Another Inconvenient Truth

October 26, 2007

Welcome to my very first blog.

First of all, I would like to thank all the people who wrote me such wonderful letters about my book The Rabbi’s Daughter.

On the other hand, London rabbis have preached from their pulpits advising congregants not to buy it.

I sympathize with those rabbis. After all, they have read the sensationalist press. They have seen the words ‘sex’ and ‘drugs’ and ‘orthodoxy’ slashed over the newspapers. They want to protect the memory of my dear father and the reputation of United Synagogue. They fear the book and its content. But I believe, before they dismiss my book and censor my right to free speech, they should read the book.

What they will find is a woman struggling to come to terms with herself, her sexuality, her religion, her own values and beliefs and finding a deeper and more truthful love and respect for the teachings of the Torah and respect for her family.

But unfortunately they have not been brave enough to do so. Their reaction saddens me as it is a direct violation of the Torah maxim ‘Ve’eveh dan et kol adam l’kav schut’ (Ethics of the Fathers 1:6)—Judge each and every person favourably.

Yes, there is uncomfortable reading in the book that portrays my difficult and self-destructive journey, but The Rabbi’s Daughter has a lot to offer in bringing Torah in a palatable form to the masses, and will bring hope and strength to those who have hit rock-bottom in their lives and help them struggle to overcome… surely this is what Judaism is all about?

By banning my book, not only have the rabbis helped promote book sales, as the forbidden is always sought after, but they have discarded their own values in their desperate quest to keep sweeping inconvenient truths under the carpet.

With this new blog I encourage you to comment and discuss issues pertaining to the book. I look forward to having an open dialogue about the controversies it generates and the reactions to it.

To make a comment on any blog post (entry), simply click on the word “Comment/s” under each post to open a field when you can type in your thoughts.

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24 Responses to “Another Inconvenient Truth”

  1. Volvi said

    Shalom Riva,

    Hello from Australia. My brother Natan sent me an email of yours introducing your site. I went through most of it and yes the video clips do work. Well what to say? Your journey has been long and complex. I can empathise for I to come from an ultra orthodox background filled with complex contradictions. I found what you said above re the London Rabbis as very poignant. Alas many if not most rabbis of this modern age are not all quite what they appear or as they would like for all of us to believe. Much is based on ego, self engrandisement and of course money and power. Most fall very short from the true meaning of the word ‘rabbi’. In the end many are just men like any other. Pay no heed to them for if you are true to and within thyself, theyre recognition are superfolous. Their burrowing of the ant hill trying to get to the top is all mundane. removing oneself from the ant hill and allowing oneself just to be oneself is a step in the right direction. I am as you may by now guess very much a non conformist.

    Wishing you well and every success in your endeavours.

    Volvi

  2. reva said

    Volvi, thanks for replying

    i know one of the rabbis personally and i think he is a wonderful humble human being….it’s just fear that propels him….none of the above

    blessings
    REVA

  3. Tia said

    I finished the book on Sunday morning. I enjoyed the reading, and was moved to tears in many places. The way you handled the transitions between memories from different periods seemed very natural. You are clearly a good writer with a skill for choosing and juxtaposing incidents to maintain tension all the time and create a “page-turner”. I also felt close to all the places that you describe in London and in Jerusalem, recognising them from having been there myself. I do think that the book is accessible to people who haven’t been there though, and to people who don’t have a Jewish background, so it’s a real achievement in this sense too. (I have lived in quite a variety of cultures, and been influenced by various expressions of Judaism and Christianity, with a sprinkling of other religions and philosophies too, so I think I can say this with some authority.)

    Even though I already knew of many of the aspects of Jewish law that you refer to, I was far more shocked at the descriptions of your experiences of what I would call “patriarchal brutality” in the restrictions placed on you as a woman than I was by any of the descriptions of your misdemeanours. I didn’t feel that your descriptions were self-indulgent or gratuitous (even though the acts themselves might have been at the time). In the book, they seemed in appropriate balance to the other events and your thoughts about your unfolding life. None of the events seemed unreal to me either. Those people who can’t believe that all of this could have happened to one person must live very, very sheltered lives!

    I’m really glad to have read the book and will definitely recommend it to others.

