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

Da Capo Press  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.

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Read an excerpt from Casting Lots here.

Discussion Questions

Courtesy of Rabbi Susan Silverman

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