Through the Unknown, Remembered Gate: A Spiritual Journey

Emily Benedek

Publisher: Schocken Books

Emily Benedek, the author of two highly regarded books on the traditions and conflicts of Native Americans of the Southwest, suddenly found herself in the mid-1990s grappling with certain traditions and conflicts of her own. Stricken with a case of temporary blindness, she had an experience— unprecedented in her life—which she was able to understand only as an apprehension of the divine.

Stirred and confused, Benedek took herself to a humble storefront synagogue in Dallas, where she was then living. Among the welcoming congregants she began a spiritual journey that gradually led her back to Jewish practice and belief.

As we accompany Benedek on her journey, we come to know the wise and imaginative psychoanalyst who served as one of her guides… an Orthodox family in Rockland County whose lives are devoted entirely to Torah yet who are open to Benedek’s questioning and probing, particularly on the subject of the differing roles of men and women in Orthodoxy… Texans, Israelis, and Brooklynites, teachers and students, and the vibrant Conservative Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where Benedek eventually finds her most comfortable spiritual home.

And ultimately, of course, we come to know Emily Benedek, an independent and principled modern woman who has found a path through T. S. Eliot’s “unknown, remembered gate” in the Jewish life and identity that connect her to her rich and powerful heritage. Curious, sensitive, perceptive, and questing, she gives us in this compelling memoir a beautiful story, beautifully told.

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