Far from Zion: In Search of a Glob­al Jew­ish Community

  • Review
By – August 24, 2011
Charles Lon­don — a sec­u­lar but spir­i­tu­al, ambiva­lent­ly Jew­ish, and open­ly gay Brook­lyn-based but Bal­ti­more-born library sci­ence stu­dent who has a gen­tile part­ner, and who also directs an orga­ni­za­tion for child war vic­tims — set off on a Jew­ish jour­ney where he said the She­hechi­anu prayer aloud in a mosque in Iran, spent a Yom Kip­pur in Bur­ma, and shared Shab­bat with Jews in Bosnia, Ugan­da, Cuba, New Orleans, Arkansas, and in Israel. Far from Zion is a fas­ci­nat­ing book about his com­ing out” as a Jew, which iron­i­cal­ly coin­cid­ed with the con­scious re-clos­et­ing of his homo­sex­u­al­i­ty dur­ing his tour­ing.

The book also charts the slow trans­for­ma­tion of his tan­gled feel­ings about Israel. In Bosnia in 2004, Lon­don dis­cov­ered a com­mu­ni­ty of Jews liv­ing peace­ful­ly with their Mus­lim and Chris­t­ian neigh­bors, which appealed to his post-nation­al­ist polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion. Sev­er­al years lat­er, he expe­ri­enced some anti-Semi­tism direct­ly, and he dis­cov­ered his grandmother’s hid­den Ortho­dox Jew­ish upbring­ing in Berkley, Vir­ginia, a now-defunct Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. These expe­ri­ences inspired him to seek out iso­lat­ed Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties world-wide. Lon­don is a sen­si­tive, keen­ly self-aware observ­er, and Far from Zion is rich with inter­est­ing char­ac­ters, exot­ic locales, and his­tor­i­cal detail, as well as med­i­ta­tions on lay­ered iden­ti­ties, com­mu­ni­ty, con­flict, and co-exis­tence.

Read Charles Lon­don’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Cel­e­brat­ing the Glob­al Peo­ple

The Abayu­daya Jews of Ugan­da 

The Most Dan­ger­ous Con­tra­band of All

Discussion Questions