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My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  898 ratings  ·  149 reviews
One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging. He observes the Sabbath, he goes to synagogue, and he even flies to New York on weekends for a series of "speed dates" with nice, eligible Jewish girls. But, something is missing. Looking out of his window and across the street at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlant ...more
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by HarperOne (first published October 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  898 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Mar 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: cannonball-read
I do not generally give bad reviews about books. The worst I’ve ever written or said about a piece of literature can be summed up in that infuriatingly smug syllable “meh.” Wasn’t good enough to stick in my mind, don’t you know. Wasn’t good enough to keep its feet amongst the gods of English literature. Meh.

I’m changing that now. I’m about to give a bad review.

It became clear to me from the first few pages of My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Be
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is one of those ubiquitous "life journey" books. It describes the year in which an Orthodox rabbi visits the different worship places of various Christian denominations. (My favorite was United Christian Wrestling, although the black Jesus Easter pageant came in a close second.)

The author is somewhat vague on his spiritual/psychological background (although I now know more than I wanted to about Crohn's disease) and somehow remains an Orthodox Jew the entire time, making the whole thing see
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in religion
This was well-written, funny, yet down to earth. I learned a lot about Christianity and Orthodox Judaism from this book.

Cohen, an Orthodox Jewish man, spends a year attending a variety of Christian services. His journalistic background helps make these experiences colorful and detailed. But the book is also part spiritual growth; throughout the chapters Cohen pauses to discuss how these experiences are helping his own faith suffer or blossom, often diplomatically comparing Christianity and Judai
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
How many times have you started reading a book with a preconceived idea of how you would like it? I certainly did so with this book. The premise sounds eerily similar to that of The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, which to this day remains my all time favorite book. And because Jacobs offers a cover quote for My Jesus Year, it was easy to assume this memoir was going to be very similar.

But talk about being pleasantly surprised! Done from an anthropological perspective, Cohen does somet
Paul Pessolano
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a delightful read, one that can be enjoyed by everyone. It will be especially enjoyable to those in the Atlanta area.

Benyamin Cohen is the son of an Orthodox Rabbi, who finds that he is less than enthusiastic about his Jewish faith. He decides, with a Rabbi's permission, to take a year and explore Christian religions.

His first sojorn into Christianity is the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia. The services are held in the Georgia Dome and he is the o
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was by far one of the best books I've read all year, and when I finished I wanted to tell all of my friends to read it immediately. Cohen is a somewhat disillusioned Orthodox Jew who, seeing the enthusiasm of the Christians in his neighborhood as they attend church every week, wonders about their motivation, and decides to explore Christianity for one year in the hopes that it will give him a better appreciation for his own faith. And, living in the Bible belt (Atlanta, GA), and getting pe ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
I enjoy reading about other people's spiritual journeys, especially around Judaism. But as an observant Jew myself, it was very hard to get past the author's embarrassment about and apology for his Judaism. He doesn't seem to believe that anyone Jewish would read this book, or that anyone non-Jewish could respect the traditions that might be more alien to him. He claims to have back come to a closer connection with his own religion through his experiences visiting Christian churches, but sadly, ...more
Nov 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
Interesting premise, but dull and obvious in its execution.
Jim Lavis
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful memoir. I have had similar experiences to some of his, so I have a real appreciation for this man’s plight in life. I loved the conclusion he came up with that states “that all these different religions have more in common than they do have differences.”

I thought he did a great job with the introduction of this story, but I must admit that I was a bit turned off with his understanding and appreciation of the Christian sects that worship God or should I say Jesus with loud preac
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, memoirs, jewish
This book is part memoir, part faith experiment. Both parts are funny, intelligent and well edited. One can't help but notice good editing in this day and age of memoirs either not being edited well, or being edited by those who apparently have the same emotional problems as the memoirists. Benyamin Cohen doesn't come across as someone who has a lot of emotional problems, even though his mother died suddenly when he was thirteen. He is having a bit of a faith problem in his book, however.

Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspirational
I read this for my church bookclub and thoroughly enjoyed it! Cohen is a journalist to start with so his writing is much better than other the-year-I-did-this-or-that genre of books. As a matter of fact he is hilarious! The basic premise of the book is that Cohen, a thirty-something Orthodox Jew, is observant but passionless about his religion. He wants to rediscover it and, in a twist, decides to do so by spending a year attending services and events at a wide variety of Christian denominations ...more
Feb 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was terrible, and to be honest, I had to stop halfway through because the writing was so bad. There is a smugness and insincerity in his writing that made me constantly feel as if he were looking condescendingly down on Christians rather than trying to learn about their faith. One thing that was extremely off-putting to me was his reference to one of the little people that he dated as one of this crazy ex-girlfriends, even though the only thing that apparently qualified her as "crazy" ...more
Feb 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in seeing Jesus' followers through Jewish eyes
What I learned from this book is that some Orthodox Jews follow a welter of trivial rules that, growing up in an Orthodox home, I never heard the likes of. Cohen dwells on "rules" like you should tie your left shoelace before you tie your right one (why I have no clue), and both complains about their absurdity and the lack of spirituality in his Orthodox upbringing. To be fair, I must say I do know Orthodox Jews who do find spirituality in their practises, but I don't know if they tie their left ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Really only deserves 2.5 stars. I was expecting a lot more humor and hoping to learn something about the different faiths Cohen "explores", but instead I found his tone more whiny than funny and his explorations shallow. After reading the comparatively well-researched and heavily-footnoted "The Year of Living Biblically" I was particularly disappointed in how little prior thought and planning Cohen seemed to give the whole enterprise. He seemed woefully uninformed about Christianity in general a ...more
Elliot Ratzman
This shtick-lit, in short: ambivalent orthodox Jew travels around Churches in and around Atlanta to see what’s the haps with Christianity. I’d recommend this light reading to Jews who know nothing about Christians and want to get a sense of their practice. I’d also suggest it as a mild and funny intro to Judaism and how Jews see Christianity. Though a breezy read with lots of clever moments and observations, this is only a superficial treatment of Christian life. While we encounter all types fro ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was an interesting book. The author's experiences we're somewhat neat, checking out various churches/house of worships.

Yet, the book was interesting almost in spite of itself-From the title, I would have thought it was about a deeply unsettled Jew looking at the life of Jesus. But the author was still proudly Jewish, so he wasn't that unsatisfied (many Jews have questions about their religion-as do people of other faiths). Plus, the author's look at various church's/faiths was almost super
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
It was predictable, but witty, insightful, honest, and well written. There were chapters I loved, like the early one about his dedicated dating, and others I could have done without, like the one about the Christian wrestlers. But I loved the motivation he had to truly become converted to his birth-given faith, even if it was a little unconventional, especially for an orthodox Jew. I loved that he never spoke ill of any of the faiths he observed, but instead found the similarities and the good i ...more
Nov 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, 2008
An interesting idea, with semi-interesting execution.

The most interesting parts for me were his explanations of the odd Orthodox Jewish rituals. Hiding bread in Ziploc bags before Passover, who knew? The various trips to Christian churches and things were less poignant because the author seemed to consider himself an outsider throughout and never fully immerse himself in the experiences. I liked the comparisons he made to Judaism, and realizing the commonality of all religions, but his reiterati
Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus
First of all, Benyamin Cohen is a wonderful writer who's entertaining, even when talking about his struggles. He manages to help the reader relate to the depths of his experiences while showing us a good time, which is an admirable feat. As a Christian, I appreciated seeing what church looks like to a Jew. Although he says that Christianity is marketed well, his representations made me very aware of how poorly we represent our "brand." But then, as soon as I'd think that, he'd grasp an insightfu ...more
Diane Yonchuk
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The tormentor of my past has become the mentor of my present.

