Shulem Deen’s “All who go do not return: A Memoir.”

15 May 2016

This book was described as “eloquent and heartbreaking” by the Wall Street Journal.”

This was true for me.

I enjoyed every detail in this book. 

I learnt about the Hasidic Community and about Jewish religion and culture generally. Most importantly, I had had an interesting example of how social and religious norms may obstacle individual freedoms and choices – which is not limited to Hasidic community or to Jewish religion alone.

But to be honest, I mostly thought – while reading the book – about Deen’s wife and five children. At the end of the day it is their story too – not Deen’s alone – as the author himself recognized in the note at the end of the book.

Of course the book is about the author choice to leave this ultra orthodox Jewish community. The suffering of the wife -later on divorced – and the kids – later on unable and unwilling to see the father – is also recognized. The weight of choices goes beyond the one who makes them. That is why freedom is also a burden. 
Deen is right to say that this is a memoir – not history or autobiography in the proper sense. It contains a narrative that brings value to the life of the author but also of the readers – which is exactly what happened to me, reading it.

Many readers like myself did not pass through similar harsh experiences. Still I found his questions, challenges, fears and doubts very similar to mine. 

The message of the book is well delivered although we don’t have – reading the book – answers but instead many new questions. 

Reading this book I thought about the choices I have to make in life. Thinking about those never settled questions about life and death, God and religion, renders life more complex, but very humanly beautiful.

I think I have to read the book another time so as to absorb the various great ideas that Deen was able to put together in his own memoir. 

This is a very well-done book.

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