"Not everyone can find spiritual fulfillment in a place that feels inviting and safe, like a self-help book or a house of worship," writes Niles Elliot Goldstein, in the introduction to God at the Edge
. Goldstein, the founding rabbi of The New Shul in New York City's Greenwich Village, begins his book by invoking "a long history of people discovering God in unexpected, unusual, sometimes even uncomfortable contexts." It's an appropriate setup for Goldstein's stories of his exotic pilgrimages, which have included dogsledding above the Arctic Circle, traveling the Silk Road in Central Asia, and cruising with federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents through the South Bronx. Revelation on the margins of human experience is, Goldstein explains, a central aspect of Jewish and Christian traditions: "Judaism was born in the wilderness of the desert, at the foot of a mountain, as a people cringed in terror. Christianity traces its origins to a man dying on a cross, crying out in doubt and despair." The stories in God at the Edge
bristle with intelligence and wit. Goldstein's adventures are grander than those most of his readers will experience. But even the homebound will find inspiration in the example of his fearless exploration. --Michael Joseph Gross
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From Publishers Weekly
Part travelogue, part autobiography, part religious history and part biblical commentary, this confused and confusing memoir describes a young rabbi's quest for authenticity. Now the rabbi of the New Shul, an unconventional, experimental congregation in Greenwich Village that appeals to intellectuals who have felt alienated by organized religion, Goldstein is also a police chaplain and the spiritual leader of a "cybersynagogue." In his latter capacity, he maintains a Web site where he responds to "Ask the Rabbi" questions. His work with the Drug Enforcement Administration has led to his appointment as the national Jewish chaplain for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. With endless digressions, Goldstein tries to explain how he reached his present positions by the tender age of 33. He begins with the dramatic story of his arrest for drunken behavior in a nightclub and proceeds to describe his journeys to faraway places, starting with a trip to Nepal that he made with his father before entering rabbinical studies in Israel. Other trips have taken him to Boston, Alaska, New Hampshire, Michigan, Africa and Central Asia. Each visit stimulates an excursion into religious history, both Jewish and Christian. Goldstein demonstrates great erudition, but his readers will be inevitably befuddled by his rapid shifts in place and time.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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