It wasn't until the end, or maybe even the acknowledgments that I realized Jujitsu Rabbi was, as the subtitle I just noticed says, "a True Story." I'm not sure how that revelation would have affected my read, but probably the long passages of background and description would have made more sense to me.
Dana is an engaging and clever writer, but the long passages of background and description are, while clever, less engaging that the parts of the book where stuff is actually happening. Short background: Dana ends a West Village live-in with a cheater and finds herself sharing a rodent infested Crown Heights apartment with a man who is transitioning his spiritual practice from Lubavitch rabbinate to Jujitsu. When Dana meets him, Cosmo keeps a kosher kitchen and dresses the part of a pious Lubavitcher, but would rather be gigging with a punk band.
Dana is just depressed, despite her glamorous life as a fashion writer. She's a little hard on Lubavitch women, and maybe even Jews in general (she was in Pittsburgh in Reform Judaism), perhaps in the name of feminism. She writes of her Daily Beast boss Tina Brown
Like any woman who attains a position of power by means other than angelic sweetness (which is how precisely no woman attains a position of power), Tina came to be known by an easy caricature: manic, relentless, willing to do anything to make her magazines sell. this portrait is reductive, unfair, and also, in the best sense, true.
I'd like to have seen a similar (but opposite?) analysis of the Lubavitch women Dana geniunely admires while simultaneously abhorring. Despite being hard on the women, she does understand them, and can contrast their assessment of her life with hers of theirs.
It made them sad to think I would never be a sixty-year-old woman with twelve children and three dozen grandchildren wreaking havoc around me all the time. When I looked at them, I saw girls who would have only one first kiss in their entire lives; who would never read Anna Karenina, let alone have a passionate love affair; would never know the satisfaction of a great day at work followed by a late night blowing through someone else's cocaine. They looked at me and saw someone who very well might end up old and alone.
I love stuff like that. I also appreciate Dana's self-aware observation of her situation, "The moral was that my misery, while acute, was also banal." I so get that. We are all miserable. That the pain real, but it is also small potatoes.
Recommended for people going through something similar, New York Jews, and those who love New York Jews.