Book Review: Far from Zion by Charles London

About:
“Far from Zion: In Search of a Global Jewish Community” by Charles London is a non-fiction account of the author’s search for his identity. In his search Mr. London goes far and wide looking for Jews in diaspora.

  • 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN: 0061561061

My rating for Far from Zion – 4

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Thoughts:
“Far from Zion: In Search of a Global Jewish Community” by Charles London is more of a travelogue with insight than a straight-out story telling or novel. The author is a non-practicing Jew from Baltimore (who happens to be gay) who discovered that his grandmother was born in an Yiddish speaking community in …Virginia?

That community has dissolved but Mr. London started his own personal search of what it means to be a Jew in the Diaspora. His travels take him to visit Jewish communities in Burma, Arkansas, New Orleans, Bosnia, Uganda, Iran, Cuba and finally Israel.

The Jewish communities he encounters are fascinating and probably deserve a book by their own right. From the community in Bosnia who is there to help all, to the one in Cuba where many join just for the material benefits. There are fascinating descriptions of communities which come together through struggle and hardship, only to build a better place for themselves and their neighbors.

Along the way Mr. London’s inner struggle of his religious identity, traditions and his connection to Zion is a constant subtext in these stories. The author makes some personal and observational insights – some illuminating and some superficial as well as displaying a range of emotions towards Zionism – from understanding to hostility.

I always said that one’s moral compass is in direct relationship with their distance from the problem. At one point Mr. London proves me right.

I found this book to very interesting, not so much from a historical angle but from the personal and intimate journey of discovery that the author makes along the way.

So tell me, which is your favorite self discovery travelogue?

Synopsis:
Journalist Charles London, an assimilated Jew, learned that his roots are actually in an orthodox community who settled in Virgina. Mr. London goes around the world to find Jewish communities all around the world to experience for himself their culture.

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Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from the local library.

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