Rabbi: A Novel Info

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He was a young American rabbi. She was his beautiful
Christian wife. Together they tried to forge a life . .

“This big, ambitious novel comes as close to
matters of faith and life as any book that has appeared. . . .
Excellent.”—New York Post

First and
foremost, Michael Kind was a man—a courageous man with strong
ideals and feelings, a family man devoted to his two children, a
passionate man deeply in love with his wife Leslie. He'd already become a
rabbi when he met Leslie, a minister's daughter. She fell in love with
Michael and converted to Judaism to marry him.
This is their
story, a sweeping drama of love and identity, of compassion and cruelty,
a searing tale of one man and one woman who must learn to cope with the
complications of an unorthodox life in a world that will not accept
them, in a world where rabbis and non-Jews do not fall in love—let
alone marry . . . 
“A human and enlightening
portrait of a rabbi as a man, called upon constantly to be something
more than a man: of a rabbi as a husband and father with the weakness
and problems of other men . . . A rewarding reading
experience.”—Los Angeles Times

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.30

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Reviews for Rabbi: A Novel:

0

May 11, 2015

I've enjoyed Noah Gordon's style in his Historical Fiction books. There's an earthiness to his writing that makes the past feel immediate and his characters real.

Unfortunately, I like those qualities much less in a contemporary setting. Even though The Rabbi focuses on a way of life that is less familiar to me, that earthiness becomes too realistic and depressing - and even boring - in a setting that is too close to current day for my comfort. Contemporary here is the 1960s, but it feels very I've enjoyed Noah Gordon's style in his Historical Fiction books. There's an earthiness to his writing that makes the past feel immediate and his characters real.

Unfortunately, I like those qualities much less in a contemporary setting. Even though The Rabbi focuses on a way of life that is less familiar to me, that earthiness becomes too realistic and depressing - and even boring - in a setting that is too close to current day for my comfort. Contemporary here is the 1960s, but it feels very much like the type of contemporary that I read in school and ran away from as fast as I could once reading it was no longer required.

I will continue to pursue Gordon's other historical work, but I'll be steering clear of anything set in the 20th Century or later. ...more
3

May 11, 2013

The book is certainly readable - Gordon has a nice writing style, but I found the book rather disappointing. The book has an interesting story, but everything related to "being a Rabbi", or Judaism, is so superficial.

First, Michael Kind's decision to become a Rabbi come out of nowhere - the only clue being the name of the book. The link with his grandfather and some months study is not enough to explain why he suddenly decides to become a Rabbi. And then, despite his learning with an Orthodox The book is certainly readable - Gordon has a nice writing style, but I found the book rather disappointing. The book has an interesting story, but everything related to "being a Rabbi", or Judaism, is so superficial.

First, Michael Kind's decision to become a Rabbi come out of nowhere - the only clue being the name of the book. The link with his grandfather and some months study is not enough to explain why he suddenly decides to become a Rabbi. And then, despite his learning with an Orthodox Rabbi, he himself becomes a Reform Rabbi. This is explained in exactly one sentence - a vague feeling that there should be some progress. And with that he finishes with the decision to become a reform rabbi, as if the decision of whether to be an Orthodox rabbi or a Reform rabbi is like deciding which entree to choose for dinner.

The same is true of his wife's conversion. She goes to lessons, "passes the test" as if becoming a Jew is more or less the same as getting a driver's license.

Moreover, I know things have changed, but I doubt that Jews belonging to a Reform synagogue would be put off by a rabbi's being married to a convert - as presented in the book.

Most of all, I was surprised by the flippant attitude toward the Holocaust. At one point, he writes that not only were the Germans destroying European Jewry, but they were also destroying his sex life. As if these two "problems" were equivalent. There is one other very brief mention of the Holocaust - also with some rather flippant remark. How can a Jew, and a Rabbi at that (even a Reform Rabbi) be so disconnected emotionally from the Holocaust?

