My Jesus Year by P-HarpercollinsPubl


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									My Jesus Year
Author: Benyamin Cohen

One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging.
He observes the Sabbath, he goes to synagogue, and he even flies to New York on weekends for a series
of "speed dates" with nice, eligible Jewish girls. But, something is missing. Looking out of his window
and across the street at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlanta, he asks, "What would it be like to be
a Christian?"So begins Benyamin Cohen's hilarious journey that is My Jesus Year — part memoir, part
spiritual quest, and part anthropologist's mission. Among Cohen's many adventures (and misadventures),
he finds himself in some rather unlikely places: jumping into the mosh-pit at a Christian rock concert,
seeing his face projected on the giant JumboTron of an African-American megachurch, visiting a potential
convert with two young Mormon missionaries, attending a Christian "professional wrestling" match, and
waking up early for a sunrise Easter service on top of Stone Mountain — a Confederate memorial and
former base of operations for the KKK.During his year-long exploration, Cohen sees the best and the
worst of Christianity — from megachurches to storefront churches; from crass commercialization of
religion to the simple, moving faith of the humble believer; from the profound to the profane to the just
plain laughable. Throughout, he keeps an open heart and mind, a good sense of humor, and takes what
he learns from Christianity to reflect on his own faith and relationship to God. By year's end, to Cohen's
surprise, his search for universal answers and truths in the Bible Belt actually make him a better Jew.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a
quiet man, staying among the tents. — Genesis 25:27There's a story about my birth, and I'm told it's not
an apocryphal one. Eight days after I entered this world, the morning of my circumcision, my father and I
had our very first bonding experience. Just me and him in the back room of a butcher shop. Allow me to
explain. Please.I was a tiny baby, and our rabbi was unsure if I weighed enough to medically handle a
circumcision. My dad, a man who holds multiple graduate degrees, was getting medical advice from our
rabbi. That's like getting a chef's opinion on Middle Eastern politics. Or Paris Hilton's thoughts on
anything.Nobody in our neighborhood, the story goes, had a proper scale to weigh a baby. So my dad
took me to the butcher.Early on the morning of my circumcision, in the dark stillness before daybreak,
my dad drove me in our family's brown Plymouth Volare to Sam's Kosher Meats and Deli. This was a
depressing place. Sam was a cantankerous old man, always yelling at his wife in his thick eastern
European accent. The place was in a constant state of disarray. Bad vibes abounded. Don't bring babies
here. This is not a manger.In the back room, deep inside the frigid meat locker, my dad took my little
baby body and placed it on the ice-cold metal meat scale. The scale read 5.2 pounds. At least that's
what he thought it read. It was 1975, and digital scales wouldn't appear on the scene for years.For years
afterward, members of our tight-knit Jewish community would come up to me, pinch my cheek, and call
me "Butcher Boy." At my bar mitzvah, the Jewish rite of passage into manhood, someone brought a
rubber chicken to the party thinking it was funny. It wasn't.My dad called the rabbi and woke him up."Five
point two pounds," he said. "Will that work?""Yep," said the rabbi, in a bleary daze. He was surely still
half asleep and completely oblivious to what he was agreeing to. And in that moment, my fate was
sealed. There was no turning back.Circumcision is more than just a minor surgical procedure. It is what
ties a Jew to his ancestors. It's a remembrance of the covenant between Abraham and God made back in
Genesis. The only difference between Abraham and me is that he had a choice. I didn't. At eight days
old, I wasn't given a vote. And now I'm stuck with this religion for life.Hours later, in the company of a
couple hundred of our closest friends and family, I officially became a member of my people. The
ceremony involved a scalpel, a lot of pain, and an emotional dent that would leave me reeling for years to
come.This was how I was introduced to religion. It was forced upon me, beginning in the frigid meat
locker of a kosher butcher.The Cohens are a clan of rabbinic rock stars. My dad's a rabbi, and from the
very beginning we were brought up to join him in the family business. Of us six kids only my younger
sister and I didn't either become a rabbi or marry one (although, for the record, she does work in Jewish
education).Religion was served to us on a silver platter — whether we wanted it or not. We kept kosher,
we observed the Sabbath, we prayed three times a day. No questions asked. These were all givens. I
went to a preschool called the Garden of Eden. Except in this kindergarten, sin was not an option.What's
more, as religious as we were growing up, I never actually understood Judaism's fundamentals. After I
was circumcised, like a prepackaged product coming off an assembly line, I felt...
Author Bio
Benyamin Cohen
Benyamin Cohen is the son of an Orthodox rabbi who married the daughter of a Christian minister. He
was the founder and editor of the award-winning national magazine American Jewish Life and the online
magazine Jewsweek, and is currently an editor at the Mother Nature Network. He lives in Atlanta with his
wife and two dogs.

Benyamin Cohen spends a year on a fascinating and thought-provoking inter-faith exploration. The
resulting witty memoir should appeal to Christians and Jews alike (as well as Wiccans, Jains and
Bahais, for that matter).

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