Cast­ing Lots: Cre­at­ing a Fam­i­ly in a Beau­ti­ful, Bro­ken World

  • Review
By – March 14, 2016

Cast­ing Lots is a new and enchant­i­ng mem­oir by writer, activist, reform rab­bi, and moth­er Susan Sil­ver­man about dis­cov­er­ing her own inner strength and indomitable will to give shape to her ran­dom world, to weave a sol­id con­struct of her and her family’s lives where there might have been none.

As a child, Sil­ver­man was ter­ri­fied that one of her fam­i­ly mem­bers would die when she was not with them. A baby broth­er had died before she was born, and her par­ents fought so much that their divorce was a relief. She turned to God to pre­vent cat­a­stro­phes, but God was only a con­cept to her: she was raised in an athe­ist, activist human­ist home with no faith-based reli­gion at all.

In col­lege she met and fell in love with Yosef, a com­mit­ted Jew and a com­mit­ted activist on behalf of Jew­ish and human­ist caus­es. Upon grad­u­a­tion, Yosef took a job in his beloved Israel, leav­ing Sil­ver­man aban­doned and bereft. Slow­ly, as she became a part of her cam­pus’ Jew­ish life, Sil­ver­man real­ized, I thought the Berri­g­an Broth­ers, Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel, Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Anti-war, anti-racism activists all. Cler­ics all. I’ll become a rab­bi.’” And so she did.

Sil­ver­man spent her first year of sem­i­nary in Israel, where she reunit­ed with Yosef and strug­gled to mas­ter the rudi­ments of Judaism she was so igno­rant of. She suc­ceed­ed. She also suc­ceed­ed in get­ting Yosef back to Amer­i­ca and mar­ry­ing him. The cou­ple prompt­ly had two daugh­ters, yet some­thing inside her felt that her fam­i­ly was incom­plete. There were oth­ers in the world whose cries she heard and whom she felt would help fas­ten her fam­i­ly ties. She and Yosef decid­ed first to adopt one lit­tle boy from Ethiopia — and a sec­ond sev­er­al years lat­er, in addi­tion hav­ing a third bio­log­i­cal daugh­ter of their own. Despite all the odds of rais­ing a mixed-race fam­i­ly, Sil­ver­man was undaunt­ed. All the ran­dom pieces of her life were com­ing togeth­er to form a cohe­sive whole.

The author’s spir­i­tu­al growth plays a large part in the nar­ra­tive, as she writes, There are many paths to the mes­sian­ic time. One is human endeav­or — efforts towards social jus­tice and peace, acts of lov­ing kind­ness[…] It’s a goal, an ide­al toward which we all must labor. It’s in our hands.” Silverman’s efforts to bet­ter the world by cre­at­ing a fam­i­ly, and not set­tling for one that was thrown her way in a lot­tery is an inspir­ing read that gives hope to those who believe that lov­ing kind­ness can be a way of life.

Suri Boiangiu recent­ly semi-retired from the posi­tion of assis­tant prin­ci­pal at an all-girls high school. She has either been an admin­is­tra­tor or taught Eng­lish at Yeshiv­ah of Flat­bush and Magen David High School. She loves read­ing mod­ern fic­tion, or any fic­tion, and Ama­zon knows her by her first name.

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