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

3.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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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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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: Penguin Adult HC/TR; 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: 15 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Rebecca Dana dreamed of the day she would come to New York to pursue the glamorous life she knew she was destined for. Like so many young women influenced by Carrie Bradshaw's life in Sex in the City, Rebecca wanted to go to the right parties, wear the right clothes, date the right guys, and follow the right path. "I wish I wanted to fix cleft palates in Africa, but the truth is I wanted a glamorous life."

And once she settled in, she found a job as a columnist for The Daily Beast, and had the chance to attend the parties, wear the clothes, and socialize with the people she always dreamed of, plus she found the perfect relationship. But when the relationship suddenly turns sour, it leaves her confidence shaken and she wonders whether her life's ambitions were the right ones to pursue. She winds up moving into an apartment in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood with Cosmo, a lapsed Lubavitch rabbi who takes jujitsu classes and works at a copy shop while waiting for his green card.

As Rebecca tries to reconcile her job profiling fashion and society with the traditions of the Lubavitch community, she also struggles with questions of faith. A lapsed Reform Jew, she wonders whether she'd find fulfillment if she pursued God, religion, and marriage. But at the same time, Cosmo struggles with his own spirituality, as he tries to decide whether to continue pursuing his rabbinical ambitions or following his less ecumenical desires. The two live somewhat reversed lives for a while, with Rebecca exploring the Lubavitch religion and Cosmo eating bacon.

While Rebecca fancies herself a Carrie Bradshaw prodigy, in reality, she's a much more philosophical person.
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