The Jew in the Lotus

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"In a series of remarkable discussions, the Dalai Lama and these two learned, ebullient cabalists, Rabbis Schachter and Omer-Man, compare notes on the character of meditation, its structure, rhythms and traditions. To read these chapters is something like walking through a mythic garden. The Jew in the Lotus is the kind of book that seems at first glance, to have been written for a carefully delimited audience: Jews, Buddhists, and Jewish Buddhists. But that is an illusion. It is really a book for anyone who feels the narrowness of a wholly secular life or who wonders about the fate of esoteric spiritual traditions in a world that seems bent on destroying or vulgarizing them. It is a narrative about an extraordinary moment in history, of course, but it is also the chronicle of Rodger Kamenetz's discovery of what he says is a more nourishing Judaism..."

-- New York Times Book Review, July 24, 1994.

"Splendidly written from beginning to end, this is a book that might and should be read for the simple pleasure of watching an honest intellect confront its own image...The Jew in the Lotus is a book that should be read and discussed by those interested in the marvelous complexity and resilience of the human soul."

-- New Orleans Times-Picayune

"This is a truly fascinating book-- a challenging, candid, funny, poignant chapter in the education of a man who thought his religion had stopped speaking to his generation. Rodger Kamenetz is a perfect observer of the exemplary drama enacted in the sky-high kingdom of Dharamsala. An undaunted interpreter of complexities and contradictions, not only does he present a spectrum of Jews of profoundly different styles and Buddhists desperate to preserve the Tibetan way against painful odds, but he also conveys quite memorably the intricate inner lives of the Jewish Buddhists who cross forbidden lines, obliterate distinctions, insist they can be more than one thing at a time without loss. I found every page of The Jew in the Lotus enlightening and engrossing. It should be required reading for those of us who, like the author, have a stake in understanding who we are, whose history resonates with ours, and who we could become if we chose to."

-- ROSELLEN BROWN, novelist, author of Before and After, Civil Wars, and Tender Mercies.

"The Jew in the Lotus is a remarkable and important book, articulating a vision of that deep common ground of humanity that even apparently disparate cultures and religions share. And Rodger Kamenetz is a brilliantly elegant prose stylist, so his vision not only touches the mind but that spiritual part of us that is responsive solely to art."

-- Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer prize winning novelist, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.

"This fascinating tale of two worlds, the Jewish and the Tibetan, is also a profound discussion of religion, exile, and survival in our time. Rodger Kamenetz has written a spiritual adventure story that brings to life the mystery of connections between seemingly different gods. But this is also a poetic manifesto calling for the creative re-thinking of religion and ritual."

-- Andrei Codrescu, poet and NPR commentator



THE JEW IN THE LOTUS MOVIE Laurel Chiten's award winning movie The Jew in the Lotus is based on my book and was first aired on PBS in 1999. it has been shown around the world and won the filmmaker an outstanding personal vision award from the New England Film Festival among other honors and accolades.

For those interested in purchasing the film or soundtrack, please go for more information:

NEW: The film is now available on DVD

For an account of the film, and video clips see

Following are streaming video clips from the film, The Jew in the Lotus

Also by Rodger Kamenetz

Stalking Elijah: Adventures with Todays Jewish Mystical Masters
(HarperSanFrancisco, 1997)


Stalking Elijah

Rodger Kamenetz continues the dazzling spiritual adventure he began in The Jew in the Lotus, his best-selling account of the historic dialogue between rabbis and the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. In Stalking Elijah, he takes his wild mind on the road, seeking counsel of spiritual teachers across the country as he searches for his own Jewish truth.

In an astonishing series of dialogues, encounters, quick takes, and meditations, Kamenetz unfolds a journey to the depths of human spiritual yearning. Profound and often raucously funny, Kamenetz's quirky tale carries him from a conversation with the Dalai Lama (in which he valiantly "contravened forty-six years of my own noisy cultural conditioning" to keep from stepping on the silence) to breaking matzah with him a year later at a Passover seder for Tibetan freedom. Along the way he learns kabbalah poolside at the Beverly Hilton, meditates in a T-shirt shop with Baton Rouge's three resident Tibetan Buddhists, observes the Sabbath in a plastic tent with Jewish addicts and cons in an inner-city slum, and "calls out" to God with neo-Hasidic abandon while racing down the San Bernardino freeway.

Entertaining, illuminating, and deeply moving, Stalking Elijah, teaches at every step of the path how to celebrate the Jewish tradition in the context of feminism, contemporary science, and interfaith dialogue. In Kamenetz's magical journey through the new landscape of Jewish practice, he finds the blessing of the holy in everyday life and the face of a prophet in every face he meets.

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From the book:
We are now entering a new stage of Judaism, a time of crisis but also a time of renewal. The old foundations, whether of reform Judaism on the one end or of Orthodoxy at the other, have been shaken. We are building a new mishkan (tabernacle) and we have so many fine materials to draw on. We are looking for the light in the old kabbalah, but also in the new language of our experience. My teachers are women and men, my teachers are not all Jews, for I cannot assume any more triumphalism, whether the triumphalism of an Orthodoxy that cannot acknowledge what is holy in the present, or the modernist triumphalism of a Reform Judaism that a hundred years ago discarded large parts of an ancient wisdom without due consideration. If I were to define myself denominationally, I'd say I'm an under-constructionist--and I wear a yellow hard hat yarmulke.

''Stalking Elijah'' is valuable not only for Jews interested in the mystical tradition as practiced today but for Jews yearning to find a clearer expression of the divine in their lives. In fact, Judaism is not a prerequisite for learning from this book. Kamenetz's message is: If I can do it, so can you. "

-- Bob Rosenthal, The New York Times.

"Kamenetz blends the personal with the profound. He takes us on a journey through new spiritual territory and into the hearts and minds of those who are cultivating it. Illuminating and fun."

-- Daniel C. Matt, translator of the Pritzker ZOHAR, author of THE ESSENTIAL KABBALAH and GOD AND THE BIG BANG