The Alphabetician and the Rabbi
LIDA LOPES CARDOZO KINDERSLEY with DAN COHN-SHERBOK
(CARDOZO KINDERSLEY, 160 PP, £19.99)
Tablet bookshop price £17.99 • tel 020 7799 4064
Why doesn’t the Alphabetician write her autobiography? Or, if she won’t, might the Rabbi elicit her story from her? These questions provoke a beautifully illustrated book that is a socially distanced conversation during Covid-19, a wary exchange between two individuals cut from apparently similar cloth but of very different character. Rowan Williams, in an introduction, speaks eloquently of their “fruitful incomprehension”. That incomprehension is interesting, and palpable.
Dan Cohn-Sherbok is a prolific writer on Judaism, but would rather have been an artist. He draws cartoons wherever he goes. And he loathed being a congregational rabbi, the servant of his flock, a salesman for his faith. The only son of Hungarian Jews, he was brought up in Denver, Colorado, his mother an amateur watercolourist, his father a professor of orthopaedics who “scared me out of my wits”. Except that, in his twenties, Dan discovered that his father wasn’t his father, and he was the product of artificial insemination.