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Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  303 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Susan Silverman grew up with parents who were, both before and after a devastating loss, atheists. Yet, as a young adult, she shocked everyone who knew her ("But you were elected Class Flirt in high school!") and became a rabbi. What was not surprising, however, was that she built her own big, unwieldy family through both birth and adoption, something she had intended from ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 29th 2016 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 2016)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  303 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Marjorie Ingall
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grownups
Very funny, delightfully quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, blisteringly honest. (What else would you expect from Sarah Silverman's sister, the rabbi?) One of my usual complaints about parenting memoirs is that they feel too carefully crafted; even the difficult, scary, infuriating stuff is presented with carefully polished edges and tidy, heart-warming conclusions. Feh. This is not that. Silverman is honest about the depression and better still, FURY, that comes with raising kids.

That said --
actual, literal baba yaga.
Susan Silverman seems like a really cool person but I am middle-of-the-road on this book. It's a little all over the place and doesn't tie together very well, but it had a lot of moments that made me laugh pretty hard, so she's obviously got some talent. I just wish it had been a little more evenly-distributed topic-wise - the author decides to go to rabbinical school on a lark which is never talked about again just BAM SHE'S A RABBI vs. 200 pages addressing the adoption process for her sons ...more
Leah Rachel
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It’s probably the highest compliment to an author when a Rabbi can’t put your book down even during the High Holy Days, and also chooses it as the book to read the day AFTER the High Holy Days. Rabbi Silverman was my teacher when I was in undergrad, and I remember her teaching with Adari on her lap, Ashira in her belly, and Zamir already a glimmer in her eye. In addition to being an incredible teacher (I loved hearing her tell the Serach story again), she was the first adult I knew who spoke ...more
Aug 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about Susan Silverman's family, her connection with God, and parenting. There were several moments when I teared up (not unusual for me) as her love and honesty is so evident in her writing about her children and the big questions about our world. How do Americans confront privilege in our lives? How does she begin to explain her whiteness to her adopted child of color? How do people find strength when the feeling that you are faltering as a parent, or as a person arises? How ...more
Julie Gray
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I read this book in about two days flat, and didn't want to put it down. Susan Silverman is FUNNY and she really knows how to tell a story. There are so many laugh-aloud moments in Casting Lots. My favorite parts though were the reflections about Judaism and rabbinical stories and their interpretations. As a converted Jew of over 32 years, I always find more to learn about Judaism and practical wisdom; Silverman shows by example, how to find the grace in the ordinary nature of our lives. Full ...more
Dov Zeller
This book has a lot of wonderful moments and I admire the writer's work toward accessing honesty and transparency in relationship to her existential puzzles, and parenting questions, struggles and insecurities.

On the other hand, there are ways this book feels like it's skimming a lot of surfaces. There's not a deep exploration of what it means to Silverman to be Jewish vs. Jewy. And she doesn't explore deeply enough the complexity of her position as an adoptive white parent of two boys who are
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adoption, jew
"Kee tov. It is good." I opened this delicious book at 11 pm for a quick glance and didn't put it down until I got to the last page. What a beautiful exploration of family bonds, adoption, Judaism, anxiety, race and love. Adoption books are not so hard to come by and as an adoptive mom I've got most of them in the house -- It was a real joy to find a book focusing on transracial adoption from a jewish perspective -- that is very hard to come by and much appreciated. I can't recommend the book ...more
Lisa Silverman
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
SIlverman's book (no relation) shares a loving story of adoption and family life, sprinkled with anxiety ridden moments. The book was raw and inspiring.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I happen to be Jewish and I happen to be an adoptive mom....but I really think many people would find this book enjoyable. Anyone with a deep faith, anyone who is a parent, anyone who has siblings....anyone who has fears, hopes, dreams.... Susan Silverman covers it all without sounding preachy or self-absorbed.

Rabbi Silverman speaks honestly and opening about her own feelings and insecurities - which would/could be spoken by any woman on any given night! I feel like I
May 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Susan Silverman has certainly lived an interesting life, but I found I was interested in things left off the pages. I was specifically interested in her vocation as a Rabbi. She goes into detail how she went to rabbinical school on a whim, didn't even know what rabbis do...and then the entire thing is dropped. Did she ever work as a rabbi? I have no idea. I think her parents were fascinating and my heart broke for their tragic loss. As for Susan herself...I found her extremely annoying. She says ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I got this book complimentarily from PJ Library, a Jewish-themed organization. The rating of 3/5 is not a reflection on Silverman as a person - I admire her unconditionally. She is a rabbi, and along with her husband, they've built an amazing family - three biological daughters and two sons, both adopted from Ethiopia. The things they've navigated, as Jews, as a family, and as parents, are enormous and they do it compassionately and with great thoughtfulness.

