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The Genealogy of Understanding

Is ancient Torah relevant to the social issues of today? In The Genealogy of Understanding, Matt Klein, a contemporary Jewish Scheherazade, questions whether Torah can illuminate and guide responses to such issues as intermarriage, infidelity, and prejudice that threaten to splinter families in the suburban New Jersey community of his upbringing. He first examines the private lives of his congregation’s unfaithful rabbi, of a friend contemplating intermarriage, of a neighbor family that lost wife and mother to AIDS, of other friends raising a brain-damaged child who murders a toddler. Matt then confronts his own family’s tensions, particularly his parents’ dramatically conflicting approaches to religious observance, his father’s struggle with his mother’s Alzheimer’s decline, and his own coming out as a gay Jewish man despite family and community resistance. Each of the fifty-three stories in this novel responds to a particular weekly Torah reading, resulting in a work of fiction that explores Jewish spirituality, ethics, and community values, as well as the nature of human heart, mind, and soul.

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