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Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir Hardcover – August 26, 2003
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Goldman (The Search for God at Harvard; Being Jewish), a former New York Times reporter who is now an assistant dean at the Columbia University School of Journalism, offers a clearly written autobiographical memoir that appears at first glance to be simple and straightforward. In fact, it is a profound and sophisticated examination of human relationships, particularly between a son and his parents. A modern Orthodox Jew, Goldman writes about observing the ritual requirements following the death of his father, as he had done four years earlier for his mother. Among these rituals is the obligation to "say kaddish" each day for 11 months. This Aramaic poem, which praises God, is recited in daily prayer services in the synagogue with 10 men present. In the memoir, Goldman describes the people he met and the experiences he had as he fulfilled this commitment. More importantly, he uses this as an opportunity to explore his relationships with his parents, who divorced when Goldman was six. Finding himself an orphan at age 50, Goldman forthrightly shares his ruminations about the meaning of this status, and sensitively scrutinizes the implications of such insights for his relationships with his wife, children, brothers and friends. What comes across with crystal clarity is the remarkable personal growth Goldman achieved during this period. His narrative has an inspirational quality for everyone confronting the inevitable loss of parents.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A Jewish son is duty bound to recite the kaddish prayer daily for an 11-month period after his father's death, an act of reverence for a deceased parent. In the midst of grief and personal loss, it is an expression of faith and trust in God. Professor Goldman, author of The Search for God at Harvard (1991), examines the spiritual and emotional aspects of this ritual and how this period of mourning affected him in his role as a father and husband. "Sometimes I think of my whole life as a search for my father," Goldman writes, regretting that after his parents had been divorced 44 years earlier, he saw his father as only a "distant presence." Goldman describes the daily recitation of kaddish in an Orthodox synagogue near his Manhattan home and recounts his friendship with the nine other men required by Jewish law to make a minyan. The book is a poignant chronicle of bereavement and solace to be read by Jews and non-Jews alike who mourn the loss of a loved one. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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My take is just a bit different, however. I found the book inspirational and consoling, as they did, but I was struck mainly by how unusually informative it is, and in several ways.
The author is a seasoned reporter (now a professor of journalism at Columbia), and, perhaps without specifically intending to, it is this craft that gives his book its very specific value. As someone who is not a stranger to synagogue life in New York City, I found the description of modern Jewish Orthodoxy (Manhattan style) eye-opening. Goldman writes with great sympathy about this social milieu, but (and you sometimes have to read carefully and slowly) he does not shrink from telling it as it is. Very much unlike the usual in-house sentimentality that is found in synagogue bulletins, there is hard-headed, incisive reporting here. Read carefully, keep your eyes open ! (I will not spoil your enjoyment by giving away just what it is that I found so hard-headed and unsentimental).