Tradition in a Rootless World

In TRADITION IN A ROOTLESS WORLD (University of California Press, 1991, $24.95), Lynn Davidman has written a sensitive account of ba’alot teshuvah — “returnees” (Jewish secular women who become Orthodox). Davidman juxtaposes life at the Lubavitch woman’s seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota with Manhattan’s modern Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue. Inquisitive and non-judgmental, Davidman explores the lives of women in these two communities, trying to understand their dramatic embrace of Orthodoxy. Intertwined with each personal story is an analysis of broader social stresses—such as sexuality and career choices—and of the psychological stability of some ba’alot teshuvah. In general, Davidman presents a positive, although not naive, picture of religious communities and the “empty spaces” they are able to fill in some women’s lives.