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Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Book Pals: Hope Will Find You

Naomi Levy's Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living jumped out at me from the library shelf.

Of course, the first four words of the title were all I saw, on the book's spine, prompting me to pull it out for a look. When I saw the subtitle, it was going in my bag.

Levy had been in the first class of women admitted to a Conservative seminary. She was a rising star in the rabbinical world, and had a happy marriage and two children. Then, the terrible news came: a doctor told her that her five-year-old daughter had a degenerative and ultimately fatal disease. Levy was familiar with the disease and its end effects, and immediately her life became about second opinions (and third, fourth, etc.), doctor visits, therapies, and treatments. As she walked through fear and despair, she wondered where her career had gone.

The book chronicles her life with her family, with her study partner, with her faith. It is hopeful, beautiful, and inspiring in very many ways, and it is most highly recommended.

What caught my attention about it as a book for a RevGal audience, though, is this: After a long time away from a formal clergy role, Levy is talking with some friends about what she misses about it. She says,
"I guess what I miss most is leading people in prayer on Friday as the sun is setting and the Sabbath comes. It's magic. I miss spreading that magic."

(Friend Norma asks) "If you could lead a service today, what would it look like?"

...I thought about all the Jews I knew who were turned off by Judaism. Jews who walked away from prayer life because they found Judaism spiritually unfulfilling. Jews who walked away from prayer because they were raised on God-as-Superman and not on The God Who Sees Me. I said, "It would be a place for those who are searching for spiritual nourishment, who want to be transformed. I would write a whole new English translation of the Hebrew services. There would be a band, lots of uplifting music."
There follows a series of amazing coincidences, or God-moments. A church is found to welcome the new congregation for its meetings; a group forms to vision the new movement.

"We talked about a new approach to Jewish life. 'A Soulful Community of Prayer in Action' became our motto. We wanted to revive deep spirituality, and we wanted to link it with social justice, with actions that can heal our world. Every prayer service would be linked to a day of action."

What emerged was Nashuva, which means "We Shall Return." It has become an immensely successful synagogue in Los Angeles. One Friday a month, the community gathers for Sabbath service; one Saturday a month, for community service.

I'm one of those who is still (!) working on grasping what "Emergent Church" means. I think I have a better understanding of it now, from having read of this Jewish version of our shared cultural groundswell. We are not (necessarily) emerging from something bad...but we are definitely emerging into something new. What will it be?


  1. Sometime ago,I heard Rabbi Levy speak of her book, and of her journey, at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I was equally moved by her accounts of her life, and the journey she is on.

    A truly powerful story and a message. I concur with your recommendation. A must read.

  2. Just bought it for my laptop Kindle - thanks, Mary Beth!

    I wish for both of us that her journey did not so closely parallel my own (and I am hardly at the inspirational point), but there they are.

    And to think that I JUST said to someone last week that I didn't know anyone else who had lost a child while she was in seminary.

  3. Now I see from the Amazon reviews that he child is still alive. Thank God.

  4. Thanks so much, Mary Beth. Sounds fascinating! I'm also getting the e-version.

  5. it really is a beautiful book. I am sure that you will enjoy it...and I hope you will leave your thoughts after you've read it.

  6. I have my doubts about the emergent church/synagogue becoming the new paradigm for the institutional church/synagogue...

    Maybe I just want to hang on to the idea of mystery and ritual? But I tend to be persuaded by Diana Butler Bass and Carol Howard Merritt, that there is something of that mystery and ritual found only in the buildings/people/actions set aside for "worship" (if that makes sense)...

    that said, I am intrigued by her story and look forward to reading this book..

  7. Well, I'm intrigued. I tend to agree with Teri about the 'emergent church' but I think I shall get this for my iPad. Thanks, MB.

  8. Wow! I learn about the best books from all of you! Thanks, MB!


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