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My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith Hardcover – October 7, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, mostly in Atlanta, Cohen, editor of Jewish Life in Americamagazine, obsessed over the church across the street from his childhood home—a home onto which his father, a rabbi, added a place of worship for Orthodox services. Struck by a crisis of faith, and not long after marrying the converted daughter of a Baptist minister, he decided to see if Jesus couldn't lead him back to Judaism. Each week, mere hours after celebrating the Jewish Sabbath, he'd attend Sunday services. He visited myriad denominational churches, Faith Day at Turner Field, Winter Jam at the Georgia Dome and even the home church of Ultimate Christian Wrestling. After 30-odd years of speculating that the sun shines brighter on the church side of the street, and 52 weeks of an Oz-like journey, his yarmulke turned out to have the same power as Dorothy's red shoes. A delicious olio of guilt, longing, surprise, wonder, unease and of course humor, Cohen's quest has universal appeal. One need not be Jewish, Christian or even a seeker to enjoy this wonderful loop around the Bible Belt. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Cohen is the son of an Orthodox rabbi; his book is part memoir, part spiritual quest, and part an “anthropologist’s mission.” His so-called inspirational exploration—that is, adventures—include jumping into a mosh pit at a Christian rock concert, taking a trip with a Mormon missionary, attending a Black Baptists service, going to a Christian wrestling match, and attending a sunrise Easter service on top of Stone Mountain. Cohen writes that what he learned from the year’s spiritual journey was that there are many paths people take to find faith in God and there are more similarities than differences in various religions. “Hanging out with Jesus has made me a better Jew,” he writes. Amen to that. --George Cohen

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061245178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061245176
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,897,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Some of the best recent books on faith and spirituality are from "outsiders." Secular scientist E.O. Wilson wrote "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth," atheist Hemant Mehta wrote "I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Atheist's Eyes," and, let's face it, Anne Lamott's popular persona is built on her outsider status.

It's in that spirit that I strongly recommend Benyamin Cohen's "My Jesus Year."

He's funny. I mean, he's Anne Lamott funny. And, he's friendly as he's having fun with others and with himself. You'll find yourself chuckling as he describes trying to slip into an enormous Pentecostal megachurch to learn what's drawing thousands upon thousands of Americans to these venues.

This "five-foot-two bespectacled Jewish kid in a mosh pit of faith" suddenly discovers that the church's video crews have zeroed in on his face and he's shocked to discover: "My Jewish face on Jesus' JumboTron for all to see! Oh, God, forgive me."

We learn a lot about Benyamin's Jewish life, his family life, his vignettes from this year-long Christian pilgrimage and, in the end, his conclusions about faith in America.

In closing, he writes a pitch-perfect summary of how millions of young Americans see our national smorgasbord of faith: "Despite the gospel choirs and Christian rockers, despite the baptismal baths and Christmas trees, despite the wine, wafers, and confessional booths, and even despite our theological and philosophical differences, there is a deeper thread running throughout.
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Format: Hardcover
First off - this is not one of those stories of conversion.

Rather, Benyamin Cohen does not feel fulfilled by his experiences with the synagogue or the hundreds of rules that an Orthodox Jew must follow. He decides to go to the other side of the street and see if the grass is greener (he literally grew up across the street from a Methodist church that seemed so much more vibrant and alive and happy than the synagogue that was attached to his house).

Cohen gets permission from a Rabbi to spend a year with the Christians - he goes to church every Sunday (after synagogue on Saturdays this makes for some long weekends I am sure) and treats the experience as a wandering anthropologist looking into the strange and wondrous world of Christianity.

What follows is a remarkable journal of one man's exploration of Judaism and Christianity - some of it mainstream, some odd (Christian professional wrestling, for example) but all of it treated respectfully by a man who is searching for what he's missing in his own faith. On the way he finds it and the reader is blessed with wonderful writing, witty insights, touching observations and, quite simply, the experience of a great read.

I am writing from the perspective of an active, involved Christian and I find myself chuckling at some of his offbeat observations about the quirky things we do. I also learned a lot about Judaism along the way. I am sure some would find offense, but...whatever. It was not written in the spirit of offense and if they are offended they should grow up some.

One of the best books of the year for me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though the promo for the book stressed hilarity, there's much more to this year with Jesus than mere humor. As a Los Angeleno, I was struck by the stunning variety of "Jesus" experiences available within only a few hours of Atlanta. Cohen samples the beautiful solemnity of high church cathedral and self-denying cloister. The next thing you know he's rocking with full gospel as the only white guy in the building. His description of going to confession brought me into the confessional with him. The author is an honest reporter of what he experienced, and credits the year with deepening his appreciation for the faith into which he was born. My only quibble is that the subtitle is a better description than the title. If only we could spend a year with Jesus, and not with Christians. But that is another story. This book is a great - and worthwhile - read. Thanks, Benyamin!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have never laughed so much at a book !
A rabbis' son feels a disconnect with his "forced faith " and goes on a journey of curiosity and self-exploration that will leave you wondering about why we believe what we believe and perhaps, reconnect you with your own faith in the process.
Never irreverent, the author pokes fun only at himself as he seeks his own answers with respect for everyone he meets along the way--whether he agrees with them or not.
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Format: Paperback
How many times have you started reading a book with a preconceived idea of how you would like it? I certainly did so with this book. The premise sounds eerily similar to that of The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, which to this day remains my all time favorite book. And because Jacobs offers a cover quote for My Jesus Year, it was easy to assume this memoir was going to be very similar.

But talk about being pleasantly surprised! Done from an anthropological perspective, Cohen does something I've talked about doing for years! I've often wondered and considered exploring different churches every weekend just to see how different people worship. My motives have never been to rethink my religion as I'm confident in my beliefs and where I am with them. But for pure interest sake, it has always appealed to me to visit neighborhood and local churches of different denominations. That is exactly what Cohen does for an entire year. (Well, sort of. He kind of leans toward the other extreme visiting a Christian wrestling match, a Christian rock concert, megachurches, as well as a monastery; so on and so forth...)

Born Jewish and the son of a Rabbi, Cohen's quest is more profound in the sense that he is exploring his religion and seeking knowledge and thirsting for that closeness to God. In a rut with Judaism he dives into Christianity, in a new location every single weekend for one year. While still observing Sabbath on Saturday, Cohen went to Christian churches on Sundays as well. Again, for an entire year. That seems overwhelming to experience that much that often.

While reading laugh out loud funny (once I got past my predetermined judgments of how the book would read), this is one of the wittiest memoirs I've ever come across.
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