Monday, May 19, 2008

Book recommendation: Turbulent Souls

Just finished reading Stephen Dubner's Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family. Go out and read it and you won't be disappointed. Dubner's parents were born Jewish, converted to Catholicism, and raised their children as Catholics. Dubner ends up stumbling on his Jewish ancestry and being drawn to it. In the process he delves into his parent's history in an attempt to discover what motivated their conversion, but ends up (I think) discovering more about himself than his parents. Aside from the view of Judaism from an outsider's perspective which the book provides, the writing is excellent.

One point which struck me is that the Jewish personalities which Dubner makes connections to in his life are intellectual-types who come across as deep thinkers not afraid to question or to doubt. His parents were deeply committed to the Catholic faith, but that committment never led to substantive intellectual inquiry. One of the trends in Orthodoxy today that I find disappointing is the fear of intellectual inquiry that has taken root, the dumbing down of education lest students be led "off the derech" by the world of ideas. I doubt Dubner would have been as attracted to Judaism if he experienced it as a world of intellectual stagnation.


  1. bill selliger3:10 PM

    Also check out Winner's "Girl Meets God"; an entertaining and thought-provoking study in the opposite direction. Stay away from Auslander's "...Lament". It's an angry diatribe with little to no substance.

  2. Anonymous10:35 PM

    Wait did he become frum or jewish?

  3. Your comment about our fear of intellectual inquiry is correct. I wish though that you would not couch it as utilitarian . It is the essence of Judaism, Torah is the essence of intellectual inquiry and is a preparation for the ultimate inquiry Yediat Hashem which is the goal of humans especially Jews.

  4. Dirshu8:36 AM

    For those doing the Dirshu Halacha track .I found somthig very intresting on Halchas Nitlas Yadayim(which Dirshu is up too).
    Why to we switch hands by Nitlas Yadayim? The Arizal says The Ruach Raah of Shiftah Bounces back and forth from one hand to the other hence we have to chase it by switching hands at each pouring .If you do 3 on one side and 3 on other you will not get rid of Ruach Raah .It bounces from hand to hand and weakens in the process so you are chasing it. Others say the way you weaken it is Davka by doing 3 in a row on one side,so some Sephardim who are makpid do both. The minhag though is to do it Besurugin by switching hands.

  5. I took your recommendation and read the book. Thank you bringing it to my attention. I found it to be very well written and extremely interesting.