Photo Credit: Koehler Books

Title: Bylines and Blessings: Overcoming Obstacles, Striving for Excellence, and Redefining Success
By: Judy Gruen
Koehler Books



I made a new friend, Judy Gruen. Well, she’s not actually my friend, in fact, we’ve never even spoken, but reading her book Bylines and Blessings was highly relatable to me as a writer and a ba’alat teshuvah. I could definitely relate to Judy Gruen’s life story, negotiating both her spiritual and professional paths that sometimes converged and sometimes curved in opposite directions, reminiscent of a snakes and ladders board.

I found Judy’s journey (as friends, we’re on a first-name basis) to be insightful, funny, hopeful, and comforting. She has worn many hats, even before starting to cover her hair, and, in doing so, has carved a unique journey as a writer, editor, influencer, and family matriarch.

One evening, while still indulging in a little last-minute “To write, or not to write? That is the question?” musing, my friend David told me, “You ought to write this book even if it’s only for your children’s sake. They grew up religious. You didn’t. It’s important for them to learn about the life you lived before and how you came to this choice. It should inspire them and your grandchildren.… Taking this on was part of the mission I had embraced years before and to which I remained wholeheartedly committed: to bring the Torah’s timeless, uplifting truths into public awareness. I would do my best to tell the story of how I went from Berkeley feminist to proud, independent-minded, Shabbat-observant woman to anyone willing to turn the pages. And I hoped to reach Jewish readers across the religious spectrum as well.”

As is true for most of us, what has determined her life path were her choices amidst conflict, like waiting to open her Wall Street Journal weekend edition until after Shabbat even when she finally realizes her dream of having been published in it.

The author of previous books Carpool Tunnel Syndrome, The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement, Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout, MBA Admission for Smarties and The Skeptic and the Rabbi, Gruen has also edited, ghostwritten and mentored authors of many other inspiring books. She has also been publishing in a plethora of Jewish and mainstream media for over 40 years and is a regular columnist for the Jewish Journal, but learned that her greatest literary blessing (for her and for us) is writing for Jewish media, and her greatest blessing, is her family.

Philosophical and humorous, intellectual and spiritual, Gruen discusses many important topics of the day, both personal and universally relevant, as she muses over the changes in her life and the changes in the world and how they overlap.

Jewish teachings have inspired my professional ambitions and personal values. They have helped me build an empowering spiritual life and taught me to make my words count for the good.”

Just one caveat: The book references many issues and topics which someone brought up in a very insular environment might not feel comfortable having addressed. It discusses moral and religious issues of journalism, and culture – both secular and religious.

I learned that surviving in New York required rules. Rule one: no card games on the street, especially when the playing field is an upside-down cardboard box. Rule two: make sure you have explicit directions when seeking an unfamiliar address. Rule three: choose a theme song to sing during scary moments. That summer, I chose the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin Alive.’”

Gruen also challenges current cultural norms that are so counter to traditional Jewish values, but not from a pedestal, but her place in the arena inside the real world.

Judaism is a celebration of life and a refusal to take anything we have in life for granted. Judaism maintains an ideal of infusing the highest possible degree of sanctity into one’s life and relationships.”

“The impact of what I was learning and living would add depth and substance to my work – because it’s impossible to separate writing from life. The lessons I was absorbing into my consciousness would also affect our children, cascading through them and through their descendants.

A very personal, touching, thought-provoking, inspiring and captivating read.

If you like Erma Bombeck, the author’s heroine and mentor, (who I was surprised to learn from Gruen was not Jewish), you’ll like Judy Gruen. And if you like thought-provoking, journalism, you’ll like Judy Gruen. Anyway, what’s not to like?


To order: Available as an ebook and in hard or soft cover. And, of course, on Amazon.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleExposed: Islamic Party Ra’am Collaborates with Hamas Group in Turkey
Next articleProtect Yourself And Your Family Digitally
Rosally Saltsman's new book "100 Life Lessons I've Learned So You Don't Have To" is available for purchase in both hard cover and digital formats. Please contact Rosally at [email protected] to order a copy. You're sure to enjoy this humorous, insightful, poignant and instructional book.