Cover image for Coming home : a woman's story of conversion to Judaism
Coming home : a woman's story of conversion to Judaism
Shires, Linda M., 1950-
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Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 262 pages ; 24 cm
1. From passing as a Jew to standing at Sinai -- 2. Time, timeliness, timelessness -- 3. God, women, and gender -- 4. Pollution and holiness -- 5. Face to face -- 6. In pieces.
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BM729.P7 S55 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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She grew up in an upper-middle-class Protestant family in New England. She can trace her father's family back to the Mayflower . Yet, "Judaism was to be my bashert , my destiny," maintains Linda Shires - wife, mother, professor, and author. For almost twenty years, she lived the life of a Jewish wife, passing as a Jew when she participated in Jewish holiday rituals with her husband and her three step-children. When she wanted, she thought of herself as a Christian. But after deciding to ground her child in one religious tradition, Shires discovered her own. Coming Home tells the story of why a former WASP Debutante opted for a position at the margins: a Jew-by-Choice and why she became committed to a life of religious observance and questioning. Her narrative is quietly passionate, spiritual, and learned as it moves from the halls of Princeton to the Holocaust camps of Germany and back again. This richly felt story of conversion to Judaism expands our idea of what constitutes a spiritual journey and a religious practice.

Author Notes

Linda M. Shires is Professor of English and Textual Studies at Syracuse University, where she also teaches in the Judaic Studies program. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and Syracuse, New York

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Shires was raised in\b an upper-middle-class Protestant family in New England, then she married a Jew with three children from a previous marriage. For the next 20 years, as she informs us, I passed as a Jew whenever I pleased, without knowing much about the religion or the traditions and without learning Hebrew. When she became pregnant in 1989, her husband asked her to raise their child in the Jewish faith, and she agreed. In 1999, she converted to the religion. The book's first two chapters detail Shires' personal reflections about her conversion experience. Chapter 3, she says, betrays disquiet at my almost uncritical devotion, which was apparently necessary to get me to conversion day. Chapters 4 and 5 further explore important aspects of Judaism concerning sexuality, purity standards, and the holiness of relationships. The final chapter continues the ethical, social, religious, and psychological inquiry, but it moves into history and the future. A lucid and powerful book from a professor of English and textual studies at Syracuse University. --George Cohen Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1999 at age 48, Shires, daughter of a prominent Episcopalian and granddaughter of a devout Greek Orthodox Christian, did what she had been contemplating for nearly 20 years, ever since falling in love with the Jewish man who would become her husband: she immersed herself three times in a ritual mikvah and officially became a Jew. Her experience could have led her to write a memoir exploring why she felt an intense "desire to belong to the Jewish prayer community," as she puts it. Instead Shires, professor of English and textual studies at Syracuse University, devotes two-thirds of the book to a thoroughly referenced scholarly pondering of aspects of Judaism that continue to discomfit her, such as Conservative and Orthodox attitudes toward women and homosexuals; and to commentaries on the parshiot (weekly Torah portions) related to her chapters. Still conflicted after converting, she writes: "My identity as a Jew was not only far from whole but also riven with contradictions," including "my feminism and my deep love of Torah" and "my strong belief in upholding traditions and my belief in questioning legalisms." Too many conversion memoirs limit their purview to the convert's personal experience and feelings; by contrast, Shires accords deservedly major roles to intellectual struggle and religious tradition. Readers, however, will need a considerable knowledge of Judaism and tolerance for academese to stay with her through her often labyrinthine scholarly explorations. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prefacep. VII
1 From Passing as a Jew to Standing at Sinaip. 1
Passage 1 Who Counts? Thoughts on Bamidbar, Numbers 1:1-4:20p. 27
2 Time, Timeliness, Timelessnessp. 39
Passage 2 So God Turned Them: Thoughts on Beshalach, Exodus 13:17-17:16p. 67
3 God, Women, and Genderp. 75
Passage 3 The Two Tamars: Thoughts on 2 Samuel 13 and on Vayeshev, Genesis 38p. 111
4 Pollution and Holiness: The Bodyp. 125
Passage 4 The Akedah, the Binding of Isaac: Thoughts on Vayera, Genesis 22:1-24p. 153
5 Face to Face: The Fate of the Otherp. 161
Passage 5 Their Faces Shall Be One Toward the Other: Thoughts on Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19p. 189
6 In Pieces: Facing Germanyp. 195
Passage 6 Coming Home Again: Thoughts on Yom Kippurp. 221
Acknowledgmentsp. 227
Glossaryp. 229
Notesp. 237
Indexp. 255