“Never Mind the Goldbergs” by Matthue Roth— A Punk-Rock Orthodox Jew

Roth, Matthue. “Never Mind The Goldbergs”, Push, 2006.

A Punk-Rock Orthodox Jew

Amos Lassen

Hava is a seventeen-year-old Orthodox Jew who has opinions about everything around her and who is very unorthodox in that she has spiked hair, loves punk culture, and punctuates her colorful, rebellious language with four-letter words (though she is reverently careful to refer to the Supreme Being as “G-d”). Her best friends are her confidant Ian, who is gay and not Jewish, and her platonic soul mate Moishe, who makes offbeat films and practices a kind of countercultural Orthodox Judaism. After a successful stint in a play, Hava is offered a lead role in a Hollywood sitcom about a caricatured American modern Orthodox Jewish family. She is immediately taken into a world of make-believe and pretense, and spends the summer trying to sort out what is real and what isn’t and what her religion means to her. Frequent visits from Ian and Moishe help to ground her, but most of her time is spent in states of boredom, confusion, alienation, and often pointless rebellion. Hava shares her story in a vivid, funny, and distinguishable voice. Writer Matthue Roth gives his readers an irreverent, insider look into two cultures and at a character trying to define herself.

Roth also gives honest insights into religion as he meticulously details Orthodox Jewish rituals and life. For those of us who have lived like this, the book is totally relatable, and for those who come from a very different background will find it to be a fascinating glimpse into a culture they previously knew little about. Roth looks at religion that is humorous, reverent, irreverent and deeply sincere all at the same time. We see Hollywood life through the eyes of a devout Jewish girl raised in New York in an almost satirical fashion, yet it is right on and makes everything even funnier and keeps the pages turning quickly.

Hava attempts to find a balance between her religion and her work and tries to make good choices for herself. She never does something just to stand out and get attention, nor does she try to fit in and conform. She simply is who she is. She is a flawed, realistic character, and that’s what makes this book work.

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