All Who Go Do Not Return

All Who Go Do Not Return
A Memoir
Shulem Deen

One of Star Magazine's “Fab 5 Can't-Miss Entertainment Picks”

2016 Winner of the GLCA New Writers Award in Nonfiction
2015 National Jewish Book Award Winner (Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice category)

About the Book

A moving and revealing exploration of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and one man’s loss of faith
Shulem Deen was raised to believe that questions are dangerous. As a member of the Skverers, one of the most insular Hasidic sects in the US, he knows little about the outside world—only that it is to be shunned. His marriage at eighteen is arranged and several children soon follow. Deen’s first transgression—turning on the radio—is small, but his curiosity leads him to the library, and later the Internet. Soon he begins a feverish inquiry into the tenets of his religious beliefs, until, several years later, his faith unravels entirely. Now a heretic, he fears being discovered and ostracized from the only world he knows. His relationship with his family at stake, he is forced into a life of deception, and begins a long struggle to hold on to those he loves most: his five children. In All Who Go Do Not Return, Deen bravely traces his harrowing loss of faith, while offering an illuminating look at a highly secretive world.

Additional Reviews

All Who Go Do Not Return is not only the most lyrical but also the most searchingly spiritual of the ‘ex-frum’ memoirs that I’ve read to date.”The New Yorker’s Page-Turner

“Eloquent and heartbreaking. . . . Readers of this memoir will feel for Mr. Deen, who offers up this mournful record no doubt in the service of his lost children, who may one day come to ask the same questions their father did.”The Wall Street Journal

“Astonishing. . . . Deen’s harrowing story . . . is also an indictment of those who are standing by and allowing it to be.”The Washington Post

“Despite all that’s been revealed about these communities, Deen’s perspective feels somehow fresh, even refreshing. . . . While there is tremendous pain and pathos in this book, Deen is careful and levelheaded in his portrayal of the community he left behind, while self-critical in his analysis of his own trajectory. . . . Some of the most exquisite sentences in this beautifully written book evoke the sense of mourning for what was or might have been.”Chicago Tribune

“Deen’s wishes are fairly modest—all he wants, he writes, is ‘a world in which I was not lying or hiding’—but what it takes to achieve them illustrates just how much power religion can wield.”The Boston Globe
“With this book Deen has laid to rest the idea that a Hasid from New Square could never become a great writer in English, or an articulate chronicler of his own experiences.”The New Republic

“[Deen’s] story ‘of innocence slipping away’ will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with doubts and dreams that their family and community cannot accept, and in fact denounce. Deen is a profoundly intelligent thinker and writer whose sorrow is as deep as that in a sad Psalm.”Star Tribune(Minneapolis)

“Deen’s is an unflinchingly honest book—a work of remarkable introspection, punctuated with a healthy dose of Jewish self-deprecation. . . . Riveting.”The Jewish Daily Forward

“I understand that even if I did visit New Square I would have no greater access to Hasidic life than my occasional walk through Williamsburg, where I can see but can’t penetrate its appeal, or its secrets. Deen’s memoir, however, does grant me that access. It is the book’s ticket to mass appeal as well as the seat of his disquiet in its writing. Though he writes because he has a story to tell, Deen’s work, especially in his memoir, is clearly crafted to benefit others dealing with a wavering faith.”Tablet Magazine

“Deen is an achingly expressive writer and an honest and caring man. He has written a wonderful first book that really explores what it feels like to lose God and then your family, and then for a brief time, feel like you are losing your mind.”The Jerusalem Post

All Who Go Do Not Return is an extraordinary memoir. The writing is beautiful. The journey it chronicles is poignant, relatable—and also unlike anything most readers will ever have experienced. . . . [Shulem Deen’s] voice is an important one in our generation.”ZEEK

“[Deen’s] narrative flows beautifully on the page. . . . His memoir keeps the reader glued to the page from beginning to end. . . . All Who Go Do Not Return is intended not only for Jewish readers. . . . Those who long to be accepted, who have felt lost, should pick up this book. This is a book for the nomad, the explorer, the insatiable.”Jewish Book Council

“A fascinating, disturbing memoir of loss. . . . An unforgettable story of the power of belief—both the beliefs that bound Deen to his community, and the questioning and unbelief that broke those bonds. Heartbreaking, it is absolutely spellbinding.”The American Jewish World

