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Surfing Rabbi: A Kabbalistic Quest for Soul Paperback – January 17, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Gentiles, Jews, and secular beach rats of all stripe will find adventure here.” -- Scott Hulet, editor, The Surfer’s Journal

“Fascinating…ultimately important…a spiritual autobiography as compelling and original as its author.” -- Michael Medved, film critic, nationally syndicated radio host

“In the spirit of Jack London…an amazing true life story of lifeguarding…and surfing…” -- Arthur C. Verge, Ph.D., Professor of History, El Camino College

“One of the most compelling autobiographies in recent memory, …challenges the foundation of religious outlook…a breathtaking spiritual expedition.” -- Rabbi Aaron Parry, educational director, Jews for Judaism and former spiritual leader, Young Israel of Beverly Hills

“Shifren fuses the raw force and power of the ocean with the essence of Kabbalah and the infinite wonders of the soul…” -- Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon, Bais Bezalel, Los Angeles

About the Author

Rabbi Nachum Shifren is a Southern California native. A disciplined athlete, competitive swimmer, runner and triathlete, he served for 10 years as a Los Angeles County Lifeguard and received a commendation from the Mayor for lifesaving water rescue.

At the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War he became a kibbutz volunteer, and in 1977 emigrated to Israel. Shifren served in the Israeli Defense Forces and received a degree in Combat Fitness Training at the prestigious Machon Wingate Institute for Sports in Netanya, Israel.

Shifren received a Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Santa Barbara in Spanish and German Literature. He continued graduate studies in West Germany at the University of Goettingen. Rabbi Shifren is a language teacher and is fluent in Spanish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish.

Rabbi Shifren attended Toras Chayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and Yeshivat Tomchei Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel, where he received his rabbinical ordination in 1990.

He has been featured in People magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Jerusalem Post, GQ magazine, The Jewish Press, Surfer magazine, The Jerusalem Report, as well as Le Figaro, The Manchester Guardian, Sud-Deutsche Zeitung, and other international media. He has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, Phil Donohue, NPR radio, JTN, Fox TV, Deutsche Welle TV, Dutch, Spanish and Canadian National TV, KNX Radio, KBRT, and KFI Los Angeles. He founded Jewish Surfers International and the Surf & Soul newsletter. A movie based on Surfing Rabbi is currently in development.

Rabbi Shifren lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Rivkah and their 4 children. He is actively involved in physical fitness training, surfing and water safety. He continues to publish, lecture and teach—and is known worldwide as “The Surfing Rabbi.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Heaven Ink Publishing (January 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970073704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970073709
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,284,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom VINE VOICE on February 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Not since "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" have two more unlikely activities been combined into one book title. Surfing Rabbi? If that sounds like an oxymoron to you, then you really should read this book. It's the totally honest personal story of a 1960's Malibu beach rat whose love of surf and sand eventually became a spiritual quest to delve more deeply into the power of his own Jewish roots. Today, he is both a Hasidic rabbi and avid surfer, demonstrating that to be a "religious Jew" does not have to mean withdrawing from the modern world.
I read this book on a cold, snowy, Minnesota Sabbath afternoon, which is about as far away from the ocean as a person can get. I knew nothing about surfing when I opened the book, but soon found myself completely caught up in the story. Here was a man so devoted to surfing, that he drove through a war zone just to get to the beach. Foolhardy or adventurous? I had to find out!
Rabbi Shifrin writes in a clear, personal style, so that even a landlubber like me can easily picture the beaches and surfer culture that he describes. Not that every scene comes out of "Endless Summer." Shifrin's first attempt to catch a wave at Malibu was a dangerous disaster that knocked his fantasies down to earth -- but also spurred him on to master this most challenging of sports. He became an expert surfer, lifeguard, and triathelete, so totally focused on riding the waves that he had little time for anything else in his life. Still, something was missing. The quest to fill that void eventually led him back to his Jewish roots and on to rabbinic ordination, where he learned that Judaism, like the ocean, is deep beyond imagining.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Evan M. Stone on June 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
SURFING RABBI: A KABBALISTIC QUEST FOR SOUL Reviewed by Evan M. Stone
"Words that come from the heart enter the heart," said the Sages. Rabbi Nachum Shifren's words will enter the heart of every reader, and if you're a surfing Jew hold on to the rails-tightly. SURFING RABBI: A KABBALISTIC QUEST FOR SOUL takes the brave reader through the white water to contend with the rip current of his Jewish soul. Recounting the highs and lows of his own life, Rabbi Shifren's autobiography shares his personal journey from assimilated Jew to Rabbi. Known as the Surfing Rabbi, Shifren's story is CPR for the soul: "Pure Stoke," to quote John Grissim.
Shifren shared the familiar Southern California middle class upbringing of an assimilated Jew. His parents, hardly religious and heading toward divorce, were not able to relate to the pre-teen Shifren. He ran away shortly before his bar-mitzvah and tells a hilarious story of his kook ride, dropping in on a local Malibu hot shot called, "The Cat." Though he returned in time for his maftir, after high school, he was off to Hawaii for college. While on Oahu, he majored in big wave riding on the North Shore rather than academics. Eventually, Shifren dropped out of college returning to Southern California to pursue his surfing dreams.
The twenty-one year old Shifren landed his dream job as a lifeguard. In top physical shape, he could swim twenty-six miles in the ocean without food. He was comfortable, so he thought. The lifeguard soon discovered rip currents exist in the soul as well as the ocean-a nagging, a yearning, a soft voice asking: "What am I? " The more he listened the stronger the voice grew.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Hening on April 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Just a quick note of congratulations to Norm on his book. To consistently marry the challenge of surfing with the challenge of his religion represents a fascinating combination of stoke and faith that I've rarely seen, if ever, in my 35 years of riding waves.
As a founder of both the Surfrider Foundation and the Groundswell Society, I have always felt that surfing has to be something more than self-gratification, or else it becomes an obsessive pasttime that has no worth to anyone. Norm has been able to draw parallels between the world of riding waves with his religion that holds up under the scrutiny of long time surfers as well as Orthodox Jews.
Now that Norm has put it all in a book, his efforts, along with his Surf and Soul Magazine, have actually enriched my perspectives on surfing and what's it is worth.
Glenn Hening
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By yocheved on March 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I consider myself a spiritual person, but for sure not a surfer. I never even felt the urge to try it, and certainly couldn't understand how the two could be related. But curiosity got the best of me. After reading Rabbi Shifren's book, I feel I missed out on something by growing up far from the ocean. Now at least I've been able to experience it vicariously, and I finally understand what it means to be a surfing rabbi. Please do yourself a favor and read this book. It will change how you look at some things.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anat B. on September 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a candid, honest, inspiring and fascinating story of one person's journey of self discovery. A synergy of the spiritual and the intellectual; a fascinating read that will move you!
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