The above quote is profound summation of this book. We are ALL spiritual seekers. We ALL have doubts. We ALL look to come home, and sometimes we must look outside ourselves and our world to find not only where home is, but to make that journey, no matter how uncomfortable , in order to find our way there.

This is a wonderfully written description of Beyamin's journey to rediscover his Jewish faith. It is lighthearted, often funny, but
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So enlightening!

It helps that Mr. Cohen is a such a gifted writer with a delightful sense of humor, but I found his experience fascinating and had a hard time putting the book down. I hated to see it end, I came away from it with a new perspective, which was what I was hoping for when I downloaded it. Thanks for having the courage to take this journey and share it. I feel my own faith has been reaffirmed with yours!
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Son of a rabbi decides to see how other types of people believe and spends a year infiltrating various Christian establishments such as LDS, Catholic, Evangelical, Christian Wrestling, and more. he compares and contrast beliefs with occasional humor. Insightful.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
i had some major issues with this book...and im just going to get right into them.

1. it was beyond repetitive. the author expressed his feelings about judaism, feelings about the church across the street from himself, feelings about his father, feelings about being in church etc etc etc over and over and over. this would be fine, if each time there was something new and insightful. but there wasn't. it was just the same thing paraphrased.

2. this was a memoir, not a book of essays. and yet, each
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Okay, I have to admit that I didn't actually read this book cover to cover. I just browsed through it, so my opinions may not be well founded. That being said, overall, the author seemed to browse through many Christian churches noting their own idiosyncrasies and/or hypocrisy (without judging of course) and ending each chapter with a chipper lesson he learned from each. It annoyed me a bit because he made such a big deal on not judging and seemed to sacrifice any opinion he may have formed to t ...more
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Benyamin Cohen grew up in Georgia, an Orthodox Jew and the son of a Rabbi (at one point, they even had a synagogue attached to their house). He always had a curious attraction to Christianity, borne by being raised in a culture that kind of shoves it down your throat at times and growing up across the street from a church, and as an adult, he realizes that he's not finding the answers to his deep questions in Judaism, nor is he finding the satisfaction he craves. So he sets off to explore all fa ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sort of a fun one, 3.5 stars. Cohen is a disaffected Jew, but seems like he grew up much more orthodox than most Americans. He doesn't say exactly what stream, but sounds like more than Modern Orthodox - something in there made me think Chassidish but not sure - sounds like maybe his background was a little too dry. He has an interesting perspective; a little too religious to be really snarky about either his own or other religions. He's not like most American Jews who can easily laugh at a lot ...more
I really fluctuate between giving this one 2.5 and 3 stars, but I think I’ll settle in three.

There was a lot that I liked about this book. I liked learning more about the traditions of Orthodox Jewish people. Really, I didn’t know much and the insight Cohen shared was interesting to me. I enjoyed the self-deprecating humor. I like it when problem can acknowledge and make fun of their strange beliefs - while still standing firm that this is what they believe. And I liked learning - even however
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The son of a Rabbi grows up and feels his religion was forced upon him, devoid of any real spirituality and laden with rules and regulations. His response? Go to churches for one year to find out why Christians seem to enjoy themselves more. Ridiculous concept, I supposed but it made for an interesting read.

What I liked: The first several chapters are hilarious. His descriptions of his visit to church give you a good idea of what it must be like for non-churched people to come in and see folks w
Sarah Duggan
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
The title and "buddy Christ" cover art are a bit misleading. The author, saddled with religious malaise and annoyance with the rules of Orthodox Judaism, decides to investigate Bible-Belt churches for a year. He doesn't embark on a study of the Gospels or even consider the person of Jesus that much. Instead, he produces a collection of "Niche Christian congregations do the darndest things!" essays. Each one wraps up in a tidy platitude bow reminiscent of a Carrie Bradshaw monologue: "I couldn't ...more
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