What do you do when it’s late on a Friday afternoon, you’re a practicing Orthodox Jew, and your father lies dying in a hospital?
This is the dilemma that opens With An Outstretched Arm. The directive to “honor your parents” and the injunction to “guard the Sabbath” become metaphors for the conflict between the author’s lifelong desire to please her father and her more recent commitment to ancient traditions that he disdains.
With An Outstretched Arm recounts the author’s journey from the liberal, southern Reform Judaism of the 1940s and ’50s to the warm embrace of a more traditional Orthodox Jewish life. It relates how chance encounters propelled her, people and books inspired her, and tragedy tested her, challenging her to ask difficult questions.
How can she balance the ethical and ritual sides of Judaism? Will she always feel like an outsider? How can she overcome the existential loneliness that follows her young daughter’s death? Where can she find God’s outstretched arm?
“Written with honesty, intelligence, and grace, With an Outstretched Arm will break your heart and put it back together again. B.J. Yudelson’s writing captivates and enlightens, but most of all, resonates. A story of love and loss, family and faith, this memoir is a story for us all.”
– Sonja Livingston, author, Ghostbread
“B.J. Yudelson has written a sensitive, heartfelt, deeply engaging account of her spiritual journey and family life. Honest, open, and very real as she describes tragedy, she comes through with her love for her life and her family intact. I was gripped throughout.”
– Stephanie Wellen Levine, author, Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An intimate journey among Hasidic girls
“B.J. Yudelson’s Outstretched Arm smites and embraces. An extraordinary writer faces the joys and tragedies and existential questions of her life without flinching and has produced one of the most honest and moving memoirs one could read. It is not only the story of a search for Jewish identity and meaning on the broadest of American landscapes; it is a fearless voyage of self exploration – searching for whatever meaning and solace we can take from our suffering and our joy.”
Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, author, Wrestling Jacob: Deception, Identity and Freudian Slips in Genesis
“Original, interesting, compelling, and important for the light it sheds on this slice in the history of American Judaism and American religion ”
– Zachary Braiterman, professor of Jewish studies, Syracuse University
“With An Outstretched Arm is the compelling story of one woman’s journey through life. B. J. Yudelson’s memoir reminds us that the One who created us will see us through the complexities of this journey and that often our family of faith becomes the living reality of the grace, love, and support of the One.”
– Ron Domina, senior pastor, Bethel Christian Fellowship, Rochester, N.Y.
Highly recommend this book!
By Wendy on December 11, 2014
Buy this book NOW, curl up on your couch with a box of tissues and this book. I have not been so moved and so deeply touched by a book in a long time. BJ’s illustrative storytelling pulled me into her story, her experiences, her struggles and victories.I can’t wait for this author to publich her next book. I highly recommend “With an Outstretched Arm”, I could not put this book down.
Poignant and profound
By L. Monaco on December 22, 2014
B.J.’s captivating writing style creates an emotional and visual presence of the characters and events in the book which flows like an Oscar winning movie. Like many of the other readers, it was hard to put the book down. There was so much that I learned about Judaism and B.J.’s journey through life, love, and loss with unfaltering stamina. This memoir leaves me feeling inspired.
About a religious journey, but much much more…
By Marjorie B. Searl on December 29, 2014
Fulfilling commandments is a fundamental precept in Judaism. Belief in God’s stated expectations for humans as received by Moses, and the willingness to submit to them and practice them, will create a world of harmony and moral order, according to my understanding of Orthodox Judaism. But what happens when commandments conflict – keeping the Sabbath day (which means no driving) and honoring parents by visiting a father in the hospital, which requires driving? What happens when tragic loss upends this hope that right belief and practice will move us toward a fulfilled life? B.J. Yudelson tackles these questions and much, much more. To be placed on a shelf with Rabbi Harold Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” “With An Outstretched Arm” is one woman’s guide to her own deepening understanding of life and faith and becomes a guidebook for the rest of us.For the reader interested in family relationships, Judaism, spiritual practice, and personal growth, or all of these – this is a book not to miss. B.J. Yudelson chronicles her journey from secular, Reform Judaism to Orthodox Judaism as she maintains her connections to the greater community and asks deep questions about faith, practice and our relationship to God and to each other. B.J. practices her religion devoutly, but sees and appreciates the good in people who stand outside of her tradition, and does not fail to take to task those who put their orthodoxy ahead of their humanity. B.J. accomplishes the nearly-impossible task of remaining open to questions while continuing on the well-worn path that leads back to Sinai.
The spiritual and emotional growth of an inspiring and amazing individual. I found myself rereading parts to myself …
By Ilana Schild on November 30, 2014
This is an important book which traces the journey of spiritual and emotional growth of an inspiring and amazing individual. I found myself rereading parts to myself and then reading them aloud to my children so they could benefit as well
There is so much to learn from an individual who …
By K. Simon on December 3, 2014
There is so much to learn from an individual who has faced tragedy and yet has built a life filled with beauty and holiness. This book was an emotional journey, and a lesson in personal and spiritual growth.