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The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet's Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  777 ratings  ·  71 reviews
While accompanying eight high–spirited Jewish delegates to Dharamsala, India, for a historic Buddhist–Jewish dialogue with the Dalai Lama, poet Rodger Kamenetz comes to understand the convergence of Buddhist and Jewish thought. Along the way he encounters Ram Dass and Richard Gere, and dialogues with leading rabbis and Jewish thinkers, including Zalman Schacter, Yitz and B ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by HarperOne (first published April 28th 1994)
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“The Jew in the Lotus” is a true account of a delegation of Jews from a wide range of religious denominations who visit the Dalai Lama in 1990. The Dalai Lama, whose people and way of life are threatened, would like to learn about Jewish survival. The Jewish delegates each come with their own unique perspective on Judaism, which they plan to share. The author, Rodger Kamenetz, documents this journey in full, including the group dynamics, the intra-group tensions, and the dialogue with the Dalai ...more
Skylar Burris
I generally read books about religion for two reasons: one, to educate myself with general background and historical knowledge of the world’s primary religions and, two, to gain deeper insight into my own religion and enhance my own spiritual journey. The Jew in the Lotus satisfied both of my hopes for religious nonfiction.

I found my second motivation for reading such works to be especially well described by several participants in the interfaith dialogue depicted in this book, including Omer-Ma
"The Jew in the Lotus" is the archetypal JuBu book, and since I am of Jewish extraction and interested in Buddhism, I felt I should read it. I was surprised to find that this isn't a story of one man's personal conversion from one religion to another. Instead, it's a fairly journalistic retelling of the first embassy of Jews to the Dalai Lama, in 1990. Kamenetz is a famous poet, and his writing is frequently lyrical- so much so that by the end I kind of had a headache from all the high-minded se ...more
I adored this book - the tale of a group of Jewish rabbis and intellectuals who travel to Dharamsala in India to converse with the Dalai Lama, all told by a poet.

The Jew in the Lotus is many things - a travel narrative (there's much about India, in here - snapshots built word-by-word of markets, temples, shrines, hotels, and the result is as vibrant as a color photograph); a personal journal (Kamenetz went to India as a secular Jew with some suspicion about Buddhism, and returned a spiritual Jew
Worthwhile read. The book is an account of the meetings between a delegation of Jews and the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala, India. As a Christian, it was fascinating to be a bystander to their fascinating conversation. The Temple was destroyed in 70AD and the Sanhedrin were sent into exile not to be heard of again. The Dalai Lama has been expelled from Tibet and the Tibetan Buddhists are now having to reimagine their religion, just as the Jews had to after 70AD. There is much about the conversations t ...more
Adam Glantz
A captivating account of the dialogue between Jewish scholars and the Dalai Lama in 1990. The Dalai Lama wants to know the secret of Jewish survival despite adversity, so he can ensure the future of Tibetan Buddhism during the Chinese occupation. This "Jewish secret" appears to be Judaism's involvement of the entire family, which makes every person a potential bearer of Jewish spirituality. Most forms of Tibetan Buddhism are the preserve of a monastic elite, leaving the lay "householders" partly ...more
The fascinating story of a group of Jewish religious figures who go to visit the Dalai Lama.
Kamenetz does a great job of outlining the various flavors of and splits within Judaism, while also giving an impressive overview of Tibetan Buddhism.
The really amazing parts, though, are the various sections that discuss where the two religions intersect. And there are a lot more than I thought.
Kamenetz wraps up the book with a call to arm for the increasingly broken American Judaism to fix itself, and
Though this book is from over ten years ago, the pieces of it that are timeless are great. There are fantastic and poignant nuggets (can a "nugget" be poignant? I feel like the word nugget means at best somethings dense, at worst, juicy. Anyway...) there are moments of the book which are beautiful, thought-provoking, and fun.

The story of a group of Jews from across the ideological spectrum going to Dharamsala for the first ever dialogue between Jewish thinkers and the Dalai Lama. The story prov
As a Jewish American, I can identify with his description of Jewish identity, but having experienced the Renewal movement, I can say whole-heartedly that I prefer Reform. The rabbi who followed Renewalism ( is it a movement? A manifesto?) was so out of touch with reality that it was difficult to believe anything he told you.