  4. Reva said

    Tia,
    thank you so much.
    blessings
    Reva

  5. Reva said

    Tia,

    thank you so much.

    blessings
    REVA

  6. carole cutner said

    Reva Darling, As I said on my phone message your book [story] was heartbreaking…..I mean the pain of your childhood, the strange strictnss of your father and the unbelievable unending mental problems you had to go through with your mother. Then the religious marrige to such a finatical yeshiva man who was incapable of the kind of warmth and intimacy you so needed, was very painful reading….did he marry again? Your knowledge of TORAH is nothing less than astonishing and obviously it forms a large part of your spiritual life and probably guides you along in this complex world most of us try and make sense of. Forgot to ask how many copies you’ve sold but I hope its going to be hundreds and thousands……..the paper back will really take off, I feel sure. And yes YOU ARE a marvellous writer and yor story is brave and you do give and show how its possible to come through such misery and illness with your generous gifts of love, hope and fighting spirit. Well done and you can be sure I’ll recommend it to my friends.
    A big hug to you and I’ll try and be of some use for PR here in London.

  7. Harold said

    Shalom Reva,
    I read your book last week and it was a ‘good read’- easy to follow. As for the other respondents above, I concur with their opinions.

    After some analysis, the book raised several questions in my mind:
    1. Your chapter quotes (and those halachot or minhagim mentioned within the chapters) were explained in English. Yet…the epilogue contained the chants of the Puja ceremony in India…not translated. Why?
    2. It seems to me that you are indeed ‘frum’. I sense a rejection of your father’s (and somewhat your grandfather’s) approach to Judaism. The only real spiritual Judaism was that of your ex husband and his NaNaNa Nachman cult. It seems that ‘real’ yiddishkeit is either black or white: one either disconnects from the outside world and is ‘frum’, or…you are not. Is it possible that the outside world can live side by side with Torah Judaism? Your father and grandfather knew it, as did their ultimate teacher, Rav Kook. Perhaps you should look into his writings and philosophy, you might be surprised.

    Finally, your text was the second in a series for me, the first being extraordinarily close to my own childhood, “Foreskin’s Lament” by Shalom Auslander. The third being “Off the Derech” by Faranak Margolese (I know what you know- a Persian girl marries an Ashkenazi!) if I may be so bold, the Margolese text should be in your library.

    I hope you continue with your r’fuah shleima, and look forward to your farays into literature.

    HSL

  8. Reva said

    Dear Harold,

    Thank you so much for your good wishes.

    I didn’t feel the need to translate the puja prayer as it was the sound and the forbiddenness of it that was important to me as a teenager and not the meaning…

    i feel that this book is about integration of the physical and the spiritual and this is something i am searching for…the right balance.

    i shall definitely look out for the book…thanks for the recommendation.

    blessings

    REVA

  9. Harold said

    Shalom Reva,

    Inresesting….. the Puja prayer was written in context of your visit to India with your children. You did visit a Chabad succah; I would imagine that they know something of the meaning of the succah. What about the prayer?

    While the individual search for that synthesis (physical and spiritual)is a life’s quest, I did ask about your father’s (and grandfather’s) approach to that synthesis. I got the feeling from your book that their approach is not the ‘path to enlightened spiritualism’ like that of your ex-husband. Just by the way, that is the unstated opinion of Agudas Yisroel (or as you would know it, Agudat Yisrael). What are your feeling on that communal subject?

    Much thanks, and…much success

    HSL

  10. Benjamin1974 said

    I’ve read your book in three days cause I just loved it! I love honesty and people who do not have anything to hide. I applause your courage and your thoughts.

    I came to Israel -Jerusalem- to make aliyah and t’shuva and yet I faced many difficult times and problems through the whole process.

    Many times throughout the book I questioned myself and the things sometimes we do or we think, and made me realized how would I judge you for the things you went through or even the decisions you made? Why rabbis would ban your book when you speak your truth, with honesty and courage? I wonder if there were books to write about their lives, wonder what would we read about them….

    Awesome! Honestly! Is there another book coming…?

    SHALOM!

