Tag Archives: ba’al teshuva

An Unorthodox Match: A Novel Book Review

It has been said that sometimes when things go bad, they are actually blessings in disguise.

Naomi Ragen’s new novel, An Unorthodox Match: A Novel, was published last fall.

Leah (previously known as Lola) Howard and Yaakov Lehman are both going through tough times. Leah was raised by a Jewish mother who was Jewish by history, but consciously rejected the standard middle class life that she was raised in in Brooklyn. Growing up in California, Leah was raised as a neo-hippie. Yaakov is a recent widower with five kids who life has fallen apart since his wife’s death. He is falling behind on his bills, his oldest daughter has taken on her mother’s role and his life is an overall wreck.

They meet in the Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park. Leah is a baal teshuva, needing a new direction in her life after the death of her fiance. Yaakov needs someone to watch his younger children during the day. In the world of Orthodox Jews, a potential marriage is not ideal between Leah and Yaakov. But Leah and Yaakov are a perfect fit. Will this couple meet each other at the chuppah or will gossip and judgement tear them apart?

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Ragen and her books for quite a few years now. What I love about her books is that though they are set in the world of Orthodox Jewry, her characters are thoroughly human. One does not need to be Jewish or even an Orthodox Jew to get sucked into her writing.

As a reader, I felt for her main characters. Both Leah and Yaakov are lost and looking for something or someone to anchor themselves to. I also felt frustrated because this couple was potentially going to be torn apart not by circumstance, but by outsiders who believed that they knew better. In calling out the bullshit within this community, Ms. Ragen is challenging both her characters and her readers to not be so quick to judge others because they are different.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, New York City

The Critics Were Wrong-A Stranger Among Us

Among the secular population, there seems to be a fascination with the orthodox and ultra orthodox groups of the world’s major religions who choose to isolate themselves and live only by the commandments of their faith.

In a A Stranger Among Us , Emily Eden (Melanie Griffith) is a police officer who is very good at her job.  When a Hassidic businessman is murdered, Emily goes undercover as a ba’al teshuva (someone who re-embraces their Jewish faith at an Orthodox level) to find the killer.

Were the critics wrong? I think the question should be, would this actually happen in real life? Probably not, but this is a work of fiction. I don’t think the critics were completely wrong, but there is something about this movie that isn’t quite right.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, The Critics Were Wrong