I've always felt a strong connection to Judaism; my reference has always been this wonderful Reform synagogue in Tennessee that my family belonged to until we moved away. It'
Sep 25, 2007 Nomy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jews
this book is about a group of jewish leaders who go to meet with the dalai lama to talk about spiritual survival in exhile. it was really moving for me. i think it's really effective because the author didn't go there on his own spiritual quest, he went as a journalist, to document the event, but ended up having this really transformative experience. it speaks a lot to why so many jews have a hard time relating spiritually to our own religion, and unearths some really compelling stuff that has b ...more
This book would be quite different if it were written today instead of 20 years ago. For one thing, as he roams around trying to figure out why so many Jews turn to Buddhism he would have to look more clearly into the disease that is Zionism. But as a Zionist perhaps his ideology blinds him so he is unable to see that. The book could have been an interesting comparison of two religions. Instead, it is written in the voice of a Jew who clearly sees himself as a chosen person and this superiority ...more
Jen Helfand
Very disappointing. Made me want to read a book about the cultural histories of Jews in the us and buddhism. This books most glaring weakness was a lack of pointed intersectional analysis of 'Jewishness' - by omission, this book centers a cis male, Ashkenazi, able bodied, middle class 'Jewish experience' very much of the baby boomer age. Anyone have any recommendations about more contemporary, intersectional analysis of Jewish Buddhists/ Buddhist Jews?
I enjoyed this book, and it makes me look forward to studying with Zalman Schacter-Sholomi next month. I enjoyed the discussion of angels. According to the Talmud, each blade of grass has a team of angels cheering it on to grow. And each human is preceded by a relay of angels saying "Look out, the image of God is coming!" I wonder how my life would be different if I could be mindful of the angels?
Pamela Klint
Read this while "working" in Maui. Literally... I was at the counter reading it at work, in Maui :)
What an amazing book!

I'm not entirely sure how to even describe it. Kamenetz is a phenomenal writer and is able to articulate and discuss the actual events as they occurred during the meeting with the Dalai Lama, the thoughts and philosophy behind both Judaism and Buddhism as they were discussed (even the esoteric parts), and his own ideas/opinions/thoughts/feelings as they occurred with truth, compassion, love and such authenticity parts of it made me want to cry.

Much of what I saw in this book
I read this book in hopes of re-kindling an interest in learning and reading about Judaism. I turned to this book after I could no longer stomach reading God is a Verb, a book on Jewish mysticism. There are certain aspects of Buddhism that are appealing and I thought that reading a book about a conversation between Jewish and Buddhist scholars would be interesting.

I think that this book was well written. It is the story of a diverse group of Jewish scholars that journey to India to speak with t
What happens when the Dalai Lama invites a group of rabbis and Jewish scholars to travel to India for a dialogue between the two faiths? One reason his holiness called for this meeting was to find out what secrets the Jews had that allowed their religion and culture to survive in exile for two thousand years and how these secrets might be applied to preserve the Tibetan Buddhist tradition given its current situation. Along the way we also learn about the similarities between the two religions' e ...more
Carol Ascher
This is a surprising book, as judged by the title, because it is actually the true story of a trip taken by half a dozen American rabbis (two are women) to Daramasala to visit the Dali Lama, and the resulting exchange between the rabbis and Buddhist monks, including the Dali Lama, on differences and commonalities between Judaism and Buddhism, as well as the need by both faiths to develop a way to sustain the faith even when its members are living in exile.
Janean Vivadelli
A nonfiction about a group of Jews who visit Dharamsala in 1990 to talk with the Dalai Lama... He wants to know their secret to preserving their religion which turns out to be how they never forgot their past, especially how they have suffered... Interestingly enough is that this goes against what Buddhists believe since they preach detachment from (among other things) your past... A very interesting chapter on how both Jews and Buddhist believe in angels... Another interesting chapter on JUBUs- ...more
May 13, 2007 Greg rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jews, buddhists, JUBUs
Shelves: religion
What do you get when you cross a group of Jewish scholars (I believe they are all Rabbis) and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people?

