All Who Go Do Not Return – A Review

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Readers of Frum Satire are obviously connoisseurs of fine Jewish reading material, and we don’t serve you many book reviews because we know we can hardly make any worthwhile suggestions that will pass your discriminating criteria. But once in awhile we become aware of a book we feel will both increase your avodas hashem while simultaneously giving you a bunch of chassidim to laugh at, OTD folks to gawk at and enough villains to give you something to else argue about at the next yom tov meal when the family is together and you’ve exhausted the Israeli/Palestinian/Obama debate and no one wants to talk to each other anymore.

Shulem Deen’s memoir All Who Go Do Not Return will be read two hundred years from now, just as Solomon Maimon’s memoir is still read more than 200 years after its publication. But where Maimon abandoned his family and had to be begged to give his wife a get, Deen gives the get gladly and in return is fucked in the ass by his community. The value of both books lie in their honest portrayal of struggle – posing the question most are too afraid to ask themselves: what do we do when we exercise the right (we are told we have) to ask questions, and what do we do when we find that right denied us? And what do we do when the stakes of asking those questions are so high?: Asking those questions will result in forfeiture of our family privileges, they will result in the loss of everything we know – we must choose one or the other, when we live in certain frum communities we cannot have both.

The answers to these questions are not simple. The poet Robert Frost said “way leads on to way”; just as the village of New Square set itself up on the premise of total control of its adherents and it cannot back down from its stance, so too certain individuals, once they’ve begun their quest, cannot back down.

Anyone who’s read Shulem Deen’s writing knows he’s an excellent writer and this book is no exception. The book is suspenseful from the first paragraph all the way to the last, with layers of tension marbled in between.

Buy it or the terrorists win.