Sunday, March 24, 2013
Doublelife: A Book Review
I received a copy of Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope by Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman in the mail the other day. I had heard of the book through various social media channels, but I didn't remember ordering it. This, in and of itself, is not that unusual for me since I have a very bad case of book addiction. When we made aliyah, my husband (who is also a book addict) and I brought well over a thousand books with us. And that was after we sold off at least an equal quantity.
Turns out, I was sent a review copy by the book's publicist. I cracked it open and, despite the escalating pace of Pesach preparations going on in my home, no less than in Jewish households across the world, I finished the book over Shabbat.
I generally like books that are first-person accounts and Doublelife falls into that category. The book is written as a series of letters between Harold, a secular Jew from New York and Gayle, the Minister of Music in a mega-church in Texas. Herein lies my major criticism of the book. I found the format much too contrived, particularly after the couple married and began living together.
Having said that, I was struck with the self-congratulatory tone that the couple expresses as the book opens about how they are not going to fall prey to the difficulties of intermarriage. Through the years (and it's important for the reader to note the dates of the "letters" in order to understand the passage of time in the story), religion becomes a central issue in their marriage, and that's where the story becomes much more interesting.
First Harold, in response to his inability to answer challenges from a Christian colleague about why Jews don't believe in Jesus, begins to learn about his own Jewish heritage. Later, the obvious spiritual sensitivity of the child they have agreed to raise as a Jew, pushes the family closer to Torah observance. Indeed, these are some of the most moving passages in the book.
The reader is carried through the inevitable hurdles - finding the right community, the challenges of Gayle's conversion, the need for careers that are compatible with a Torah life - that the family faces. I found this the most interesting part of the book.
I knew, from before I opened to the very first page, that Gayle and Harold made aliyah at some point and are raising their children in Israel. But there is not a hint of that part of their story in this book.
I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel. I love hearing people's aliyah stories. And this untold part of the Bermans' story adds support to my contention that ba'alei teshuva and converts make aliyah out of proportion to our numbers in the general Jewish population.
The awkwardness of the format aside, it's an engaging story and one that has a happy ending for the Bermans and for the greater Jewish community. Another Jewish family finds their way home. What's not to love?
Posted by Rivkah Lambert Adler at 2:18 PM