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The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  29 reviews
As Judy Gruen walked down the aisle and into her Orthodox Jewish future, her bouquet quivered in her shaky hand. Having grown up in the zeitgeist that proclaimed, "If it feels good, do it," was she really ready to live the life of "rituals, rules, and restraints" that the Torah prescribed? The Skeptic and the Rabbi is a rare memoir with historical depth, spirituality, and ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by She Writes Press
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Sharon Hart-Green
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Judy Gruen's memoir of her journey to religious Judaism is an ernest tale of personal struggle mixed with some welcome notes of self-deprecating humour. It also happens to be very readable: I finished it in almost one sitting! I particularly liked the way she framed her journey as a kind of internal struggle between her two sets of grandparents--one traditionally religious vs. the other anti-religious--and how she ultimately resolved that tension in her own life.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is my personal book #30, selected both at random and by me for the Trim challenge in my main group on Goodreads. Its is a quick non fiction memoir, about a woman ascent into religious Judaism, and what she needed to do to reconcile her previous lifestyle with what was being asked of her, and what she was being drawn into and choosing.

I am often thinking of my audience when I am writing these reviews. Once in awhile I am thinking of the authors audience, and this is no exception. I am strugg
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Gemara in tractate Yoma 35b famously extols the triumphs of various Torah personalities who surmounted tests, obstacles and circumstance to lead meaning-filled lives. “Hillel obligates the poor,” the Gemara relates, while “Rabi Elazar ben Charsom obligates the rich…” Despite backgrounds and limitations that would generally preclude one from singular devotion to Torah study - extreme poverty on the one hand and unimaginable riches on the other - Hillel and Elazar Ben Charsom did not desist fr ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish
Like Michael Medved, who wrote the forward for Judy Gruen's book, I can't claim to be objective about The Skeptic and the Rabbi. I'm even mentioned in the acknowledgments because Judy showed me an early draft!

Her fans from, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and so on will find Judy's signature humor and brutal honesty combined with a less familiar pathos.

Readers who have struggled to understand how a thinking feminist could choose of her own free will to enter the Orthodox
Jun 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Look, it's hard to put yourself and your family and your life out there in a book. I'm not writing one and can't really judge those who do about what they are willing to share. BUT. Judy, you didn't show us the thinking process from one state (that of Skeptic) to another (that of Rabbi). We only saw start and finish but no deep inner process. In that sense it felt superficial and lacking in substance. You went there sometimes, like dipping your toe in the tub, how you described the sadness that ...more
Ilana Sarles
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A memoir about Orthodoxy that is both authentic and uplifting! Judy Gruen doesn't sugarcoat or romanticize her journey; she spices it with humor and self-reflection. Her straight-shooter style is both engaging and refreshing. Her story is inspiring without trying to be, and features several relatable moments, some of which made me chuckle aloud. I was captivated from start to finish.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is thoroughly amusing, while also showing an honest portrayal of the struggles the author encountered on her path towards faith. It is humorous, heart-warming and an entertaining read. Grab a cup of coffee, a muffin, and set aside a few hours--you'll want to read it all at once.
Story Circle Book Reviews
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
In an age when turning off your cell phone can seem countercultural, actually keeping the Sabbath may seem downright alien. But ironically, it's that dissonance that makes The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith so appealing.

Raised in a Reformed Jewish home, author Judy Gruen was quite comfortable living her upwardly mobile secular life. Granted, she'd grown up attending synagogue with her mother and maternal grandparents, Polish immigrants whose Conservative Judaism struck her as
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: jewish-etc
Ugh. I was intrigued by the idea of a woman reluctantly moving into Orthodox Judaism, wanting more religious observance in her life but worried about the gender restrictions of Orthodoxy. Great concept. BUT. So many problems, the first of which is that Gruen keeps telling the reader what a good writer she is, which shows up by contrast just how NOT good a writer she is. (I probably wouldn't have minded the functional-but-no-more writing if she hadn't kept talking about her writing career.) She a ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, jewish, religion
Most books about Orthodox Judaism I’ve come across in the last few years written by women have them “fleeing” for their lives. This one instead is the story of how a Jewish woman embraced Orthodox Judaism when she never thought for a minute she ever would as a child or teenager. Ah, but then she hit her 20s in the 1980s and the author found herself still single and not wanting to be. She finally finds a great guy, but he was heading for the Orthodox life. Would she, too?

Although Mrs. Gruen stro
Heidi Keifer
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow I loved this book! Because I’ve enjoyed the author’s books in the past, I thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t expect to learn so much. It was light hearted for a heavy subject. Easy listening for difficult concepts.
I heard I might like to speed up the pace of the reader, which is an option on audiobooks. But I found the opposite to be true. I’d push pause to give me a chance to think. Maybe this is because I’d listen while walking or driving. (I listened to the book while starting back my e
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazingly beautiful!

