This has led me to examine my relationship to Judaism more than I ever did in the past. I've always been in the "I'm a cultural Jew but not a religious Jew" camp. But I've been thinking about the artists I love and how many of them are Jewish. Comedians: Larry David, Woody Allen, Howard Stern, Garry Shandling. Non-comedians: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Mark Rothko, Marc Chagall, etc. Seems like I really enjoy the "app" of Jewishness, so I've been wondering if I should look more at the source code.
Along those lines, I've been reading up and found some of this to be interesting stuff for a curious but non-believing Jew who's got a hankering for some spirituality.
1) Letters to a Buddhist Jew
Their year-long correspondence resulted in Letters to a Buddhist Jew, a lively, rigorous conversation on spirituality seasoned with humor.
This is an important book on many levels, but for secular Jews with a spiritual yearning, it illuminates realms of Judaism they may never have known existed, some of which have much in common with aspects of Buddhism. Whatever choices they make, this book will engross readers and advance their understanding of both religions.
2) Next Year in Jerusalem
In the spring of 1975, my brother Michael, then 24, was on his way home from his third trip through Asia when he arrived in Israel, planning to stay a few weeks before heading back to New York. On April 28th, he wrote to our parents: “I’ve been staying at, of all things, an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva — when I got to Jerusalem I went to visit the Wailing Wall and got invited - they hang around there looking for unsuspecting tourists to proselytize. It’s sort of a Jewish Jesus-freak type outfit - dedicated to bringing real Judaism to backsliding Jews. I haven’t been especially impressed by the message, but it’s been a really interesting week.” On June 4th, he wrote me, “I’ve had my lack of faith shaken.”
I enjoyed both those greatly and found overlap in my questions about zen, psychedelics, judaism, faith, etc. Reading that book now too.
Oh, and this podcast has been touching on spirituality and occasionally on Jew stuff in a way i've found intriguing…
3) On Being: The Refreshing Practice of Repentance
The High Holy Days create an annual ritual of repentance, both individual and collective. Louis Newman, who has explored repentance as an ethicist and a person in recovery, opens this up as a refreshing practice for every life, even beyond the lifetime of those to whom we would make amends.
And lastly, celebrities…they're just like us!
4) David Gregory's Search for God