So the book is a nice read, but is disappointing in terms of developing any Jewish themes. ...more
4

Feb 01, 2013

The Rabbi was Gordon's first book. It is the story of Michael Kind, a rabbi who was raised in the NY / NJ area in the 1920s-1940s. He is heavily influenced by his close relationship with his grandfather who was an immigrant from eastern Europe. Michael meets, falls in love with and marries a minister's daughter who converts to Judaism. The story is told from Rabbi Kind's present time (in the 1960s) back to his childhood, then through the years as a teen, college-aged young man, and as a rabbi, The Rabbi was Gordon's first book. It is the story of Michael Kind, a rabbi who was raised in the NY / NJ area in the 1920s-1940s. He is heavily influenced by his close relationship with his grandfather who was an immigrant from eastern Europe. Michael meets, falls in love with and marries a minister's daughter who converts to Judaism. The story is told from Rabbi Kind's present time (in the 1960s) back to his childhood, then through the years as a teen, college-aged young man, and as a rabbi, married and with children. I have previously read the 3 Cole series books (The Physician, Shaman & Matters of Choice) as well as his latest book, The Winemaker. I love Noah Gordon but I do not think The Rabbi is as good as the others that I have read. The characters seemed less developed as those in his later books. That being said, I enjoyed this book and recommend Gordon to anyone who loves a good storyteller. ...more
3

Mar 17, 2020

Even taking the passage of time and custom into account, Mr Gordon really cannot write women at all.

Which is a shame. But the rest of the book is a very good look at Jewish life in america...level of devotion, what a synagogue means to its members, what the life of a rabbi is really like. It's also a pretty honest, unvarnished look at how converts are seen and treated.

I can't see this being interesting to anyone but a Jew...but I could be off-base! Read if you're a Gordon fan.
2

Jul 15, 2010

I loved Gordon's 11th century story (through Europe to an Arab medical school in Ispahan, Persia) where The Physician studies under the immortal physician Avicenna.
But his first novel, The Rabi, the story of Michael Kind, a young rabbi who falls in love with the daughter of a Protestant minister was boring. I can't understand how The Rabbi was on the The New York Times bestseller list for 26 weeks - or maybe I can imagine 'cause it's an epic of Judaism in America.
4

I love Noah Gordon's writing! This, his first book show's all his potential in becoming a world class author.Full Review
2

Aug 18, 2015

I picked up this book at a random gift shop in Europe mainly because it was in English, seriously cheap and I was in search of a weekend read.
I found it pretty irritating, the characters were way too black and white, the actions in the book were too extreme and exaggerated. I wouldn't recommend it.
0

Oct 27, 2015

I read this book many years ago when it first came out and loved it. UNfortunately, I have been unable to read other than ebooks since then and cannot afford too many. Recently read The Jerusalem Diamong which was offered as a special on Amazon and loved it. Looking for more of his ebooks now but only for a really low price.
3

Aug 07, 2014

A decent book, much better than the over-dramatic cover and synopsis here. It lacks conclusion as well as real empathy or sympathy for the main female character, Leslie. Her mental illness is used as a rather clumsy vehicle for flashbacks and we never really find out what was her problem. Worth reading but not nearly as good as "The Physician" by the same author.
2

Jun 20, 2009

If it looks like trash, it is trash. This had potential - rabbi falls for Christian woman - but since none of the conflicts were actually featured in the story I am not sure what this author had in mind. I will say, though, that the traveling salesman rabbi life was captured quite nicely and I got a kick out of his wife saying at every new home they moved into - oh, I can see us staying here forever! Ha.
4

Jan 18, 2015

Very good read (fiction) about the life of somewhat itinerant rabbi starting his career and his adult family life. Lots of stream of consciousness on various moral and religious topics, with Yiddish words thrown in, usually with some interpretation. Perhaps written for those who have some grounding in the workings of Judaism but certainly can be enjoyed by all who have had any angst during his/her career or bumps in the road of life! Lots of family relationship issues also.
3

Mar 18, 2012

I discovered Noah Gordon a few months ago. I get a big thrill when I find a new-to-me historical fiction author, and I really liked the first 2 volumes of his Physician trilogy. This was his first novel and although it was not as smooth as those which followed it was an engaging story. As with the others I have read, the characters were the finest element. They are fully developed and inspired my empathy.
3

Dec 10, 2014

This book was very well written, but I didn't like it nearly as much as the last Noah Gordon book I read, The Last Jew. I kept wondering throughout my reading it why it was a story worth telling. The whole book is merely the story of a rabbi from when he first decides to become a rabbi, through his life. It was a nice story, but again, I couldn't figure out why a fictional rabbi's life deserved an entire book. Having been to a youth group convention the weekend immediately following finishing This book was very well written, but I didn't like it nearly as much as the last Noah Gordon book I read, The Last Jew. I kept wondering throughout my reading it why it was a story worth telling. The whole book is merely the story of a rabbi from when he first decides to become a rabbi, through his life. It was a nice story, but again, I couldn't figure out why a fictional rabbi's life deserved an entire book. Having been to a youth group convention the weekend immediately following finishing the book, during services while listening to the rabbi's sermon, I started thinking about how he got to the position he's in now, and felt a little more positively about the book. Overall, though, definitely not my favorite. ...more
4