I have recently begun digging into the Jewish roots of my faith. I'm sure exactly where to begin I didn't know what to expect when I got this book but I was so quickly drawn in and it wasn't long before I finished reading this one. It's amazing how everything comes to life within the pages of this book. So many amazing things I learned simple details that weren't as simple as I once thought. And so many wonderful ideas I gained for myself as to how to move forward and live t
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish, non-fiction
I really enjoyed reading about Judy's journey to a more Orthodox lifestyle. As someone who is already Orthodox, I was very familiar with the world she described but still appreciated hearing the author describe how she dealt with some of the tensions between her life "before" and her life "after" (a deeper commitment to religion). I especially appreciated her honesty in writing about her struggles to accept parts of Orthodox Judaism - especially those that seemed counter to her feminist ideals. ...more
Shimon G
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Judy's memoir is such a refreshing book and the pleasurable read. The stores are flooded with memoirs filled with negativity, and finally somebody is able to talk about life challenges in an optimistic and encouraging way. It's beautiful to see somebody portray other people's beliefs in such a nonjudgmental way, while being very firm with their own.

While reading this book you really get a full picture of the challenges and the beauty of Judaism in its most authentic expression. I'm sure this wil
Linda Atwell
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This author was raised in a Jewish household with contradictory influences from her parents and grandparents. I’m rather ignorant when it comes to the Jewish faith—having been raised Southern Baptist, but think I’m a lot like the author’s paternal grandmother, Cece!

Gruen helps individuals (like me) better understand the sacrifices necessary to live a dedicated Orthodox lifestyle. I enjoyed the way she wove all her extended family members into this story, expressing concerns about some of the “r
Loved this memoir! This story is about how conversion can be a slow and painful, yet worthwhile, process. The story begins with the author's massive skepticism towards orthodox Jewish laws and ideals, and the story ends with joyfully converted (mostly). I liked that it didn't end on a sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice note. She was still struggling to convert to some orthodox laws, but she was never willing to give up on her Jewish beliefs. This book was written for people who are unfamiliar w ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is so much I can relate to in her story

Judy Gruen makes her memoir about embracing Jewish religious observances extremely warm and with a healthy sprinkling of humor. It can probably resonate with people from any faith. This is a very realistic look at Orthodox Judaism through the eyes of a woman who had many preconceived ideas. Easy reading, not one iota is preachy, rather it is a story of a totally normal woman.
Vera Levi
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Judy Gruen is a very talented author. She's witty and easy to relate to. Some constructive criticism: I wish that there was less family history. Family history is most interesting to the family whose history is being discussed.
The parts about dating, writing, and navigating adult life were absolutely hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
This book made me think deeply about my own religious choices. It is well written and honest about the good and the bad. As an active, committed, Reform Jew I really enjoyed Gruen's non-judgemental thoughts about people who take different religious paths. As a librarian, I think this book would be a wonderful book to discuss in a book club.
Paige Fritsche
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I heard about this book on Rabbi Lapin's podcast, I knew I wanted to read it. I am completely pleased with this book. The writing is enjoyable, with excellent vocabulary, appreciated translations to almost all Hebrew/Yiddish phrases and words, and tasteful humor. Mrs. Gruen shares a lovely story of her journey with so much wisdom woven throughout the book. A grateful reader thanks you, Judy.
audrey adkins
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful life told

I love reading the trial and tribulations in deciding such a Jewish centered life. It's told with love and passion.
Betsy Olinger
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed the audio version of this warm narrative.
Cynthia Sillitoe
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book actually reminded me a lot about living in Utah. I loved some parts. Other parts seemed overdone and annoying.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought this would be much better. I loved her writing and the concept of the book but the truth is, it wasn't all that great. In fact, I put it down with 30 pages left unread.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember ever reading something that had such a strong and immediate impact, something that I could resonate with so profundly and that would make me ask myself so many questions.
Devon Smith
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most heartfelt, relatable, and inspiring stories I’ve ever read! I will definitely be circulating this book amongst my circles!
Wendy Bornstein
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed learning more about the inner world of the orthodox movement and found the book very interesting . I found the author to have a very welcoming and embracing attitude.
Vickie D
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sara Goldenberg
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wasn't super excited about it. The writing is fine and the subject material is interesting but it's not exactly the book of the century. Disappointing.
Jack Hirsch
rated it it was amazing
Jan 22, 2019
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Play Book Tag: The Skeptic and the Rabbi - 2 stars by Judy Gruen 7 15 Jun 05, 2019 05:28PM  

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I have always loved writing, and always will. My writing career began in health care public relations and expanded into writing cultural and political commentary, about Jewish spirituality, marriage and family, as well as humor. (I like diversity!) I've written three award-winning humor books, co-written a book on MBA Admissions strategy, and most recently, the book closest to my heart, my memoir, ...more

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