From The West To The East


A memoir of a liberal American Rabbi



John Rosove messes with our easy notions of identity. His deeply probing memoir tosses aside the neat little boxes we put ourselves in. Longtime Hollywood rabbi, he is proof that a thinking person can be many different things at once. American Liberal. Lover of Israel. Dreamer of Palestine. Man of Peace who returns to Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall only to find a young ultra-Orthodox Jew menacing an Israeli woman. She dares to read aloud from her Torah, violating the rules of the messianic. The zealot in black hat and black coat rushes to grab her Torah. What is a Reform American rabbi with one physical altercation to his name—a fight against the neighborhood bully when he was 12—to do? John blocks the zealot and knocks him on his rear end.

The shaping of Rosove, who lost his father when he was nine, honors a trio of unforgettable mentors. There’s his great granduncle, Avraham Shapira, who returned to his ancestral land near present-day Tel Aviv in the 1870s. A fierce guardian of his Ottoman-era village, Shapira manages to befriend Arabs and Bedouins. There’s Leonard Beerman, the pacifist L.A. rabbi who refuses to quiet his calls for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. And there’s Marty Weiner, San Francisco rabbi who keeps peace in his synagogue by taking a more moderate road.

The killing of 1,200 Israelis on October 7, 2023, by Hamas militants becomes a horrible crime that challenges the core of Rosove’s beliefs. For months, he finds himself lost in doubt and grief and, yes, a desire for revenge. In the end, as the tragedy of Gaza unfolds, his brave voice does not waver in its determination to see peace and social justice come to the Middle East, for the children of Palestine and Israel.