May 06, 2013

This book is written in the voice of Michael Kind, a rabbi. The book begins in 1964 when he is dealing with a major crisis in his life. However he flashes back in the story to his childhood, the decision to become a rabbi, falling in love with the daughter of a minister, the birth of his children and challenges within the parishes he serves. When Leslie, his wife, realizes she is in love with Michael, and knows that for Michael marriage to her would mean giving up being a rabbi, she begins a This book is written in the voice of Michael Kind, a rabbi. The book begins in 1964 when he is dealing with a major crisis in his life. However he flashes back in the story to his childhood, the decision to become a rabbi, falling in love with the daughter of a minister, the birth of his children and challenges within the parishes he serves. When Leslie, his wife, realizes she is in love with Michael, and knows that for Michael marriage to her would mean giving up being a rabbi, she begins a study of the faith, and one day presents Michael with the news that she has converted. In many ways the story is about her struggles as well as Michael's as they attempt to live an unorthodox life for their time. Noah Gordon uses words well. This is, I believe, his first book, but I will read more from this author. I'd like to have given it 4.5 stars. ...more
4

May 20, 2014

Noah Gordon's first novel. About a man's journey (told through several layers of flashbacks, plus some other character viewpoints) to becoming a Rabbi and finding the congregation that fits him. Most of the book is a 3 but I gave it a 4 because it grew on me. The characters interested me less than the journey. The different styles of Judaism and of synagogue life. Each and every one of his congregations was completely different from the other, despite all of them technically being Reform.

Noah Gordon's first novel. About a man's journey (told through several layers of flashbacks, plus some other character viewpoints) to becoming a Rabbi and finding the congregation that fits him. Most of the book is a 3 but I gave it a 4 because it grew on me. The characters interested me less than the journey. The different styles of Judaism and of synagogue life. Each and every one of his congregations was completely different from the other, despite all of them technically being Reform.

Gordon's books are hard to find. I first read The Last Jew, which is amazing and intense (about the Inquisition). The Rabbi was written much earlier and it shows, but it's still a solid novel. My guess is that readers with a connection to Liberal Judaism will get more out of the book than the average reader.
...more
4

Jun 28, 2014

Rabbi Michael Kind is married to a woman who converted to Judaism in order to marry him. This has caused issues with the various synagogues where he has served, as well as causing issues in his marriage. The story alternates between the present (1964) and the past as Michael grew up, began ministry, met Leslie and they travelled together around the country.
An enjoyable read and interesting statement on American Judaism. The only real downer for me was the scattering of Hebrew which was not Rabbi Michael Kind is married to a woman who converted to Judaism in order to marry him. This has caused issues with the various synagogues where he has served, as well as causing issues in his marriage. The story alternates between the present (1964) and the past as Michael grew up, began ministry, met Leslie and they travelled together around the country.
An enjoyable read and interesting statement on American Judaism. The only real downer for me was the scattering of Hebrew which was not translated so I could only try to guess at it from context. Because of the way it alternated between present and past, I would get a sense of the "now" and then the background that molded and shaped it. The "now" is 50 years ago when it was written. I wonder if aspects would have been written differently if the setting was more recent. Are relations between the faiths any different? Would the civil rights aspects of this be different for the intervening years? ...more
0

Dec 23, 2019

Good but not great.

I enjoyed the novel, but it takes a different type of reader to understand the scope of this book, but I would recommend it.
3

Oct 20, 2017

Didn't buy it. While the troubles of the couple may be real, I don't think the relationship or motivations were realistic.
2

Jan 24, 2018

In a word, boring. I found it tedious and difficult to get through.
4

Nov 04, 2018

Great reading especially if you're interested in Jewish faith.A

As a person who grew up in a very religious family I really could get into the book.I liked to temple building proces how to raise funds.Very much the same for churches of all faith.
I really recommend this book to all serious readers.
5

May 12, 2019

Even better the second time around...

