SHELF AWARENESS Reviews MY JEWISH YEAR

Author: Abigail Pogrebin

April 11, 2017

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“Abigail Pogrebin’s casual relationship with Judaism never troubled her until she realized that, despite the wonderful people in her family and the accomplishments she attained, she felt spiritually devoid of purpose. Not having paid much attention previously, she decides to observe all 18 Jewish holidays over the course of a year in hopes of understanding what Judaism has to offer her. She tackles the task eagerly, with an earnest commitment to observe the holidays and study the traditions associated with each beforehand. She speaks to fellow Jews, interviews rabbis, reads the Torah and its commentaries, and tries to participate fully.

Pogrebin’s exploration takes her down unexpected paths. She encounters things that lead her to feel conflicted about her own practices, traditions and perceptions. When it comes time to celebrate Hanukkah, for example, she is distressed to learn that in its time of origin, the Jewish people were divided according to what constitutes authentic Judaism, and draws parallels to how the ultra-Orthodox see secular and Reform Jews today. Pogrebin also shares humorous stories, like the time she nearly drove her family mad trying to learn to blow the shofar, a ram’s horn that is sounded to mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Throughout My Jewish Year, Pogrebin engages candidly with the holidays and traditions, confessing when not every part of the practices come alive for her, noting what resonates, what doesn’t and why. In reading this memoir, it becomes apparent how many people around Pogrebin share her search for meaning, a journey other seekers will relate to.”

Find Justus Joseph’s full review of My Jewish Year online.