Beth Israel Reads Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi

By Deborah M. Greene

Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi is a 20-something African American Orthodox rabbi figuring out life, looking for love, and floating between at least two worlds. On September 10, at 12:30 p.m., Beth Israel Reads social action book group will host a facilitated virtual discussion of this spirited read.

In this eponymous novel, Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi, is the spiritual leader of a dying synagogue who unexpectantly becomes a viral internet sensation as he deals with estranged families, corrupt politicians, quarrelsome college students, vindictive clergymen, and an attempted murder … along with Christian hegemony, racism, antisemitism, toxic Hotepism, and white Jewish privilege. Whether he knows it or not, Ariel is due for a breakthrough. Several, in fact. And he’s about to find out if he’s strong enough to reevaluate everything he thought he knew about himself and own up to the things he didn’t.

Author MaNishtana (aka, Shais Rishon) is, himself, a NYC-based African American Orthodox rabbi who was born to Orthodox parents, grew up Chabad-Lubavitch, and hails on his mother’s side from a legacy of African American Judaism that reaches back to the 1780s. As a Jew of Color, MaNishtana adopted his pseudonym to invoke the question: “Why is this Jew different from all other Jews?” His answer is “Everything and nothing.” In Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi, he effectively addresses racial and religious identity and culture — and how their intersections manifest in America. 

In 2019, MaNishtana was named to both the “50 Jews Everyone Should Follow on Twitter” by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Forward Magazine’s 25th annual list of influential American Jews, the “Forward 50.” Since 2019, he has presented at several Limmud conferences, including Limmud UK, Limmud Oz, and Limmud NY. Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi was a 2018 Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award’s Goldberg Award for Debut Fiction.

The facilitated discussion of this book promises to be both informative and enjoyable, a great way to approach the new year. Click here to register for the September 10, 12:30 p.m., conversation.

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