When Christopher Hitchens Discovered He was Jewish

In 1987, when Christopher Hitchens discovered at age 38 that he was Jewish, he was, as he later wrote “pleased to find that I was pleased.” The discovery moved the atheist to contact the only rabbi he knew personally to explore what he might be missing. His meetings with Rabbi Robert Goldburg didn’t shake Hitchens from his unbelief. But, as he wrote in a 1998 essay, it did prompt him to think that Judaism “might turn out to be the most ethically sophisticated tributary of humanism.”

Quietly, Hitchens began to make a point of visiting local synagogues if he found himself traveling, as he once put it, “in some near ‘Judenrein’ spot such as Istanbul or Asmara or Sarajevo or Salonika or Damascus.”

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