  11. Aharon Sherman said

    Shalom Riva,

    It was liberating to read about your journey. I grew up in Providence, Rhode
    Island under the watchtower of some macho uptight male Jewish figures and
    in a Conservative culture. When I moved to the West Coast in the 70’s, I met up with Reb Shlomo and made a pilgrimage over to Israel to connect, and every encounter with the Orthodox community drove me crazy! I had personally experienced growing up with a father who sat on the pulpit as a
    Gabbi and then came home on Shabbos and gave me the silent treatment. I
    learned to go into my own special world and as an adult I am a writer
    and poet and seek out the spiritual way of life. I was involved in the
    beginning of the Jewish Renewal Movement but then fell out of it when the
    newly ordained became holier than thou! The path of the heart has no labels and the silence that blocks communication between people is poison.
    May your healing continue to bless you with unlimited joy for you and your
    children. And may they live to see their mother in total peace with herself. Kan Ye He Ratzon.

  12. Gail said

    Dear Reva,

    Waooo… I couldn’t put it down. You were very brave to write it Reva.

    I live in a Jewish community in Panama City, and I’m passing your book to everyone I know…

    From the first page and all along my reading I had only one question: How you had the courage to write all this (your sex and drug life with such detail) being a mother, having children. Knowing that they may read it?

    Also, I was hoping you found your soul mate in the end. You don’t seem like the type of woman to live alone, without the true love of a man by your side. Do you plan to remarry?

    Good luck, I hope you finally find your happiness.

    Gail

  13. Dear Reva,
    I started to read your book and could not stop. Most of the time I was crying. One because of your suffering and second because I felt your wrote what might have been my diary. I made teshuva when I was 18, living two minutes from Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro and was Chabad till 25. When I broke my engagement one week before the marriage I felt like when you described your divorce. During the book I was asking why could you not find the balance between Judaism and secular life without drugs. There are so many things that I would like to talk to you.
    My concern now is how this book will affect the shiduch process of your kids. Think of any Jewish mother in law reading your book?
    I am a journalist and I admire the way you write every detail in a poetic way. I live in Boston with the husband I met after praying (not 40 days but few hours) at the Kotel and our 3 year son David. I feel like I am waiting for a part two of your book with news of your kids, former husband and your sister.I want all my friends to read your book so we can talk about. Congratulations for the courage to write this beautiful book. You deserve to find a nice person and be happy. See you one day in Jerusalem. Shirley Nigri Farber.

  14. Joanne said

    Dear Reva,
    Hello from New Zealand where I have just read your book in 24 hours. I couldn’t put it down.
    The Jewish faith with its ritch rituals has always been full of mysticism for me but after reading your book i think I am put off for life – noway is it a romantic way of life. It is positively frightening.
    Wishing you good health and happiness forever.
    Regards Joanne from New Zealand.

  15. Reva said

    Joanne,
    Thanks for reading…but maybe re-read and the beauty of Torah will become obvious. This is a personal story and has nothing to do with the Torah itself, just how some people pervert it by going to extremes. Blessings REVA

  16. valerie said

    Shalom Reva!

    I have juste finished your book and i’m so …happy to see you alive, alive after this amazing,incredible moments of your life. Thank you. Thank you for having shared these moments with us,with me!
    I have a question: When your friend Chris gave you the apointement in the room “613” , was it the real number of the room , really , because it would be an extraordinary “sign” or is it a “clien d’oeil ” …from you to…us, to god…to you !!!
    Thanks again
    Take cera.
    Hi from Paris.

  17. Jennifer Saks said

    Dear Reva,
    After receiving a book (new!) from Amazon with missing pages, they overnighted a correct copy to me, and I sat and read it straight through. It was an excellent read, and along with others I applaud your courage–both to live through and to write about your experiences, and to come to peace with your life. I am glad to see that you are healthy now and pursuing spiritual and physical health. I bought the book because we just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in Israel, mostly in Jerusalem, and I found myself fascinated by the Haredi commmunity in Jerusalem. It struck me that they resemble the Amish in the USA in some ways: the strict adherance to the customs, clothing, language, and religious form of their ancestors, and their refusal to accept the government and trappings of modern America. In one way they seem to be quite different: Although they are extremely strict with discipline and control in their own group, the Amish do reach out to help outsiders(the English, they call them) when they are in need and hurting, and my impression is that the Haredi keep totally to themselves and do not mix with “goyim” at all. I found the ultra Orthodox culture fascinating and wanted to know more, so I was excited to find your book (actually, it’s a gift for my daughter).

