In this very special edition of Mormon Stories Podcast, we interview Tova Mirvis, author of The Book of Separation: A Memoir—a powerfully relevant memoir about Tova’s loss of faith as an orthodox Jew, and her experience living in a mixed-faith marriage before her divorce.

This interview is patterned after the abstract of her book:

“Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved. She married a man from within the fold and quickly began a family. But over the years, her doubts became noisier than her faith, and at age forty she could no longer breathe in what had become a suffocating existence. Even though it would mean the loss of her friends, her community, and possibly even her family, Tova decides to leave her husband and her faith. After years of trying to silence the voice inside her that said she did not agree, did not fit in, did not believe, she strikes out on her own to discover what she does believe and who she really is. This will mean forging a new way of life not just for herself, but for her children, who are struggling with what the divorce and her new status as “not Orthodox” means for them.”

“This is a memoir about what it means to decide to heed your inner compass at long last. To free the part of yourself that has been suppressed, even if it means walking away from the only life you’ve ever known. Honest and courageous, Tova takes us through her first year outside her marriage and community as she learns to silence her fears and seek adventure on her own path to happiness.”

(We later invite Tova to a live interview in Salt Lake City.  That interview may be found here.)

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17 Comments

  1. Joy November 13, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    I love this podcast so so much. It resonates so much with me- it is me- and so many of us- and eerie to see it in another faith tradition. “I can’t be inauthentic anymore” is absolutely accurate in what a lot of us feel.

    The tragic part of the podcast that John hits on is what happens to us when one is orthodox and the other is unorthodox. For her, it was too hard. The religion was too big to let them have the space to deal with both partners in such disparate spaces.

    This is absolutely overwhelming dealing with the day to day realities of living with another person that just doesn’t agree with you on the new paradigm that you want to live your life in.

    Would love more podcasts of couples that are dealing with these and practical tips on how to deal with these transformations–

  2. Rio November 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Amazing story, Tova. Your journey makes Mormonism look positively liberal by comparison! Congratulations on having the gumption to embrace your authenticity and be who you really are!

  3. Jen November 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    I cannot express how much I related to Tova’s experience of wanting to live authentic. Tova’s experience after her divorce with her community and circle of friends was so similar to my LDS “community” who chose my ex-husband’s side. The gossip and shunning was horrific. What should have been private became very public. It was a very traumatic time.
    Thank you Tova for sharing your experience.

  4. 50Bonnie50 November 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Every word describing the stories of orthodoxy in both Mormonism and Judaism also describes my experience growing up in yet another faith community. I am in my 7th decade and only recently have been brave enough to say I never believed it. Thank you. .

  5. Tamra Wright November 14, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Is observance the same thing as goodness… and if you don’t observe mormonism, are you bad? This is so prevalent in most of our upbringing. I think it invades our own projections onto our TBM loved ones. We feel judged …even before we even reveal ourselves to them. I am definitely going to read this book that has so much relevance to most of us.

  6. EDiL13 November 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Wow. As just about everyone else has observed, the similarities between Tova’s experience with Judaism and what many of us have been through with Mormonism are amazing. I now have to suppose that similar things happen with people who lose their “faith” in other orthodox religious communities as well. Thanks for shedding some light on what may be a more universal experience than many of us would have thought.

    A couple of technical questions:

    I’m glad to hear that you’re starting up the Mormon Stories book club again, and I notice that you’ve got a link to order Tova’s book through Amazon on here. I didn’t hear you mention it (forgive me if I missed it), but are you going to have it set up so that Mormon Stories gets a little kickback from online orders for these books, like the way Dan Wotherspoon has it set up if you go in through the Amazon portal on Mormon Matters? Another way to raise a little more $$ so you can keep doing this?

    Also, ever since the latest revamp of this website, I’m missing the option to check the little box that says to send emails whenever new messages or podcasts get posted — is there still a way to do that, or is there going to be a way again in the future?

