[by Phyllis Shaikun]
Josh Golding, Ph.D., a professor of philosophy at Bellarmine University for more than 20 years, has just published his second book – a novel – to favorable reviews. While his first book, Rationality and Religious Theism (Ashgate, 2003), was clearly a scholarly work about philosophy of religion and Jewish philosophy, The Conversation tells a coming of age story that is quasi-autobiographical.
Golding admits he can see parts of himself in all of the characters. He feels it was his destiny to write the book as a form of self-expression – to teach people that you can learn from others’ perspectives and be enriched by them.
After meeting Golding, a transplanted New Yorker raised in an observant Jewish household and a product of Jewish Day Schools and Yeshiva University High School, it is hard to believe that he ever shared the same sort of angst as his book’s protagonist, a “typical Jewish American college student” named David Goldstein. “There is a lot of me in David,” Golding admits. “I went through similar stuff.” He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh and a rabbinic ordination from a yeshiva in Israel.
The point of his book is that Judaism is incredibly rich religiously and in many other ways. Golding believes that before turning away from the faith, people need to take Judaism seriously and not just dismiss it because it requires some work. He is hoping that readers will learn from his book, as did his Bellarmine students when he used selections from it in his classes. “I think they enjoyed the book,” he says, “and I think they learned a lot too.”
The book is unusual in that it is written in the form of transcripts from emails, phone calls and letters Goldstein sends to his parents and others regarding his quest to understand the concept of God and why he should care about having a belief system.
Among the characters he meets during his intellectual journey are a Buddhist, a non-Jewish, girlfriend (about whom his parents would be very upset), a professor with a Conservative Jewish approach, several rabbis of various persuasions, and his closest friend, an atheist who grew up as an orthodox Jew. Throughout the book, Golding says he tries to present Judaism as a “viable alternative.”
Meanwhile, Golding’s not giving up his day job. He teaches classes in ethics, philosophy of religion and logic on a regular basis at Bellarmine, has taught Melton classes and lots of classes at Anshei Sfard, including a mini-course in Kabbalah, and recently started teaching at the High School of Jewish Studies. He also teaches sixth grade at the Jewish Day School several hours a week and has been working with the local Noahide community, which is composed of non-Jews who accept the “chosenness” of the Jewish people, and keep the Noahide commandments as interpreted by Maimonides, but are not interested in converting.
Just as the protagonist in his book resolves to continue studying about religion, Golding does as well. He has study partners with whom he meets face-to-face several days a week and he enjoyed attending daily classes during a recent year-long sabbatical in Israel.
Golding and his wife, attorney Ayala Golding, have been married for more than 20 years and have five children: Rafael, Rivka, Sam, Nathaniel and Vanessa, who are 19, 17, 14, 11 and 9 respectively. He feels that Louisville is a great place in which to raise religious Jewish children with its close proximity to an Orthodox synagogue, Jewish Day School and the Jewish Community Center. He laments the lack of a full-time local Jewish high school, but weighs that against the advantages of living in a small, tight-knit community.
For those interested, Golding’s book is available for purchase on Amazon.com and locally at the Bellarmine bookstore. You can also contact him at email@example.com.