    In reading your book, I found several things about your background that spoke to my heart as well: First, my husband and I had a dear son, Nathan, who was born with a fatal genetic disease of copper metabolism, and was severely disabled all his life. Fortunately for us, we live in a different era than your mother did, and the attitude toward disability is so much better now. We had support of family, and the medical community as well, even though his disease was so rare that nobody knows much.

    My husband comes from a Jewish background, and although he never has discarded his Jewish identity he is now a committed Christian, as am I. That is hard for Jews to understand, I know, but our faith has its roots in Judaism. Our faith made it possible for us to not just handle our son’s disablity, but to truly enjoy and cherish him for the miraculous years God gave him–14 years, as opposed to the maximum of 2 years the doctors predicted! I am so sorry your mother did not have that opportunity with your sister. I think in those days doctors believed it was “too hard” to bear such pain, somehow. What they didn’t understand was the depth of love and growth that comes from caring for and loving a child with such needs. The growth that can come from pain (if you let it) can be richly rewarding in the end despite the difficulty.

    Secondly, we have breast cancer in common. I had surgery, chemo and radiation starting 6 years ago this past December. Like you, it was a very rough year, and I still experience some aftereffects from one of the chemo drugs I took, but I am so grateful for the wonderful treatment available, and I went into it knowing it wasn’t the hardest thing I’d ever experienced. (My Jewish surgeon pointed that out to me: losing a child makes everything else pale).

    Well, I could go on, but I just wanted to say that I empathized on many levels with you, and I am happy that your life has taken a good turn. I wish for you many more years of good health, spiritual strength, and love of family and friends.
    Jennifer from USA

  18. Liz Goodman said

    Dear Reva:
    I just came back from The March of the Living and got your book at the airport in Israel.
    I have 10 pages to finish your book.Thank you for writing it!
    22 years ago…I was in Haish Hatorah for 2 months and left for fear of becoming a scholars’ wife…
    After I left I learned that If I would have stayed & marry him & have kids..my kids would have never being able to be class A.. .only being able to marry kids from Hozrim BeTshuva couples…
    I was terrified to have to shave my head…and I did not wanted to work as a maid in Hareidim houses so my husband can study forever…
    Rabbi Sender threatened me that if I would live my kids were never going to be Jewish…and I had to stay for my parents & siblings so they would not go to hell …(we are all fully jewish).
    I am a Conservative Rabbi’s wife now…and loving it.
    I loved your book and can wait to pass it to my best friend.
    I cannot wait for the movie.
    Liz Goodman
    Las Vegas, NV

  19. Luis Vieira said

    hi Reva, am a non-religious “goy” – picked up your book last night (Monday) at Cape Town Airport en route home to Johannesburg; it’s Tuesday night – 24 hours later – and i have finished it. thoroughly enjoyed it for its honesty, its insight into a world that fascinates me and for many of its similarities to my own life as someone raised in the church. it’s interesting to note how religions are so similar, almost identical in fact, and that the common thread between all religions and cultures is man’s ability to distort, adapt, politicise, criticise and basically demean what most religions truly stand for, which is love, respect, tolerance and understanding. people get so caught up in the ritual of food, dress, culture, acceptance and morality that they forget what true worship is about. and that all we really need is love – to feel loved and validated. thank you for sharing your story. all th best.
    Luis

  20. Mariusz said

    Witaj Reva, przeczytałem Twoją książkę w jeden dzień, nie mogłem odejść od niej nawet na moment, naprawdę bardzo wciągająca opowieść, wspaniale opisana, jesteś silną kobietą która intryguje, inspiruje…, aż wstyd się przyznać ale… zapadłaś mi głęboko w pamięci i…ciągle szukam Ciebie wzrokiem, jakbym Ciebie znał… Pozdrawiam z Polski i dziękuję za wspaniałe chwile.

  21. Reva Mann said

    i wish i could read this…i hope you like the book

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