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Strangers to the Tribe: Portraits of Interfaith Marriage Hardcover – September 25, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; First Thus edition (September 25, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395727766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395727768
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,706,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Glaser, a journalist who was raised Protestant, married a Jew, and then discovered her own Jewish background, interviewed hundreds of interfaith couples across the country and here presents portraits of a representative 11. She has chosen a widely diverse group?some young, some older; some practically newlyweds, others married over 40 years and one lesbian couple?all with their own experiences with interfaith relationships. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews is a growing trend, and there is a growing interest in how successfully to blend the two traditions. While there are other books on the subject, such as Paul and Rachel Cowan's Mixed Blessings (LJ 9/15/87) and even a popular new newsletter (Dovetail, Magazines, LJ 5/15/94), this is a worthwhile addition to that literature.?Marcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

An absorbing and articulate study of the special challenges posed by intermarriage between Jews and Christians. Freelance journalist Glaser (herself raised Protestant and married to a Jew) interviewed scores of couples of various ages and ethnicities throughout the US. The stories of 12 of these couples- -all married, with the exception of one lesbian pair--form the core of her presentation. Though each couple is unique, a number of common themes emerge. Among these are the strains between the Gentile spouses and their Jewish in-laws. Even when Jewish parents offer their children little in terms of Jewish observance, most are disappointed when their children don't marry ``a member of the tribe.'' For example, Josh Steinberg has a Jewish identity based primarily on socializing with other Jews in a predominantly Jewish Cleveland suburb. When he finally tells his mother that he plans to marry his Irish Catholic college classmate, she cries, ``You're going to kill us.'' Though not deterred, Josh is overcome with guilt as his wife is spurned by his family. Another notable theme is the ease with which the Christian partners seem to repudiate their religion and embrace Judaism; many have had trouble with Christian theology even before marriage. Rick O'Neil, who decides to convert to Judaism before marrying his medical-school classmate Rebecca Grodin, ``especially liked the Jewish notion of man's responsibility to atone for his wrongdoing to his fellow man, rather than praying to God for forgiveness.'' Among the more unconventional couples are Alvin Wong, a convert to Judaism, and his wife Trudy Schandler-Wong, who are raising two children with strong Jewish and Chinese identities. The only relationship here that ends because of one partner's deepening commitment to Judaism is the lesbian partnership. An intriguing look into an increasingly common religious dilemma in America. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Mears on July 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book to read more about the subject of interfaith marriage. But I couldn't get into it. The writing style is overly dramatic and needlessly breathless. My fiance, a Shammas/Gabbai (I'm a nice Irish Catholic girl) started reading it and laughs so hard he loses his breath.
Perhaps it is that we have been friends for 25 years, before admitting that we were more, but the people described in this book need to get a life! Each relationship has a pattern of great angst and followed by silliness beyond compare.
I also felt that this book was patronizing at best to the Christian partner in the relationship. My fiance and I celebrate each other's deep faith, attend mass and synagogue together, and are comfortable with each other's past, our shared present and our hoped for future. It also needless blames the parents in the relationships. We are, and have been supported, by loving parents who want our happiness first.
I would not recommend this book to other interfaith couples and had I read it 25 years ago when we first met, I wonder whether we would ever have become friends, not to mention more.
Joe - Each night when I read parts of this book, and I use the term "book" loosely, it gives the love of my life, who knows more Yiddish than most born Jews, a headache. Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice of King's Bench and later a member of parliament once wrote " Every person skilled in his art or profession is to be believed." (Coke on Littleton, 125a (1628)). Such, in my professional opinion,is not the case herein.
As an interfaith couple involved in a 25 year relationship, posited upon friendship and mutual respect, we found this book most unhelpful and intellectually insulting.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Harris on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
On my on going search for an balanced book on interfaith marriage, this was a disappointment. But if you're looking for a book on how to successfully convert to judaism, this book is for you. It is well written, and interesting, but as the characters continue to scroll by, you notice the uncanny similarity. Each couple is undecided about the religion they want their families to relate to, and consequently each couple decides either to convert to Judaism, or break up. Again, this book is a good read, but if you are looking for portrayals from all sides of the issue, look elsewhere.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book should be enjoyable reading to anyone with an interest in the subject of interfaith marriage. The storytelling approach -- focusing exclusively on individual couples' personal and family stories -- is both its strength and its weakness. It makes for interesting reading, as one meets and learns about each of the couples, their Jewish and Christian family backgrounds, the difficulties they have faced, and the choices they have made. However, the selection of couples and subject matter is biased and limited. As a child of Holocaust survivors choosing to raise my children in the Methodist faith in which my wife was raised, I kept waiting in vain to read of other couples who chose to actively practice Christianity (not just baptism, christmas trees and easter eggs). Ms. Glaser basically focused only on couples who chose Judaism or some very watered-down compromise. She also completely avoided the big faith issues: who was Jesus? does Christianity offer salvation not available through Judaism? can a Jew accept Christ, yet remain a Jew? how can intermarried partners choose to focus on the substantial theological and historical common ground between Judaism and Christianity, not the theological, cultural and historical differences? Notwithstanding these drawbacks, I found it well-written and well worth reading.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Review Central on May 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I bought "Strangers to the Tribe" to give as a gift, but after a quick peek, couldn't put it down. I quickly cast aside the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by Katharine Graham that I was reading, in favor of Gabrielle Glaser's elegant and purposeful prose. I was riveted by the characters she chose and their personal stories. Glaser's sense of detail is rich, and as she tells story after story of intermarriage, she is balanced, insightful and sheds new light on just what role religion plays in our uniquely American culture, a juggling act between the rational value of freedom of choice that we all possess, and the more emotional aspects of genealogy, historical memory, and destiny.
I was particularly touched by Glaser's own sweet story of re-embracing Judaism. After many decades of intermarriage in her family, Glaser marries a Jew, and formally becomes a Jew, a heritage which she shares with her children. As a Jew myself, whose extended family has been wrought by intermarriage, a smile came to my face. I like to think of it as a kind of Jewish karma. But Glaser's story is not a blueprint for how it should be. It happens to be her story. When it comes to the others, she's pure journalist.
"Strangers" is a great book for anyone, in any religion, about to embark on a journey of religious self-exploration, and should be required reading for anyone whose loved one marries or chooses to become a member of another religion. Filled with historical, sociological and religious fact, the reader will learn a lot, but perhaps more importantly, be imbued with a sense of humanity.
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