Far From Zion Book Review

Charles London represents many within the Jewish community. Jewish by birth and history, but not by practice, before the summer of 2004, Mr. London had no interest in the faith or the history of his ancestors. In the summer of 2004, while doing relief work in Bosnia, he stumbled upon a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community that was trying to rebuild a city nearly destroyed by war. Inspired by what he saw, Mr. London traveled around the world visiting different Jewish communities and recording his experiences.

The result is his 2010 book, Far From Zion.  The interviewees, instead of making Aaliyah, are choosing to remain in the Diaspora. The interviewees include the caretaker of all but forgotten synagogue in Rangoon, a store owner selling Jewish themed jewelry in Iran, an African tribe who adopted the Jewish faith as their own, East Coast transplants celebrating Hanukkah in small town Arkansas and a professor in Cuba equally as proud of his religious faith as his Communist beliefs.

I found this book to be a very interesting read. What I was shown was that Judaism, in it’s many forms, is alive and thriving. The practice of Judaism varies from community to community, but it is as alive as it has ever been.

I recommend this book.


Exodus: Lost and Found

In 2009, Deborah Feldman was a wife and mother living in the insular ultra-religious Jewish Satmar  community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Feeling trapped, she took her young son and left the community, her family and her husband for a new life.

Her memoir, Exodus , a sequel to her previous memoir, follows Ms. Feldman’s journey as she travels to previously unknown parts of the United States and Europe. In Europe, she travels to birth places of her Holocaust survivor grandparents while in the company of several men, one of whom is a grandson of a Nazi.

I haven’t yet read Unorthodox, so I can only go by Exodus. I suspect that Ms. Feldman’s journey is no different than anyone whose who raised in an insular ultra religious community and makes the choice to leave their family and community. I did enjoy the book, but I would have liked to see a balance of her rebellion from her roots and her acceptance of her roots.

Do I recommend this book? Maybe, but only if you have read her previous memoir.

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