“I wanted to find a way for a little bit of me to remain with him, because he’d always remain with me.” – Mo
Thank you to Judah Tasa for sending me a copy of his book!
Synopsis: Moishe is a Chasidic Jew living in London, he is a devout Jew who spends most of his time learning. Mo is a Muslim living in Manchester, while he has a strong relationship with Islam, Mo has a battle with depression within himself. While Moishe and Mo lead very different lives, they do have a lot in common, like the respect they have for their parents, their respective religions, and for God. They also have something else in common, they are both spending time in Jerusalem, Mo is there to spend time with his grandma, and Moishe is there to study Torah. It is purely by chance (or possibly fate) that the two young men meet. When they do, their worlds come crashing together.
Review: This book hit home for me for a lot of reasons. I grew up in a Jewish home and was religious until about six years ago. I was considered Conservative in terms of my level of practice. I wore a kippah every day, was shomer kashrut, and shomer shabbos, but the type of synagogue I was most comfortable praying in was one that had mixed seating (men and women together) and allowed women to chant from Torah or have active roles in the services. My mom taught me how to chant Torah when I was eight years old, and one of my sisters helped me prepare my Bar Mitzvah portion. While I didn’t grow up Chasidic, having a strong Jewish background and knowing some Yiddish and Hebrew, I understood a lot of what Judah was talking about and I could easily identify with Moishe. Having also spent time in a yeshiva in Jerusalem, I also know what kind of learning Moishe was doing. While I am less familiar with Islam, I can still understand Mo’s internal struggle between being his true self and his relationship with religion as that is something that I have struggled with as well.
I have been to Israel several times. The first time I went to Israel was the summer of 1999, I was eight years old and it was my only trip with my family. The last time I was there was the winter of 2014. I have been wanting to go back so badly. It is so easy for me to feel at home in Israel. A Meeting of Two Prophets brought me right back. I’ve prayed at the Kotel, I’ve walked up and down Ben Yehudah Street, I’ve swam in the Kinneret, I’ve even eaten at the Pizza Hut that’s mentioned in the book. Through Mo and Moishe, Judah does a great job of showing the negatives and positives of Israel. Judah brings the rich history of Jerusalem to life, as well as the diversity of the city. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a very complex topic, and no one book can encompass every aspect of it. Judah makes this point clear that this book is meant to highlight some of aspects of the conflict to introduce readers to a culture that they wouldn’t be familiar with.
The queerness! Through this entire book Mo and Moishe are discovering themselves and trying to come to terms with their identities and how it impacts their beliefs, something that many religious people, especially young religious people, have to deal with. Judah has excellently portrayed that inner struggle of religion and sexuality and the confusing emotions that come with it. This is so important because many coming out stories don’t have a religious focus. Judaism isn’t free of prejudices or homophobia. Many queer Jews don’t come out because of fear of rejection from their families and communities. Organizations, like Jewish Queer Youth, exist to ensure the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth in the Jewish Community, with particular focus on those in the Orthodox, Chassidic, and Sephardic communities.
Ultimately what Judah does with this story is expose readers to cultures and lifestyles that are seldom seen in YA literature.
In keeping with Jewish tradition, I will end this review with a Jewish teaching, from Pirkei Avot chapter 4. “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.”
Read: 1/22/2021 – 1/29/2021
Release date: February 1st, 2021; Independently Published
Page count: 381
Audience: Young Adult