Rebecca Dana Puts Rabbinical Spin on Sex and the City Lifestyle

Memoirist Chronicles Her Misadventures in Crown Heights

The New Carrie Bradshaw: Rebecca Dana covered fashion and entertainment for The Daily Beast before penning her memoir “Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde.”
Terry Gruber
The New Carrie Bradshaw: Rebecca Dana covered fashion and entertainment for The Daily Beast before penning her memoir “Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde.”

By Yevgenia Traps

Published April 03, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

● Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde
Rebecca Dana
Amy Einhorn Books, 288 pages, $25.95

“Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde,” Rebecca Dana’s chronicle of the time she spent sharing a Crown Heights apartment with Cosmo, a martial arts enthusiast and spiritually confused Hasid, is a study in contradictions.

Take, for instance, the odd-couple pairing in the book’s title. Consider too the strip of bacon prominently featured on the front cover, and another, for good measure, floating on the back cover — a suggestion of godlessness in a book that repeatedly returns to a need for some connection to the divine. And then there is the book’s tendency to simultaneously mine and mock “Sex and the City.”

But, though all of the above might make the book sound insufferable, Dana just about makes it work. She wants to have it both ways, to be the second coming of Carrie Bradshaw and to hold on, however tenuously, to a belief in the coming of the Messiah. By memoir’s end, she manages to balance the two. More impressive still, Dana’s attempt to convince the reader that her two belief systems are compatible, even mutually elucidating, is often quite entertaining.

Formerly a columnist for The Daily Beast, Dana covered fashion and entertainment and attended fabulous parties — and she wears fabulous shoes. A transplant from Pittsburgh (“technically, [she’s] not even from the pea-size industrial city.… but O’Hara Township, a small suburb to the north”), Dana arrives in New York in January 2005. Having quit “a job [she] never liked as a reporter for the Washington Post,” she has come “to participate in the world’s largest choose-your-own-adventure story,” which, at least initially, involves working at the New York Observer and realizing her long-standing “Sex and the City” fantasies. She meets and moves in with a lawyer she dubs, for the purposes of the memoir, “Chad” (a sure giveaway that this relationship is inevitably doomed), and fully commits herself to this “beautiful fairy-life.”

And of course the fairy tale collapses. (Like Chekhov’s proverbial gun, a happy romance introduced in the first chapter of a memoir must be destroyed in the second.) Dana learns that Chad has been prodigiously cheating on her, a revelation for which he offers as justification his sense that she is simply not pretty enough. And just like that, Dana — who grew up in a secular family, who finds the idea of God “far-fetched,” who, as an adolescent, enjoyed tormenting the rabbi with her inquiries into the specific timing of the Messiah’s arrival — is confronted by the apocalyptic demise of her love life and the loss of her faith in the gospel of Carrie Bradshaw.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.