you head to sleep. Dream of the open road and make your way with David and Benjamin as they crisscross this great country of ours.

The Women of WISDOM

At the publishing party for Friendship & Faith, I marveled at all the players in the one room: Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Baha’i, Buddhist, Baptist pastor, Catholic educator, Japanese-American Presbyterian. They were dressed in pants, skirts, and saris, hair covered by the hijab, in high heels and barefoot. We ate ruggelach, baklava and a delicious mango pudding I still want the recipe for.
The Women of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit) is a network of women from many religious and cultural backgrounds committed to creating peace, friendship by friendship. They  have come together to learn from one another and build bridges at a time when it seems all that is being built are barriers.

Friendship & Faith is a collection of their stories, accounts of  discovery and transformation, courage and enlightenment, struggles to understand the other and grow past personal prejudices. I had the honor of interviewing two of the women in the book and writing their stories for the project.

At the party we stood in a circle as each woman was introduced and a short preface to her story was read. One woman, small and dark-haired smiled at me from across the circle. Semitic looking yet dressed thoroughly modern she looked familiar. I had been in synagogue youth group with girls who could have grown up to look like her. The smile from across the room was a touchstone in an unfamiliar setting.

The short accounts that were read were powerful. “You’re an American Caucasian woman — so how can you be a Buddhist?” one woman related in her story. Another expressed my sentiments precisely. “I don’t like the word ‘tolerate’ ” she wrote. “We need more than that in our relationships.”

When it came time to introduce my smile-friend across the room, I learned that Mona Farroukh, Muslim from birth, is called “Tiny Mighty” for all the empowerment work she does in her community. Ending her sixteen-year marriage to an abusive husband, Farroukh completed her bachelor’s degree and is now pursuing a master’s degree, determined to help the women in her community find, and keep, their voices. The moments we spent talking afterward were pure WIDSOM. One Jew, one Muslim. Or simply two women talking about their lives, sharing stories of work and child rearing

The book, edited by David Crumm, founder of ReadtheSpirit.com, and published by Read the Spirit Books, profiles the stories of twenty-eight extraordinary women. The Women of WISDOM are committed to building a peaceful world. And they are doing it — one friendship at a time.

Read the first story in the book.