With my well-known fondness for memoirs about spiritual journeys, I’d picked up Benjamin Errett’s Jew and Improved a few times, loved the title, and thought “Maybe I should read that,” but never got around to actually reading it. Then I read Alison Pick’s memoir Between Gods, and noticed on the author’s Facebook page that she linked to an article about her book by Benjamin Errett, which began: “When you convene all the Canadians who have written memoirs about converting to Judaism, there’s no need to book the restaurant ahead of time. Alison Pick and I easily found a table for two at a café on a recent Friday morning.”
That sentence convinced me I had to read Errett’s book — and if I was still in doubt, this passage, later in the article, sealed the deal: “Her book is as much about conversion as it is about depression, about searching for spiritual meaning to combat a biochemical feeling of meaninglessness. (My book? My book features brisket recipes.)”
That’s Errett’s authorial voice for you — breezy, funny, self-deprecating. He’s traversing similar ground to Pick here, in the sense that the book is about the conversion process, but he treads it with a much lighter foot. Rather than unearthing a painful and buried family history like Pick, Errett converts to Judaism for probably the most common of reasons: he marries a nice Jewish girl. There’s plenty of family dysfunction in Jew and Improved too, but it’s played for laughs rather than for angst. I highly recommended Between Gods, but if you’ve read that and you’re in the mood for something light and fun, while still thinking Jewish, try Jew and Improved. I liked it; you might too.