I read this book as a young Wellesley graduate and liked particularly the seemingly effortless storytelling,
but reading it again after many years has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. This time, I really got it - the bonds of families that hold despite bitterness, the regrets that we endure, and finally, the joy in finding out who we are and where we belong.





Even better the second time around...

I read this book as a young Wellesley graduate and liked particularly the seemingly effortless storytelling,
but reading it again after many years has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. This time, I really “got it” - the bonds of families that hold despite bitterness, the regrets that we endure, and finally, the joy in finding out who we are and where we belong.





...more
5

Oct 23, 2018

Great novel.

Some academic friends recommended The Physician, and voila, I fell in love with with the stories of Mr Gordon. I have read Shaman, Matters of Choice, The Last Jew, and now The Rabbi in a space of a few months.

I chose to rate it 5 for a good story that depicts the struggles of man and having the will to stay positive and move on with life and cherish what we have.
4

Dec 14, 2017

A very pleasant, rewarding read that follows the maturation of a rabbi and a marriage. The main conflict in the story is the rabbi grappling with who he is in a world that he is part of and yet isn't. He's a rabbi in a gentile world; he's a Reform rabbi that always doesn't see eye to eye with his congregations. A parallel conflict flows with the story of Leslie, his wife who has converted from Christianity to Judaism and endures the label of "shickseh." While the story focuses on Rabbi Kind, I A very pleasant, rewarding read that follows the maturation of a rabbi and a marriage. The main conflict in the story is the rabbi grappling with who he is in a world that he is part of and yet isn't. He's a rabbi in a gentile world; he's a Reform rabbi that always doesn't see eye to eye with his congregations. A parallel conflict flows with the story of Leslie, his wife who has converted from Christianity to Judaism and endures the label of "shickseh." While the story focuses on Rabbi Kind, I think Leslie's part is as interesting and I was wishing for more from Leslie's perspective. The marriage is a moving story of how love changes. Noah Gordon's writing is sensitive and keeps the reader involved. ...more
4

Aug 27, 2018

It seems that Michael was predisposed from early life to become a rabbi. This novel is a well-written and evolved story of a very human person who led a life more influential than he himself thought. Relative success and relative "failure" are the marks of Michael's life. He is a clergyman who attempted to balance his aging process, his family, and his congregation in as rational a way as he knew how. He faces his share of challenges and proceeds to keep on keeping on. He develops resilience, It seems that Michael was predisposed from early life to become a rabbi. This novel is a well-written and evolved story of a very human person who led a life more influential than he himself thought. Relative success and relative "failure" are the marks of Michael's life. He is a clergyman who attempted to balance his aging process, his family, and his congregation in as rational a way as he knew how. He faces his share of challenges and proceeds to keep on keeping on. He develops resilience, strength of character, and courage during the course of the unfolding narrative. The author's writing style is comfortable and, at times, penetrating. The characters, especially the rabbi, are well fleshed out. The book keeps one reading. Recommended for those who might appreciate a human rabbi rather than a theological exegesis. The dynamics of congregational life ring true. ...more
3

Oct 05, 2017

I think I read somewhere that this is Noah Gordon's first book, written as he made a decision to pursue writing as a career. I loved The Physician. I loved The Last Jew. Reading The Rabbi was a shock, in comparison.

I am cutting him some slack, believing he developed a stronger idea of what makes good writing and what makes a good book as he wrote more books. What I liked about The Rabbi is that I think Gordon captures the realities faced rather well, and if his main character is shallow in his I think I read somewhere that this is Noah Gordon's first book, written as he made a decision to pursue writing as a career. I loved The Physician. I loved The Last Jew. Reading The Rabbi was a shock, in comparison.

I am cutting him some slack, believing he developed a stronger idea of what makes good writing and what makes a good book as he wrote more books. What I liked about The Rabbi is that I think Gordon captures the realities faced rather well, and if his main character is shallow in his attitudes and observations, especially of women, it is not uncharacteristic of the attitudes of his generation. I found it disappointing that he had such low opinions of most women, and especially women who were fat, which he mentions often enough to be distracting. The difficulties The Rabbi faced as he assumed his rabbinical duties had the ring of truth, and he educated those of us who are not Jewish in the matters important to Jewish life.

It might be that we have such unrealistically high standards for the clergy, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish, as a whole that I found Gordon's rabbi and his wife to be not particularly likable or relatable. It might be that I find this book uncomfortable because it was uncomfortably close to the truth. ...more

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