Kelev’s Journey

A Dog’s Tale of Judaism

Welcome to this site. It reflects on the question:
What does it mean to be a good Jew?

I have always yearned to be such a Jew, but I have struggled. Recently, I explored this question by writing a book about a Jewish dog who embarks on a journey to find his faith.

Several years ago, I witnessed a seeing-eye dog—a black Labrador retriever—lead a blind woman across a busy intersection. Other pedestrians’ casual demeanor contrasted sharply with the dog’s intense focus on leading the woman to safety. That scene touched me deeply. It provided the idea for Kelev, the black Lab in my book.

Few humans feel the unconditional devotion to G-d that Judaism calls for. But it occurred to me that appreciation of a dog’s innocence, and his unconditional devotion to his guardians, can help guide us along the path to a deeper Jewish life with its ideals of benevolence, compassion, tolerance, and charity. In Kelev’s Journey, I convey the Jewish experience through a dog’s eyes. I believe that a dog’s innocence reflects the purity of spirit to which Judaism aspires.

I created this site to share these reflections, based on my perspective as the baby-boomer son of German-Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany. My parents had a passion for social justice, constantly reminding their four children of our obligations to the disadvantaged.

Judaism has shaped my life by instilling the values of learning, charity, tolerance and reason. Given the freedom and mobility that American society now offers Jews, I have struggled with challenges of assimilation:

  • How does a Jew balance dual identities as a Jew and an American?
  • What are an American Jew’s obligations to Israel?
  • Is it more important for a Jew to adhere to Jewish values or follow the strict, literal religious obligations such as keeping kosher and praying?
  • How should Jews address intermarriage?
  • How can American Jews revive pre-Holocaust Jewish culture such as Yiddish?

On this site you’ll find:

I hope my writing will help readers reflect on their lives as Jews and the legacies they leave future generations. I welcome your perspectives on these questions.

Kelev's Journey: A Jewish Dog Wanders Home
“So, tell me more about my Jewish obligations...”
Kelev asks his beagle buddy Schmalzie
Kelev asks his beagle buddy Schmalzie
Kelev's Journey
Kelev's Journey

David Hammerstein

David Hammerstein After a 37-year career as an investment advisor to endowments, foundations and pension funds, David Hammerstein began writing about spiritual challenges facing contemporary Jewish families. His parents fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and settled in Washington, D.C., where he was born and raised. Their experiences as refugees shaped his belief in the importance of tolerance. Hammerstein lives in Pittsburgh with his two children and three grandchildren. Learn more...