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Their two-year correspondence has recently been published as a book, Letters to a Buddhist Jew.
In its depth and wisdom, it is, in my estimation, one of the most important Jewish books published in English in recent times.
David Gottlieb's 15 questions span such subjects as God, chosenness vs.
universality, self-knowledge, Torah from Sinai, legalism, spiritual vacuity, suffering, meditation, and joy.
Yet, I sometimes felt like a wife who divorces her first husband because he never brought home a paycheck and marries a second husband who supports her in grand style only to feel, whenever she encounters her first husband, that, unaccountably, she still loves him.
Most Jews who spurn Judaism attribute their complaints to their negative experience of afternoon Hebrew school, ostentatious synagogues, and vacuous bar/bat mitzvah lessons.
Since more than one-fifth of all American Buddhists are Jewish, this issue of dual identity may be widespread.
"My Zen practice caused increasing discomfort and friction," recalls David, "not only within myself but between me and my wife.
I am complicated with Judaism." During my own 15 years as a monastic member of a Hindu ashram, I experienced a similar ambivalence.
Feeling spiritually failed by my Conservative Jewish upbringing, I had sought and found a satisfying path in Hindu meditation and spiritual practices.
Many years ago, I heard a tape of a panel discussion by Ram Das, Jack Kornfield, and a couple other luminaries of Eastern spirituality in America addressing a question that went something like, "Why don't we relate to Judaism?