I am always interested in different faiths, so this book intrigued me very much when we first put it on the shelf. It has not been wildly popular, but I'm here to tell you, it's well worth a read. If you also are interested in learning all you can about strict, ultra conservative religious sects, like the Patmar Jewish enclave depicted in this book, then I Am Forbidden is fascinating reading indeed.
The books begins Transylvania in 1939 with a Jewish boy named Josef who is rescued by a Christian woman after the murder of his parents. Later, Josef helps a young Jewish girl find a family who raises her after her parents are killed also. The books then takes us through their connected lives, to Paris and Manhatten, looking at the choices that faith and circumstance put before them. It's a fascinating story of twists and turns, secrets, and truths.
This book is also a peek into the lives of Fundamentalist Jews that I have not read about in fiction before. The binding choices that women in this community must make in the name of faith was terrifying and sad to me, but to them, that was just life. It's hard to imagine living such a life as a woman in today's society, but I know that there are many who still do. As a woman of faith myself, I do not like to think that I might need to give up my basic rights as a woman simply to love God or to love my husband and family. But I know, that even today, there are prominent men of faith that believe I do have to give up those rights to be faithful and moral. And there are people, both men and women, who follow blindly, thinking it is the right and moral thing to do simply because someone told them it is.
This issue came up just yesterday as I sat eating with my two daughters in a restaurant full of young people. There was a table of high school girls discussing politics near us, and one girl made the comment that she thought it was funny for one prominent politician to post his "moral status" on his website. She said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Why would he feel the need to do that? Just because those are his morals, why would he think they have to be mine? Like his morals are the only right ones, or what?" All I can say is, "Amen, sister. Amen."