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Searching for my brothers Hardcover – October 25, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Jewish men are in trouble," declares Reform Rabbi Salkin (Putting God on the Guest List), arguing that, despite the religion's patriarchal nature, Jewish men should delve into their identity the way Jewish feminists have done over the past generation. His exploration is thought provoking but incomplete, relying mainly on biblical interpretation with a few dollops of memoir. The biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, he observes, enshrines the latter as the classic passive Jewish man, yet the relationship of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro, is "the essence of bonding between men." He provides a too-brief exploration of how Zionism represents a rebellion against Jewish emasculation. Better are his musings on what Judaism says about lust: learn to channel the good energy that comes with the bad. Concerning ambition, he advocates finding a balance and using the Sabbath as a place of purity. He suggests a useful reconceptualization of the bar mitzvah ritual incorporating physical, spiritual and community rites of passage. And he argues that, although God is beyond gender, "the image of God as father can actually teach men about fatherhood." The book would benefit from a consideration of Jewish masculinity in Orthodox communities or contemporary secular Israel. In addition, despite occasional mentions of Jewish figures such as Sandy Koufax or the wrestler Goldberg, Salkin does little to assess the portrayal of Jewish men in literature, film and other forms of pop culture. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This important book deals with what it means to be Jewish and male in contemporary Western society. Salkin chronicles the history of Jewish masculinity from the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. through the post-Temple period, when Judaism became a religious system in which each man could be a "priest" in his own home and study the TorahAand beyond. "This," says Salkin, "is the Jewish moral journey: from the warriors who fought with spears to the sages who fought with Torah, from swords to words." Most of the world would disdain this new image as "unmanly"; 20 centuries later, he argues, Zionism emerged as both a nationalism and a rebellion against images of the weak and effeminate Jew. Passages from the Tanakh and Mishnah are used to explore issues of Jewish masculinity, and although Salkin takes certain liberties (like reading psychological motives into the minds of biblical characters), he does no violence to the historical context. He also offers helpful commentary and advice to Jewish men about relationships, ambition, and sexuality. The chapter on circumcision is especially important; Salkin refutes many of the arguments that malign the practice. Unreservedly recommended for all libraries.ALoren Rosson III, Nashua P.L., NH
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (October 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399145737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399145735
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,447,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Rabbi Salkin, 45, is the Senior Rabbi at the Community Synagogue on Long Island, NY. Because he found there were more "bars" than "mitzvahs" in modern bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, he authored the popular "Putting God on the Guest List." He also penned a book on how to bring God and tikkun olam into your worklife. It's an easy hop from worklife to manhood, and just as attention must be paid to Willy Loman, attention should be paid to Jewish manhood. And I don't mean joining the Promise Keepers, rooting for "Goldberg the Wrestler," or reading Susan Faludi's "Stiffed."
Salkin derives the book's title from the Bible story of Joseph. Jacob sent his cloistered son, Joseph, out to the field to find his brothers... Salkin faces and poses several questions, which will whet your appetite for a good read. What did Joseph, dressed in his dandy coat of many colors, find? Why and for what was he searching? Was Joseph the quintessential Jewish male, who stayed at home while his brothers were in the fields? Was he like wimpy Jewish men who stereotypically don't know how to repair things, who read Outside Magazine rather than actually climb Everest? Do Jewish men cry? Did Joseph or King David cry? Is Yiddish the language of Irvings, Mendels and weakness? Is Hebrew the language of the strong Ehud's? Why are Jewish men portrayed as mice in Art Speigelman's Maus? Why did Bialik portray Jewish men as powerless cowards during the Kishinev pogrom? Why is the wicked son in the Middle Age Haggadah a soldier, and the good son a sage? Is a sedentary Jacob less masculine than the hunter Esau? Was Ishmael more manly than Isaac, since he was circumcised at 13 and not at 8 days?
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Format: Hardcover
Shortly after becoming Bar Mitzvah recently, my son asked, "what does it mean to be a REAL man, dad?" For an instant, I wondered if he was insinuating that he'd never met one.
The first words that came to mind were those spoken to be by my Grand-Father in a similar conversation some 30 years ago ... "Don't confuse an erection with your manhood."
Thanks to Rabbi Salkin's book, the conversation with my son has gone far beyond my Grandad's one liner. "Searching For My Brother" had a profound impact upon me. I find myself drawn back to it, rereading passages over and over, highlighting items for discussion with my son.
This invaluable book is more than a compelling and thought provoking read ... it is not just a Manual for being a Mensch ... but also for raising one!
Rabbi Salkin uses Torah, Talmud, Midrash and personal anecdotes to draw a wonderful picture of Judiasm's view of a "real man" ... stressing life in which work, family, prayer and even sex, live in balanced harmony.
Perhaps most powerful are Rabbi Salkin's personal experiences with Anti-semitism ... one sided run-ins with local thugs as an adolescent, and a potentially humiliating experience on national TV.
What's more, Rabbi Salkin's thorough analysis of Jewish manhood is a mere 246 pages. I found it a fast, yet entertaining and powerful.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Searching For My Brothers is that I intend to deliver copies to my brothers.
Thanks again Rabbi Salkin!
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Format: Hardcover
It's a wonderful book! I probably used up an entire pen, noting the passages that were especially meaningful, instructive, inspiring. Of course, since I'm a rabbi, I'll get a sermon of two out of it, but more important, it really spoke to me as a Jewish man. I hope that the book will be widely read, and that other Jewish men will feel as cared for as I did when reading it.
I particularly liked way Rabbi Salkin inter-wove poignant personal history with meaningful, gently delivered, easily digested scholarship. Great job.
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