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Mann, Reva 1957–

Mann, Reva 1957–

PERSONAL:

Born 1957; children: three daughters. Education: Attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Neve Yerushalayim Seminary.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Jerusalem, Israel. Agent—Curtis Brown Group, Ltd., Haymarket House, 28-29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4SP, England.

CAREER:

Writer, columnist, educator. Taught English literature and Shakespeare for children.

WRITINGS:

The Rabbi's Daughter (memoir), Dial Press (New York, NY), 2007, published as The Rabbi's Daughter: A True Story of Sex, Drugs and Orthodoxy, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2007.

Has been a columnist for the London Jewish News and the Boston Jewish Advocate.

SIDELIGHTS:

In her memoir titled The Rabbi's Daughter, Reva Mann writes about her life as a rebellious daughter of a rabbi and how she once fluctuated between a wild life of drugs and promiscuity and one of intense devotion in an environment of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. "This first-time author has written a compelling book about her own experiences, and presents a fascinating insight into the closed world of Orthodox Judaism," wrote Lianne Kolirin in the Daily Express.

The daughter of a highly respected London rabbi, Mann is also the granddaughter of the former Chief Rabbi of Israel. Rebelling against her family at a young age, Mann writes of how she never liked being the daughter of a noted rabbi, especially because of the scrutiny that came with the position and the many expectations, such as how she should dress, act, and speak. Eventually, Mann relates in her book, her rebellion grows serious as she throws herself into a world of sex and drugs. As time goes on, the author returns to her Jewish faith and then embarks on wild escapades, ricocheting between piety and promiscuity. Even after marrying a Talmud scholar, the author still struggles with the battle between her spirit and her body and its longings. The author goes on to describe her other battles in life, including getting breast cancer, her divorce, her mother's death, and the dire wrath of her father, who brought his daughter up in a strict Orthodox environment and could not understand or condone his daughter's life.

"I think it's a book of hope—it sends the message that you can come out on top," Mann told Rachel L. Axelbank in an interview for the Jewish Advocate. "It's also an ‘everything you've ever wanted to know about Judaism’ book. I'm hoping it will talk to a lot of people." While the author believes the book reveals much about the Jewish faith, some members of the Jewish community have not looked on the book favorably, especially in Great Britain where the book was published with the subtitle "A True Story of Sex, Drugs and Orthodoxy." Mann commented to Axelbank about the London Jewish society: "The Jewish community … was very shocked by the press, but I don't think they'd be as shocked by the book itself."

In her book, Mann recounts how her parents essentially throw her out of the family home after her continuing escapades. After a year on her own and experiencing numerous relationships that ultimately do not turn out well, the author moves from London to Jerusalem to join a Jewish seminary. She finds her husband while studying at the seminary with the help of a matchmaker, who, along with Mann, thinks the Torah scholar will help Mann reach new heights of spirituality. Mann tries her best to suppress her past and her inner desires while following the ultra-Orthodox tradition espoused by her husband. She longs for spiritual enlightenment. Eventually, however, Mann cannot remain in her loveless marriage and once again returns to forbidden life, even though she has had three daughters. Deaths in the family and the realization of her own mortality eventually cause Mann to change her life.

"While there have been many memoirs in recent years of dysfunctional families, religious awakening and searching, sexual experience, overcoming addiction, surviving breast cancer, recovering from divorce and finding new equilibrium, rarely have all of these themes been taken up in one book," noted Sandee Brawarsky in the Jewish Week. "In fact, Mann has said that she thought of writing her story as a novel, but thought that no one would find it believable."

The author first got the idea for her book after her mother committed suicide and the author developed breast cancer. "I underwent chemotherapy, it was hard, and I only wanted to return to life, but I didn't have anything to return to," the author told Dalia Karpel in an interview on the Web site Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out. "Even though I had my three darling children who live with me in Jerusalem, cancer provokes the question: ‘Why do I deserve this?’ My oncologist told me that there is no proven reason for cancer, but that didn't convince me, and I had to deal with the question of why I had fallen ill. I started to write my life story in order to understand what had happened. Writing was a kind of healing."

Mann's memoir has received widespread attention and many favorable reviews. Barbara Bibel, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "tells her story with genuine humor and self-deprecating wit, winning the sympathy of even disapproving readers." A Publishers Weekly contributor called The Rabbi's Daughter a "clever, fast-paced memoir [that] offers an intimate glimpse of Orthodox Judaism and aptly demonstrates the human yearning for redemption."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Mann, Reva, The Rabbi's Daughter, Dial Press (New York, NY), 2007.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 2007, Barbara Bibel, review of The Rabbi's Daughter, p. 9.

Bookseller, August 10, 2007, review of The Rabbi's Daughter: A True Story of Sex, Drugs and Orthodoxy, p. 11.

Daily Express (London, England), August 24, 2007, Lianne Kolirin, "Rabbi's Rebel Must Be Taken on Faith."

Jewish Advocate, March 15, 2008, Rachel L. Axelbank, "Mann Tells All as Rabbi's Daughter."

Jewish Week, February 20, 2008, Sandee Brawarsky, "Between the Holy and the Profane," review of The Rabbi's Daughter.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of The Rabbi's Daughter, p. 80.

Times (London, England), July 29, 2007, Kathy Brewis, "The Two Lives of the Rabbi's Daughter."

ONLINE

Brickgrrl,http://brickgrrl.blogspot.com/ (November 3, 2007), "Saturday the Rabbi Searched Borders."

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out,http://jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com/ (August 21, 2007), Dalia Karpel, "The Reva Mann Story—Granddaughter of the 2nd Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel."

Reva Mann Home Page,http://revamann.com (April 29, 2008).

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