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Opening the Doors of Wonder: Reflections on Religious Rites of Passage Paperback – April 16, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Are religious rites of passage all they are cracked up to be? To answer that personal question, Magida sought the memories and wisdom of representatives of the five major world religions. He confesses that his own bar mitzvah was "a great disappointment" that left him with memories of "being yelled at a lot and wearing a suit that never stopped itching." Suspecting that his experience was exceptional rather than normal, he embarked upon a quest to learn whether other religions practice similar rites, how and when such rites are observed, and whether others' experiences of them mirrored or contradicted his own. What he gathered and presents here are insights into the effects of religious rites of passage from 20 high-profile persons, including Catholic comedian Julia Sweeney, Hindu self-help guru Deepak Chopra, Jewish Ms. magazine founder Letty Pogrebin, Buddhist monk Robert Thurman, and Muslim Yusuf Islam (singer-songwriter Cat Stevens). In the end, Magida's book amounts to a primer of world religions, including a brief history of each and its rites. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This fascinating book airs out a multitude of responses to a spiritual topic that we avoid at our peril - the presence (or lack) of rites of passage in modern America. Magida's style is often poetic, and his interviews reveal, often in surprising ways, how deeply, and often how invisibly, people of all faiths are influenced by religion's rituals and ceremonies. Moreover, they show how the failure or disappointment of our rites of passage can affect the way we deal with transition for the rest of our lives." - Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage and Once and Future Myths" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

More About the Author

web site: naziseance.com

Arthur J. Magida's new book, The Nazi Séance - a biography of Erik Jan Hanussen, "Hitler's Jewish clairvoyant" - will be published by Macmillan in November.
"An astonishing story, brilliantly told," says Roger Moorhouse, author of Killing Hitler. Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, agrees: "Hanussen (and his relation to Hitler)is one of the strangest enigmas of the pre-war era. Arthur Magida has done a great service in illuminating this figure of mystery--and the light his story reflects on the growing darkness surrounding him."
"Well-written... Since there have been exaggerated accounts of Nazi interest in... the occult, it is refreshing to have this subject engaged in a thoughtful way... Readers will obtain a real sense of how many in the upheavals of post-World War 1 Germany flocked to the most unlikely sources of information and comfort" -- Gerhard Weinberg, eminent history of the Nazi era
Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America, says, "Arthur Magida's haunting and vivid historical portrait illustrates how opportunism and spiritual fashion flourished on the margins of the Third Reich. It is a chilling parable about the ultimate price paid by those who blindly allied themselves with brute power."
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, scholar-in-residence, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco, and author of Kabbalah: A Love Story, observes, "In a history that reads like a novel, Arthur Magida, gives us much more than a finely written and well-researched examination of the "Nazi" Jewish psychic. The Nazi Seance may also be a disturbingly fit metaphor for Jewish existence among the nations."
Narrative possesses the "palpable dread of a thriller" -- The Urbanite

Magida's previous book, Opening the Doors of Wonder, explains rites of passage in a variety of religions - bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmations, baptisms, Hindus' sacred thread ceremonies, Muslims' shahada, Buddhists' jukai. Interviews include Deepak Chopra, Elie Wiesel, Ram Dass, Roz Chast, Chinua Achebe, Robert Thurman and Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens). Comments about Opening the Doors of Wonder include "Goes far toward helping us understand one another - a much-needed venture in our 9/11 age." -- Henry Louis Gates Jr
Magida's The Rabbi and The Hit Man, the true story of a New Jersey rabbi given life imprisonment for hiring a hit man to kill his wife, was praised for "compelling, "measured," "stately" tone and its "dense, yet tight pacing... that reads like a top-notch crime novel." One critic deemed the book "required reading in all seminaries."
Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation also received critical acclaim: "A key biography of perhaps the most flamboyant African American leader of our time."(The San Francisco Chronicle); "Perceptive, balanced, and vividly evocative..." (The Washington Post.) Magida also wrote How To Be a Perfect Stranger and The Environment Committees, a study of environmental politics commissioned by Ralph Nader.
A professor at Georgetown University, writer-in-residence at the University of Baltimore and consultant to a recent two-hour PBS film on "forgiveness," Magida has been a columnist for the on-line religion magazine, Beliefnet.com; a contributing correspondent to PBS's "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly;" a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; editorial director of Jewish Lights Publishing, which specializes in books on religion/spirituality; senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times; environmental reporter for National Journal; writer/editor for Ralph Nader; director of publications for an energy conservation project; and a reporter for two Pennsylvania newspapers.
His op-eds have appeared in major newspapers around the country and he has free-lanced such publications as Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Tikkun, and Geo, Islands and Historic Preservation magazines. His work appears in several anthologies.
Magida is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Religion, Who's Who in the East and International Authors and Writers Who's Who. He has appeared on Dateline, the CBS Early Show, Court TV's "Catherine Crier Live," "The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour," ABC's "World News Tonight," C-Span's "Booknotes," NPR's "Morning Edition" and an A&E documentary.
He has received 16 Simon Rockower Awards from the American Jewish Press Association; five A.D. Emmart Awards for writing on the humanities; two Smolar Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism; two National Mass Media Certificates of Recognition from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Dick Goldensohn Fund have supported his work. He has spoken at colleges and civic and religious groups around the country.

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Opening the Doors of Wonder: Reflections on Religious Rites of Passage
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