    I’m glad to hear that you’re hoping to do a series about “mixed faith” couples. I’ve been daydreaming about being interviewed on your podcast with my TBM husband for several years now, but I’m not sure what we’d have to offer. We’ve managed to stay together for almost 13 years now since I resigned from the LDS church, and we have no intention of letting our religious differences split us up in the foreseeable future, but I’m not sure if either one of us could articulately define how we’ve been able to accomplish this so far. In any case, I look forward to hearing more about how other couples are coping with similar situations.

  7. Jessica Q November 14, 2017 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Awesome podcast! Could relate on so many levels. Had no idea the extent of rules for Orthodox Judaism. Makes porn shoulders seem XXX compared to porn elbows and wigs. Thank you John and Tova for making my errands so enjoyable today!

  8. Wondering Wanderer November 15, 2017 at 4:42 am - Reply

    Wow. Best guest ever. What an articulate, intelligent, and wise young woman, and such a sweet and sincere soul. Tova’s ability to describe very fluidly and concisely what many religious people must feel inside but struggle to put into words, is truly a gift. To hear what we dare not say vocalized by someone else makes us realize we are not alone. To know someone who has bravely resisted the peer pressure and refused to remain in a prison of feigned belief, and who has chosen to be true to self, is very inspiring. I am sure that her story will help many others to see their way forward. Bravo.

  9. Rich November 15, 2017 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    This was extremely powerful! Thank you so much.

  10. Kimo November 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I listened to this yesterday and promptly purchased Tova’s audio book first thing this morning, devouring half of it already. As good as this interview is, the book is better. Struggling with my own Mormon faith crisis and divorce responsible for three children beginning in 1990, I resonate with most of Tova’s articulate words in this interview and her thought provoking book. I’m keenly interested in parallels between our two traditions. Similar to John, my journey started by reading The Chosen some 27 years ago, giving a voice to my own fearful questions. I recognized my journey is not unique to my faith and was touched then and more so now with Tova’s experience. Her Book of Separation: A Memoir, is a must read. Looking forward to the book discussion. Well done.

  11. LindaE November 16, 2017 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    I adore the chutzpah of Jewish women! God may tell you to cover your hair, but there won’t be a scarf in your future – so an entire industry manufacturing wigs is born. What kind of woman results when generations and generations of mothers and grandmothers find creative ways to thread their lives through the myriad of rules created by men to test their devotion? This kind. Tova, you are a bright light. Keep shining!

  12. Dwayne November 17, 2017 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Many people seem unaware that the majority of Jews do not believe in an afterlife.

  13. Paul B November 17, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks John and Tova; very inspiring and resonant. Thank you so much!

  14. GP November 21, 2017 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Tova,
    I read your book and listened to this podcast. I was so deeply moved by all of it. Thank you for articulating so many of your thought and experiences in such a profound way. I felt healing occur as you gave voice to the many parts of me still recovering from my journey out. Thank you for your strength and courage. The road is terrifying and lonely but the life we can create beyond the terror is wonderful and well worth the journey! I believe of the the ways to “know thyself” is to face our fears and penetrate them. In the end, they are just smoke and mirrors.

  15. Krstin November 27, 2017 at 5:59 am - Reply

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Anne November 29, 2018 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Very pleased to see Tovah’s interview show up here on Mormon Stories podcast.
    Reading her book, “The Ladies Auxiliary” some 15 years ago, helped flex and open my understanding of my religion. Her book gave me a way to take a look at my religion from an objective remove through the lens of Jewish orthodoxy. It was easy to see the absurdities, the unhealthy pressure and paradoxes, in someone else’s community, and yet, it was impossible not to notice the familiarity. It felt very much like a story about Mormons.

    The similarities struck me right between the eyes. In her story, I saw aspects of my own that had been bothering me, pinging what I used to refer to as my “fallacy radar”, just below the surface of conscious awareness, for years. I began to be able to identify them and articulate them to myself.
    That was a huge help in reclaiming my inner authority.

  17. Vickie Duncan May 1, 2019 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    I am former mormon….and apparently former jewish…thank you…for a realization of our shared humanity!!

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