For those who haven’t read Brooklyn Love yet, can you describe the book?
It’s a story about mothers and daughters in a community with very different rules and social mores than the New York most people are familiar with. The Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn comes alive through the eyes of 19-year-old art student Rachel Shine and her friends, all searching for love and wanting to pursue their dreams while trying to remain true to the demands of their ancient tradition.
What inspired you to write it?
I was writing freelance articles for City Lights, The Jerusalem Post weekend magazine when my editor asked me for an article on how Orthodox Jews date. I realized I couldn’t do the topic justice in one article. What I had to write was a book. It took four years to write the first draft when my kids were asleep early in the morning and late at night, another four years to learn how to rewrite and polish my craft, and six years to learn about the business.
What’s the biggest misunderstanding of the Orthodox culture?
Some rules and cultural mores are different, trying to attain spiritual potentials and behave…which is difficult, for many people. Some cannot balance the demands of the tradition with the “outside world” so they retreat and live in their own bubbles. While that is not an ideal way to live as the insularity can lead to social problems, it’s important to understand that they’re people trying to survive like everybody else.
You thank your father for his stories, told during Shabbat meals. What were those stories like?
I loved to hear his stories about growing up Orthodox in Williamsburg with his four brothers during WW2 – it was another world! Or his haunting recollections of Holocaust survivors moving into Williamsburg after the war. Or his hilarious stories about dealing with nudniks. Though the best stories always revolved around how he fell in love with and married my mother. The Shabbat table can be an incredible forum for imparting life lessons and values to the next generation in a really fun and loving way.
You are an ex-pat in Israel. How does that influence your writing?
Experiencing the authenticity, strength, holistic wholeness, expansive creativity and lack of neuroticism living as a Jew in a Jewish country. Recognizing that historically, all great Jewish communities outside of Israel eventually wane, if not disappear completely. While currently vibrant, will American Jewry eventually be diminished like every other Diaspora community? I feel compelled to both honor my heritage and commemorate my cultural experience.