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Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends Paperback – February 24, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (February 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210958
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Married to a convert herself, Anita Diamant provides advice and information that can transform the act of conversion into an extraordinary journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Here you will learn how to choose a rabbi, a synagogue, a denomination, a Hebrew name; how to handle the difficulty of putting aside Christmas; what happens at the mikvah (ritual bath) or at a hatafat dam brit (circumcision ritual for those already circumcised); how to find your footing in a new spiritual family that is not always well prepared to receive you; and how not to lose your bonds to your family of origin. Diamant anticipates all the questions, doubts, and concerns, and provides a comprehensive explanation of the rules and rituals of conversion.

From the Back Cover

"As a rabbi and convert, I appreciate this book for its sensitivity to the complex feelings of those who are exploring paths to becoming Jewish. I will give it to every interfaith couple, and recommend that they give it to their parents."
--Rachel Cowan, Co-author of Mixed Blessings

"Indispensable."
--Dru Greenwood, Director, Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

"Will deeply enrich the journey of anyone who is converting to Judaism."
--Rabbi David Woznica, Director, Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at the 92nd Street Y

More About the Author

In my first novel, The Red Tent, I re-imagined the culture of biblical women as close, sustaining, and strong, but I am not the least bit nostalgic for that world without antibiotics, or birth control, or the printed page. Women were restricted and vulnerable in body, mind, and spirit, a condition that persists wherever women are not permitted to read.

When I was a child, the public library on Osborne Terrace in Newark, New Jersey, was one of the first places I was allowed to walk to all by myself. I went every week, and I can still draw a map of the children's room, up a flight of stairs,where the Louisa May Alcott books were arranged to the left as you entered.
Nonfiction, near the middle of the room, was loaded with biographies. I read several about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, and Helen Keller, with whom I share a birthday.

But by the time I was 11, the children's library was starting to feel confining,so I snuck downstairs to the adult stacks for a copy of The Good Earth. (I had overheard a grown-up conversation about the book and it sounded interesting.)The librarian at the desk glanced at the title and said I wasn't old enough for the novel and furthermore my card only entitled me to take out children's books.

I defended my choice. I said my parents had given me permission, which was only half a fib since my mother and father had never denied me any book. Eventually,the librarian relented and I walked home, triumphant. I had access to the BIG LIBRARY. My world would never be the same.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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I really enjoyed this well written, informative book.
Helene Peyton
This book is highly recommended for all who are considering conversion or for anyone loving a potential convert.
James Murrell
I read the book through once quickly, and had a good feeling from it.
Delia LaForte

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have had a building interest in Judaism for more than 5 years now and have been contemplating conversion for more than a year. I agree with one reviewer (she encountered certain individuals that "discouraged her" and therefore she decided to study Orthodoxy) in that many religious or Orthodox Jews still do not acknowledge converts nor do they encourage conversion but as the book mentions, the first Jews, Abraham and Sarah were converts.
To convert because you happen to be engaged to a Jew is not a reason to convert and I think because that situation is becoming more and more common the book discusses conversion within a relationship or family as well as a single person converting for their own reasons.
As a single woman contemplating conversion I found myself questioning a lot of different things and I didn't know who or what to turn to. I met with a Conservative Rabbi that was not necessarily encouraging but was open to helping me the best way that he could. I don't know if it was because he was an Assistant Rabbi or because he wasn't the right Rabbi for me but I chose to discontinue meeting with him and continued my search for "my" Rabbi as the book mentions. I think the Rabbi you choose makes a huge difference in that he/she will be your guide and teacher on your journey through the conversion process.
This book has answered so many of my questions that I thought no one could answer. I thought I was the only one that was concerned with whether Israel would ever feel like a "homeland" to me or why some Jews I spoke with were so open and welcoming while others were close-minded and discouraging. This book has been a huge help to me and if you are contemplating Judaism, this is a great start. It's important to know that while the book won't answer all of a convert's questions (some questions will only be answered by you and your own feelings) it will answer many and be a great start.
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117 of 127 people found the following review helpful By John Ronald on January 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I had a close female friend who was converting to Judaism a few years ago, and she got me interested in it. I checked out this book from the library and was amazed how richly informative and caringly written it was...this book is indeed a mitzvah. I think the earlier reviewer's criticism of Ms. Diamant's supposed assertion that the principles she introduces do not apply to Orthodox conversions is a little misguided...I think Ms. Diamant is merely acknowledging her lack of expertise in Orthodox matters and prefers to defer to an actual authority on Orthodoxy rather than attempt to tackle that area herself...she is a born Jew but raised in a more liberal tradition. But yes, the book provides spiritual enlightenment to all would-be converted Jews, be they ultimately Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist.
I ultimately never made that leap, though I no longer really consider myself Christian anymore, either. I agree w/ Judaism too much for that. I guess i'm just a secular pagan Stoic, a friendly gentile w/ a deep admiration for Judaism and its traditions...and I'm probably too much the hellenic sensualist to fit the Jewish mold anyway. But it was a very spiritually uplifiting experience, my close encounter with Judaism, and this book was a profound part of that experience.
Highly recommend it to anyone converting or who knows a friend or family member who is pondering conversion.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Ada C. Szeto on February 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
For some people, to change one's religious faith is not an easy task. For others, their decision is based on pragmatic reasons or from a strong internal conviction and hence their choice is clearer - less cluttered with doubts and fears. In her book, "Choosing A Jewish Life", Anita Diamant addresses the issues involved in conversion and she writes her book to guide both the perplexed and those who have already made their decision.
Diamant's intention on writing this book was to provide an approachable and practical guide to those who are in the process of converting to the Jewish faith. At the beginning of each section, there is a list of questions which resemble the FAQ's (frequently asked questions) found in so many web sites. She then proceeds to answer these questions and her compassion and love of the religion shines in her answers. Diamant rarely has one answer for each question. Rather she formulates a reply with the consideration of individuals who have different needs and philosophies. For instance, in the chapter about informing one's parents about converting, she writes, "Every family is different. In some households, intimate conversations are completely taboo and there may be little or no discussion of your decision. There are families where conversion becomes the focus of unrelated and long-standing family issues. And sometimes converts confront the painful fact that members of their immediate family harbor anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and Judaism."
Many rabbis and advanced Jewish scholars would undoubtedly be annoyed with the brief coverage of some of the Jewish rituals and mitzvoth in this book. They many even have an issue with the proselyting tone coming from Diamant's gentle encouragement.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Marisa Jo McDowell on July 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a person choosing Judaism solely out of spiritual and religious conviction I didn't feel my needs were met. This book seems like it is an incredibly valuable tool to those who are part of an interfaith couple but not so valuable to those who are doing this alone.
One thing I found in this book that I have not found in many other books on converting to Judaism is information on children. As a single mother i am searching everywhere on info on how to best introduce Judaism to my daughter and how she can be included on this journey of mine. I am grateful about the inclusion of that subject in Mrs. Diamant's book but again it was geared towards interfaith families never single ones.
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