Surprised by God

surprisedbygodAs a young adult, Danya immersed herself in the rhinestone-bedazzled wonderland of late-1990s San Francisco — attending Halloweens on the Castro, drinking smuggled absinthe with wealthy geeks, and plotting the revolution with feminist zinemakers. But she found herself yearning for something she would eventually call God. As she began inhaling countless stories of spiritual awakenings of Catholic saints, Buddhist nuns, medieval mystics, and Hasidic masters, she learned that taking that yearning seriously would require much of her. Surprised by God is a religious coming of age story, from the mosh pit to the Mission District and beyond. It’s the memoir of a young woman who found, lost, and found again communities of like-minded seekers, all the while taking a winding, semi-reluctant path through traditional Jewish practice that eventually took her to the rabbinate. It’s a post-dotcom, third-wave, punk-rock Seven Storey Mountain — the story of integrating life on the edge of the twenty-first century into the discipline of traditional Judaism without sacrificing either. It’s also a map through the hostile territory of the inner life, an unflinchingly honest guide to the kind of work that goes into developing a spiritual practice in today’s world — and why, perhaps, doing this in today’s world requires more work than it ever has.


“Although the details of Ruttenberg’s experience — including wild parties in California’s dotcom boom, a lonely Shabbat in Tel Aviv, and praying in tefillin — may be unique, her description of her growing awareness of the power of ritual, the support of community, and religion as relationship will resonate with all sorts of spiritual seekers.”

- Publishers Weekly

“Ruttenberg began a long and deeply personal process of grappling with God and religious observance. It was a path filled with resistance and uncertainty, punctuated by moments of inspiration that eventually led her to embrace the rigors of Jewish learning and practice.”

- Tablet Magazine

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