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The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion Paperback – April 16, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This easy-to-read memoir describes how a Catholic girl from Milwaukee came to New York, married a well-to-do Jew and gradually decided, despite setbacks and obstacles, to convert to Judaism. She discusses feeling strange at her initial Passover Seder, but being pleased by the judge who incorporated Jewish elements in the wedding ceremony. She was upset by the rabbi at her first High Holiday service and by the teacher when she tried to take a course on Judaism: both railed against intermarriage. After giving birth to a son, Friedes attended High Holiday services again, and this time felt better about the rabbi's sermon. When the family moved to the suburbs, she began to study with the rabbi of the local synagogue, which eventually led to her conversion. A side effect of this experience was strengthening the bond with her mother-in-law, who, unfortunately, died shortly after Friedes became a Jew. The author's 10-year journey to Judaism is chronicled in heartwarming terms that will appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. (June)
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Review

With this inspirational story, The New Jew, Sally Friedes chronicles her journey from Catholic outsider to full member of the Jewish community. Ms. Friedes reveals that there are comfortable seats at the family table of Judaism just waiting for seekers from other cultures and religions. The welcoming warmth of her husband's family and the rabbi she studies with play a pivotal role in uncovering this truth for her and us in this extraordinary narrative. New Jew is an important addition to the library of rabbis and interfaith outreach professionals.-Karen Kushner, MSW is the director of Project Welcome an outreach program welcoming interfaith families, unaffiliated Jews and seekers into Independent, Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative synagogueWith heartfelt sincerity and eloquence, Sally Friedes very movingly captures the voice, hopes, and fears of those who seek out Judaism.-Rabbi Bernice Weiss, founder and director of The Washington Institute for Conversion and The Study of Judaism
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: O Books (April 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184694189X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846941894
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,673,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I received this book the day before I went on a trip and could not put it down until I finished it. The descriptions and reflections of the author are so real. I connected with a lot of the stories she told, and it made me think deeply about my own story. I highly recommend reading this story. I even read it twice- a very powerful memoir. I cannot wait for the next book.
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Format: Paperback
This is thoughtful memoir of a woman searching to fulfill her spiritual needs. It truly captures the experience of attending Jewish religious services and celebrations of Jewish holidays with keen observation, humor, and the desire to learn. For anyone who is desiring a better understand of what is means to be Jewish this is a must-read. I learned more from this book than I did growing up and attending Hebrew and Sunday school. It is well-written, easy to read and follows the authors journey from dating a Jew to converting to the religion.
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Format: Paperback
"The New Jew" has become very personal for me. It came along at just the right time to highlight what I have and what I've lost, what being Jewish means and what being part of a Jewish community means. It is a love story with Judaism and Jewish community, complete with awkward beginnings, passionate disagreements, and a honeymoon.

The book begins with the death of author Sally Srok Friedes' mother-in-law in present time. This was a poignant start, as I had just lost my mother when I began reading. The funeral and shiva (first week of mourning) descriptions truly depict Judaism and a Jewish community at its best. We are then taken back to the beginning of the author's journey to becoming Jewish, back when becoming Jewish wasn't a goal at all.

Time and again, the author tries to get more involved in learning about Judaism so that she doesn't feel so lost and ignorant when around her husband's family and folks at the synagogue, but each time, she is insulted, ostracized, and marginalized by rabbis who are opposed to interfaith marriage and see her marriage to husband Michael as a crime against Judaism. It is to her credit that she perseveres.

I found myself on an emotional roller coaster with her, embarrassed when a rabbi uses his Rosh Hashanah sermon to rant about interfaith marriages and presenting Judaism as an exclusive by-invitation-only club rather than welcoming those who might add to the Jewish community. I was saddened by Michael's distance from Judaism while he resists Sally's embrace of it, even as I knew his was a completely normal reaction. I cheered when Sally finally found a rabbi--and a synagogue--who could truly appreciate not only who she was, but who she could become.

Everyone's Jewish journey is different, and yet there are shared elements that remind us how we are all connected. In "The New Jew," we can all find ourselves within these pages.
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Though I certainly hope my own journey doesn't take 10 years, I was happy to discover the open, honest, and sometimes humorously endearing way Ms. Friedes shared her story. Each character she introduced included both assets and flaws, which affected her on her way to becoming a Jew. At the same time, each character had a positive effect on the final result.

As a young woman just beginning the conversion process myself, I was empowered to see the many different thought processes that Ms. Friedes went through on her journey, as I have already experienced many of the same.

Thank you for sharing your story.
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Format: Paperback
While my own conversion process took a very different path from Sally Friedes', her honest and heartfelt description of the "push and pull" of Judiasm reminded me of my own emotions 20 years ago. I embraced Judiasm to fill a void left by a childhood lacking any religious or spiritual orientation. I never thought about how hard it would be to reject an all encompassing religion such as Catholicism until I read her book. Wow, now I have a better understanding and empathy for those who have had the
strength to do this. Kudos to Ms. Friedes for sharing her journey with us. Hopefully, it will give courage to those considering a similar path.
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Format: Paperback
As a Jewish professional, I thought I knew so much about outreach to those new to Judaism, until I read Sally's book. Seeing "our" world through her eyes certainly opened mine. As I shared Sally's journey, page by page, I became aware of how meaningful, and at times painful, her steps to Judaism were. I highly recommend this book to Jews who who are in relationships with non-Jews or new Jews, as well as to all Jewish professionals who work with interfaith couples. I couldn't put it down!
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I stayed up to finish this book the day I started it - to 3 a.m., and on the night before Easter with my kids! I am not Jewish but have often felt spiritually attracted to Judaism and am interested in religion and spiritual life in general. I loved this book because the author's account was so real. Friedes is very talented at describing her experience of life, which is a lot of my reason for reading any book. I also appreciated spending time with the writings of such a lovely person: the author's good heart shines throughout the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone curious, open-minded and interested in a modern woman's experience of love, religion, family, parenting and all the other aspects of a life well-considered and well-lived.
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