Book Review: Doublelife by Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman

Book Review: Doublelife by Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman

When I was asked to review this book I hesitated. I didn’t want to read another book about how great Judaism is and how being Jewish conquers all. How many ways can that story be told and still be fresh? I am thrilled to say that this was not that kind of book.

As usual, I started reading Friday night – Shabbat is the only time I am able to read without other things / people pulling me in a thousand different directions. I finished reading it Shabbat morning, not getting out of bed until the last page was turned.

In essence, this is a love story – between Harold and Gayle, and with Judaism. Harold and Gayle meet, and it’s the quintessential coup de foudre – love at first sight. I know that feeling well. When I met my KoD I knew he was the one for me, instantly. There is no rhyme or reason, it’s just the way it is. Harold, a Jew, was not much involved in Judaism, and Gayle was the Minister of Music in a Texas church.

This book is written as a series of letters  - initially I was worried that it might take away from the story, but actually it was a lovely way to weave the tapestry of their life together. These letters take us through the ups and downs of the Berman’s life together, chronicling the big things and the small. Gayle starts out completely uninterested in converting to Judaism, and Harold doesn’t even think about asking her to do so. They are happy with their lives the way they are.

Over time, things changed for them. Harold started to discover the joy of Judaism, and slowly wanted more and more. We feel Gayle’s confusion when she writes that Harold took on more Jewishly without discussing it with her, and how that hurt her. We read of her struggles with Christianity, trying to reconcile her double life of Judaism at home, and Christianity at work.

We travel with them to adopt their son from Russia, and later their little girl. They had decided at the beginning of their marriage that they were not going to have children. That there was no need. After a while there was a void that only children could fill, and they recognized that and worked together to be on the same page.

Gayle’s journey toward conversion and Orthodoxy was a difficult one, but one that she undertook wholeheartedly. As I read the letter about her immersion in the mikvah for conversion purposes the tears were streaming down my face. KoD happened to come into the room at the time, and was worried about how much I was crying. Books rarely touch me so much that I cry. Gayle’s joy at the culmination of such a long journey was something so pure and so holy – and so well encapsulated in the words that have been written.

This is a wonderful book, a must-read – for Jews, for those converting or having converted, those returning or having returned to Judaism, or for those who just want to read an account of what true love looks like.

I was left with a few questions – I wanted to know Gayle’s reaction to learning the laws of Family Purity. I wanted to know what a headache it was to kasher their kitchen after the conversion. I also wanted to sit down with Gayle (I identified more with her than Harold – go figure) over coffee and just shmooze. If I had the chance I’d have a list of questions a mile long.

I was not compensated for this review but I did receive a free copy of the book.

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  1. Nechama says:

    I really enjoyed your review of this book. I’m planning to read it!

  2. Sounds like an interesting book. Is it a true story?

  3. Sharon,

    Yes, it is a true story. Everything in the book really happened to us. Hope you enjoy it.

    Harold Berman
    Co-Author, Doublelife

  4. Chupie says:

    It sounds great! Is it sold in Barnes and noble or Jewish stores?

    • Chupie,

      Thanks for your interest! The easiest way to get it is on Amazon (where it is currently on sale at about 1/3 off; there’s also a Kindle version). Barnes & Noble also has it – through their web site, and it should be available in the stores (I’ve been told that if it’s not on the shelves, they should be able to order it within 24 hours). Beyond that, at least right now, it’s only in a few select bookstores – Israel Book Shop and Kolbo in Brookline, MA, and Pomeranz Books in Jerusalem. Please let me know if you have any trouble getting a copy.

      Co-Author, Doublelife

  5. Babelfish says:

    Sounds like a propaganda-book to encourage conversion of non-jewish spouses.

    I think people should think before they choose a spouse, instead of changing their opinion afterwards: if they take a non-jewish spouse, they should accept this fact once and for all. They should not suddenly remember that their parents do not want them to be with non-jewish spouses or that they want to be religious after all, so the spouse has to convert.

    • Babelfish – I can assure you that our book is not a “propaganda book” – just our own story. People can draw whatever conclusions they want to after reading it.

      You, however, do not appear to be in a position to draw any conclusions, because from you’re comments it’s clear you have not read the book and don’t really know anything about it. Regarding “changing their opinion afterward,” people do grow and evolve. The idea that no one would ever be interested in becoming Jewish on their own terms, and the assumption that a spouse converts because she somehow “has to” as opposed to wanting to – is not only insulting to our own journey but is pretty insulting to Judaism as a whole. Some people do explore Judaism and find that it’s their spiritual home. And that includes some people in intermarriages. To suggest that people are locked into certain choices forever is, quite frankly, offensive.

      Harold Berman
      Co-Author, Doublelife

  6. Lyndsay says:

    I have been trying to find Gayle for years and I am excited to now buy and read this book. I was a voice student of hers for many years when they lived in Boston. Now that I am older and married myself with a child I look forward to reading their incredible story.

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