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Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story Hardcover – January 24, 2013


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Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month in biography & memoir. See our current Editors' Picks.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam; First Edition edition (January 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399158774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399158773
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2013: “You meet a new person and tell yourself a story about him, except it turns out the stories are never about anyone else. They are always about you.” That’s just one of the pithy observations--not to mention self-aware mea culpas--in journalist Rebecca Dana’s winning memoir about coming to live and work in Manhattan. Like Sex and the City with less sex and more city, Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde hilariously details how a not very observant Jewish girl from Pittsburgh ended up with an ultraconservative rabbi (and martial arts student) for a roommate, and how they each navigate this particular city of dreams. Dana comes off as a from-the-suburbs Holden Caulfield, a brainy Mary Tyler Moore, or a very dressed-down Carrie Bradshaw. She’s that irresistible. --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

In her first book, Dana, a senior correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast whose weekly column is titled “Social Diaries,” admits that Carrie Bradshaw of Sex in the City was her role model. Although she was also enthralled by the literary critic Harold Bloom while at Yale. So the countervailing winds blow in this canny, buzz-inducing memoir. Fleeing the scene of her discombobulating breakup with her seemingly central-casting-perfect boyfriend, this secular Jew from Pittsburgh turned Manhattan fashion maven ends up living like a shipwrecked anthropologist deep in Lubavitcher territory in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. Her roommate, Cosmo, is a Russian rabbi without a green card who works in a copy shop and studies jujitsu. Suddenly unsure that her making-the-scene life is all that fabulous, and irrepressibly curious and intrepid, Dana accompanies Cosmo to Shabbas dinners and even attends “yeshivacation” to learn more about the Hasidic tradition. Funny, wily, audacious, and captivating, Dana asserts her passion for glitz and high heels; vividly recounts her crazy adventures, profane and sacred; and saucily ponders life’s big questions. --Donna Seaman

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Customer Reviews

I found this book and the author's style a little off-putting.
Kathi Miller
Ms. Dana is very honest about her ups and down but looks at life in a realistic and humorous way that kept me interested without pause.
muddyboy1
I don't need to like them, but I do need to understand them, where they came from and where they are going.
ireadabookaday

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By T. V. OBrien on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
She's a journalist and she went to a decent college, so it's no surprise that Ms. Dana knows how to put words together. She tells her story in an interesting way, including a lot of funny things that other people said to her. The problem I have with the book is that it masquerades as a journey, but feels more like an exercise in self-justification.

When she moves to Crown Heights and becomes the roommate of Hasidic rabbi Cosmo (a move that struck me as motivated by "maybe I'll get a book deal out of this" rather than by financial necessity), Ms. Dana is fresh from a breakup with Chad, a guy she swears she thought was perfect, but who turned out to have been cheating on her (unprotected) for months while high. Although Ms. Dana dates and screws plenty of guys over the course of the year she lives in Crown Heights, and although she ends up married to "Jesse ... who gave me something too good to write about," she insists that she isn't looking for a man or a family, but a "community of meaning." She says that this is also the quest of (most notably) the girls of *Sex and the City.* I suppose one could make an argument that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte are a "community of meaning" (whatever that is), but they spend a ton of time on the HBO show looking for men, and even (Charlotte especially) building families. It's natural for people to want to create something that will go on after they die. Philosophers not quoted in *Jujitsu Rabbi* probably have explanations for this desire, but Ms. Dana has no interest in it.

And that's the other problem I had with this book. Any belief in the eternal, any desire to do something that will live on after one dies, is treated as a weird quirk of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By amazonbuyer on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rebecca Dana's vision of becoming a New Yorker was infused with Candace Bushnell's sensibilities as lived out by Carrie Bradshaw. She was able to make her vision a reality. In the midst of her accomplishments, she embroiled herself in an abysmal relationship that finally came to a much needed end. Instead of bottoming out at the end, Dana took a detour into the edge of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Here her modern day sensibilities met a tsunami of Jewish Orthodoxy. Oddly enough, the sense of community she found there became the stabilizing mechanism that gave her the opportunity to flesh out what it was she really valued in life, what was real, what she wanted for herself, and what was truly worth striving for.

The thing I appreciated the most as I read this book was Dana's decency as she associated with people from "all walks of life". It is very heady to be speaking at length with Meryl Streep, going to parties with NYC's elite, and attending luncheons with the likes of Jenny Sanford and Candace Bushnell herself. Yet she was able to see the beauty and draw in people from less extravagant and powerful places. Above all, she was able to treat with kind humanity those who would not deign to do the same for her. My favorite illustration of this is the time when a young orthodox boy threw a rock at her and in the process lost his hat. Ms. Dana ran down the street after the hat and returned it to the teen, falling and scraping her knee in the process.

Even though she eventually returned to Manhattan, Brooklyn was the final stop in Rebecca Dana's journey to making peace with herself in the world. As Ms. Dana put it, "You have to stop living as the person you want to be and start living as the person you are."

This is the autobiography has a very young feel to it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thea Laveau on April 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The entire book felt like a someone strung together a book pitch...."I know, I'll leave Manhattan after a failed love and live in an Orthodox neighborhood - it'll be like "Eat, Pray, Love" but I won't have to quit my day job or leave New York.

No insight, no nothing really - she came, she observed, she wrote a proposal, she left.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Leslie J. Kelsay on January 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a clever and often funny memoir by a writer who wanted Carrie Bradshaw's life and got it. A romantic break-up and Craig's List land Rebecca Dana in the heart of Crown Heights, the center of Lubavitchers in the US, sharing an apartment with a wavering rabbi who is studying jujitsu and working at a copy center until his immigration status changes.

Promos for the book encourage you to see this as an intentional search for meaning and community, but she landed in the middle of useable material by chance and she uses it well. While Dana has moments of introspection, she quickly shakes them off and heads back to her keyboard to further consumer lust for $1700 stripper shoes. She gets paid to observe society astutely, and she uses her highly-toned talent to show us the daily lives of ultra-Orthodox Jews, with infrequent glimpses of their emotional lives. Her search for meaning, as far as it goes, goes only so far as geographical proximity allows.

Yes, she conveys that clothes, Manhattan parties and working for Tina Brown do not make one spiritually whole. But in the end, there is not enough motivation to make her move from WANTING to be a "better" person to actually BEING a better person.

The style is blithe but not flip. She respects her subjects.
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