I was, however, disappointed with
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
It was difficult for me to get in to this book because of the detail involved so I would put it down and read something else and then pick this up to read The author and main character of this book was able to fulfill her lifelong dream of adoption (after having her own children thru childbirth), I truly applaud her fir this. She travels across the world two different times to accomplish this. An ordained Rabbi, though not religious, she struggles to have her adopted children accepted in to the ...more
Kate Irwin-smiler
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaica
This book was not what I expected or wanted this week. It was blurbed more as “parenting in difficult times” (or maybe that’s just how I interpreted the title?) - it was almost entirely about their adoption journey and very little about the broken world of the title. So, in that respect, disappointing. I really want the book I thought it was going to be. I need that right now.

It’s an interesting story and Silverman has some thoughts on international adoption that are worth considering. I don’t
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an unexpected delight. I was offered a free adult book by the PJ Library program and had already read the other offerings, so I figured why not try this. Both hysterical and a beautifully written tale about how family is formed and re-formed over a lifetime. Recommended to anyone with any interest in Jewish families, international adoption, or what Sarah Silverman was like as a little tot (the author is her big sister).
Linda Krasnow
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
To me, Casting Lots felt unevenly written. The beginning which told of the author's upbringing was vivid and alive with humor and wit. As her religion becomes and main focus of her life (she becomes a Rabbi) philosophy takes over. Her side of the adoption story was hugely interesting. Even more interesting might be her children's perspectives. It was almost a life experiment and I would love to know the results. It felt unfinished and rushed at the end.
Dominique Egbers
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a story of Ms. Silverman's emotions and steadfastness of building a family through child birth and through adoption. It is a heart warming tale, especially for those that are currently thinking about adoption or have adopted.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Silverman is honest and authentic. I admire her courage to tell her story so honestly. Her thoughts, fears, and imperfections. We all move forward through life with imperfections. Lovingly written.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
Read Harder Challenge 2020 #1
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Started out wonderfully, very poignant, and ending a bit on the meh side. Sigh.
Mindi Lutwin
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating memoir...I enjoyed reading it!
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rather well written but it would have made more sense with a linear progression.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Memoir by a local NH family member. Her story is interesting and personal.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended by a book club friend, this book is the story of Susan Silverman , a rabbi, and her husband Yosef's desire to create the family they desperately long for. It reveals the trials of international adoption,and shares both the difficulties and celebrations of blending adopted children into the family their parents always knew they belonged with.
It was informative and heartwarming, and I enjoyed the journey.
Glencoe Public Library
I first heard of this book when listening to Terry Gross interview its author, Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman.

The writer was only two years old when her infant brother, Jeffrey, died in a crib accident while her parents were away on vacation. Their marriage was never the same after that, marred by constant arguments and eventual divorce. Growing up, Susan suffered from such horrible separation that even going to school was pure agony. She still imagines the worst
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Like her comedienne sister Sarah, the author [Rabbi] Susan Silverman is quite funny, and doesn't shrink from using profanity.(But to a MUCH lesser degree than Sarah). She has written a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening chronicle of her family's story--its sorrows and its loving commitment to each other. Women's book clubs might find it a nice change of pace from novels, as it deals with many facets of Silverman's life--parenting, adoption, spirituality, and social activism, combining the ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, biography
Really I rate it 3 1/2 to 4. I found it hard to keep reading in the middle, but I wanted to see where it was going. As an adoptive parent and grandparent, I shared some of her idealism. But I felt that such idealism gave way to reality over time. We cannot change the world, just our own little part of it. And each child needs more time and attention than a parent with many children may be able to give. Still they grow up mainly as we had hoped and planned.

I agree on the need for more
Catherine Woodman
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have been taking baby steps back towards reading like I have in the past few years again, and weirdly, that has included more non-fiction than would be my norm. This book would fall into that line, although it is a memoir, which I like to think of as being somewhere between purely nonfiction and wholly made up.

The author grew up in a secular Jewish home and has become a rabbi in her current life. She is devout and anxious and comes across in this memoir as very human and approachable. Her
Margaret Klein
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Disclosure: I count Rabbi Susan Silverman as a friend. And I know her sister. Yes, that sister, Sarah Silverman. And Susan's husband, Yosef. So some of this story I know. But Susan's commitment to adoption and her own, unique, different from Sarah's sense of humor makes this book a delight to read. Susan allows us a glimpse into her family..and into her soul. She blends Jewish tradition artfully with practicality of parenting. Yes, a newly adopted child may poop on an airplane. And its OK! She ...more
Elizabeth Fagin
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This memoir, written by Rabbi Susan Silverman, is a beautiful story about life, parenthood, Judaism, international adoption and self-doubt. I started reading it this afternoon and did not stop until the end. Her writing is honest, funny and deeply empathetic.

It was also fun to read a bit about her more famous sister Sarah. But I loved it most because she so eloquently describes the joy and tragedy, hope and despair, beauty and dirty dishes of life.

Her story draws important connections between
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had a weird connection to this book. Like the author, I spent a lot of my childhood (and adulthood) fixated on the inevitable death of my father. My father was in his 50s when I was born so he was the age of most of my friends grandparents.

Until reading this book, I never connected my desire to have foster kids and possibly adopt to that fear. I always connected it to the stories I heard about people in my family line that were foster parents or step parents.

Grateful that I heard a review of
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