- Lots of bickering about what it means to be a Jew
- Some perspectives on similarities between Buddhism and Judaism
- An inquiry into Jewish values that seeks to explain why Jews gravitate towards Buddhism much more than other members of other religions
- A strong desire to go travel in India (or travel in India again)
- Plenty of wisdom from the Dalai Lama, which
Dec 04, 2008 Pamela rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in religion
It was fascinating to learn that traditional Jewish mysticism has many concepts and practices similar to those in Buddhism. Maybe all deeply developed mysticisms have such similiaries. However, when Kamenetz seems to argue that what will "save" Judaism in the contemporary world is a new infusion of mysticism... well, I don't know. This seems both simplistic and extremely unlikely to occur (mainstream Judaism becoming highly mystical), and are we so sure that Judaism, which has many varied and vi ...more
Sep 06, 2011 Julia added it
This book is best intended for the Jewish audience. Although the central event is the dialog between Dalai Lama and Jewish leaders, The book describes the current dilemmas in the Jewish community that become apparent in the light of this dialog. The author attempts to explore questions like, why do people choose to leave the Jewish faith, how can we bring all the different denominations to work together (rather than against each other) to resolve current problems, How did spirituality disappear ...more
I got the impression that the JUBU's needed their "ex" to meet the "new or chosen" one, so that the ex would know why they left and how much better the new one was. They needed the "chosen" one to meet the ex so that it could see from whence they came.
I found it interesting that the Jews went thinking that they were going to teach the Dalai Lama about how a religion could survive in the diaspora. I laughed at Zalman's idea of a Tibetan seder before even meeting the Dalai Lama. Instead of only t
Sylvia Scherr
now in print for 20 years, this book tells the story of a visit to the Dali Llama by a group of alternative Jewish leaders, but more importantly, it challenges Judiasm to regain the lost spirituality of its past. Outstanding book by an outstanding poet and writer.
Generally a report of a meeting between certain Jews, including some religious and some cultural Jews and the Dali Lama, together with several of his leaders. Similarities and differences between Judaism and Buddhism are discussed and during their time together they each discovered that there was far more they had in common than there were differences. The original motive behind the meeting was for the Dali Lama to gain some insight into what the Jews have done to survive admist the scattering a ...more
Carol Catinari
I'm re-reading this book for Book Club. Very interesting, and even more so this time, as it brings back memories of my trip to India. The narrator is a good commentator of all related: the dynamics of the Jewish contingent invited to visit the Dalai Lama... the differences, the similarities between Buddhism and Judaism... and interspersed with his own viewpoints and how the trip affected him and his Judaism. You also are treated to an up-close view of that amazing man, the Dalai Lama...and of th ...more
i was really touched by this book. a congregation of jewish leaders and rabbis travels to dharmashala in india, home of the tibetan people in exile. and basically they sit down with the 14th dalai lama and compare notes on how a people live in exile, how to make traditions, language, literature and culture survive in exile. the similarities between the jewish peoples brillian survival and preservation of their culture outside of their homeland serves as a model for the tibetan people. it is grea ...more
This book spoke to both my chosen religious affiliation (Judaism_ through my husband) and my life's passion. I am a Yogi and the sutras and practices are intertwined with Buddhism. My favorite passage is about a rabbi saying that he thinks that religious pluralism is God's will. When Ram Das makes an appearance near the end, I was delighted.
I have been noting the commonalities that I encounter between Yoga and Judaism for the past 18 months, but it was an enlightening experience to read about o
"A Poet's Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India"
This book was given to me by a dear friend who passed away at 82 very shortly after giving me this book. I would have loved to discuss it with her. In any event, this book gives a fascinating account of the author's journey; intellectual, spiritual, physical and mystical, as he travels with a group of Jewish seekers to meet the Dalai Lama, who is , of course, in exile in India. This is a great book for anyone interested in Jewish Meditat
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jew in the lotus 1 6 Jan 01, 2010 06:12PM  
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“According to the Buddhist tradition,” he began, “there is no sort of conversion or missionary work. It is not good to ask someone to follow a different faith. Yet, because there are so many different mental dispositions, one religion simply cannot serve, cannot satisfy all people.” 0 likes
“The preservation of Buddhism is preserving your own internal heart. If Tibetans became terrorists they might win back Tibet, but Buddhism would be destroyed by that attitude.” 0 likes
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