Non­fic­tion

The Rabbi’s Daughter

Reva Mann
  • Review
By – February 24, 2012

The lives of the ultra-Ortho­dox are nec­es­sar­i­ly closed books, bound by the writ­ings of schol­ars and the teach­ings of prophets, inac­ces­si­ble to out­siders — even to those who share their faith but believe less fierce­ly or prac­tice less rigid­ly. In her mem­oir, The Rabbi’s Daugh­ter, Reva Mann unflinch­ing­ly depicts her expe­ri­ences as a rebel, a con­vert, and an icon­o­clast, allow­ing the read­er entrée into that cir­cum­scribed world. 

In unfor­giv­ing detail, she describes a child­hood of restric­tion and emo­tion­al neglect in Lon­don, as her father, a rab­bi, tries to bridge the dis­tance between obser­vance and assim­i­la­tion. Mann slips toward the sec­u­lar extreme, abus­ing drugs and shack­ing up with a shaygets, but even­tu­al­ly ends up in Jerusalem at a yeshi­va for women new to the faith, striv­ing to fash­ion an iden­ti­ty through zeal, per­se­ver­ance, and sac­ri­fice. She recon­structs the arc of her mar­riage and her moth­er­hood, paint­ing the rit­u­als of a reli­gious life in short strokes: she con­jures the mik­vah and the con­ju­gal bed, the hunt for chametz, and the cholent she’d leave stew­ing every Shab­bos. It’s a com­pelling rep­re­sen­ta­tion of life inside the bound­aries of Hasidism, and an intrigu­ing read for any­one who wants to take a peek.

Alexan­dra Moss is a writer liv­ing in New York and work­ing in doc­u­men­tary film. She grad­u­at­ed from Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty with a degree in Lit­er­a­ture. Her writ­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy can be viewed online at www​.alexan​dramoss​.net.

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