“Shulem Deen’s new memoir, All Who Go Do Not Return, surprises. Instead of condemning his former life as a Skver Hasid from his current, secular views, Deen inhabits equally the multiple selves that appear in the memoir: credulous child, mystified teenager, and fatefully curious adult. . . .  [A] measured and sensitive account.”Jewniverse

“To the end, Deen searches for a new kind of faith to guide him into the future and also to help him make sense of his past choices. But a resounding lesson of his book is that once doubt creeps into your life, certainty never returns.”Maclean’s (Canada)

“[A] page-turner of a book. . . . Moving and vivid throughout, it comes into its own toward the end, when Deen describes his falling-out with his children and his heartache over his estrangement from his beautiful faith. His emotional vulnerability here really gets across that this is an ongoing story.”Haaretz

“The richly depicted Chasidic world of Shulem Deen’s new All Who Go Do Not Return . . . feels as transporting as any travelogue. . . . As a reader, one feels privileged to be along for the heartbreakingly beautiful ride.”Arizona Jewish Post

“This is an atypical memoir, not a crude or feckless narrative of religion lost and meaning found . . . but something far more heartfelt, genuine and—here’s the word—believable. . . . Though Deen and I have very different perspectives on religion, there is something deeper here, a need and hunger for authenticity, for rigor, for freedom, that I could relate to.”The Muslim Observer

“A beautiful and tragic story. . . . [All Who Go Do Not Return] is really a book about honesty. Honesty and its price. . . . As one reads, one witnesses a gentle but determined young man try to dig himself out of the dishonesty of belief (after having lost his faith) without hurting those around him.”Tablet

“What makes this book an unflinching example of the ‘off the derech (path)’ genre is its rare glimpse into life in New Square. . . . It is a society which can be warm and enveloping or vile and repressive. Written in an admirable unobtrusive style, All Who Go Do Not Return achieves emotional truth and plot-driven suspense that eludes some other attempts.”Killing the Buddha

“A heartbreaking read as Deen fights to reconcile his identity and love for his family with his loss of faith in God. But it is also one of great courage and hope as Deen aspires to live openly and without fear for the first time.”Publishers Weekly

“[Deen] delves into the challenges of his past with such careful honesty. . . . A solid memoir that will be of interest to fans of that genre, as well as to readers curious about Judaism and Jewish life.”Library Journal

“A clash of cultures made fascinating and personal.”Booklist

“In this moving book, Deen lays bare his difficult, muddled wrestling with his faith, the challenges it posed to everything he thought he knew about himself, and the hard-won redemption he eventually found.”Kirkus Reviews 
“Shulem Deen has a fascinating story to tell, and he tells it with exquisite sensitivity. All Who Go Do Not Return gives us not only an insider’s glimpse into a shrouded world few outsiders get to see, but also a movingly told narrative of one man’s struggle toward intellectual integrity. The setting may be the world of Hasidic Judaism, but the drama and the insights are universal.”—Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

All Who Go Do Not Return is a deeply honest and moving story about a man’s decision to do something both so simple and so radical—to live in accordance with his own beliefs. Shulem Deen has written an enormously powerful and important memoir about faith, doubt and freedom.”—Tova Mirvis

“On the eve of his marriage, at eighteen, Shulem Deen knew how to slaughter an ox in Jerusalem’s ancient temple, but he knew less than most seven-year-olds do about sex and movies and technology and literature—about the world that lay only miles away from him. Among the Skver Hasids, all who go do not return, but in writing this memoir, Deen has returned, and brought us, his lucky readers, with him. This is a heartbreaking book, and an important one, about the consequences of being true to yourself, and about a world and a community few of us know.”—Joshua Henkin

“It is just amazing that this complete subculture exists amidst the bustle of New York City. Deen was very brave to leave, and even braver to share his story. I am looking forward to publication day so I can share [All Who Go Do Not Return] with the world. It is definitely one of my top nonfiction picks for 2015.”—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Magers and Quinn Booksellers 

All Who Go Do Not Return is an unforgettable story of the power of belief—both the beliefs that bound Deen to his community and the questioning and unbelief that broke those bonds. Heartbreaking, it is absolutely spellbinding.”Washington Jewish Week

“Deen is the poet laureate of ex-chasidim. His sentences flow with originality as he unveils his story with passion and sensitivity.”The Jewish Week

"Both beautiful and heart-wrenching, Deen's memoir offers outsiders a rare glimpse into this foreign world while sharing a fascinating and personal voyage of self-liberation."—Marginalia

“I am in awe of [All Who go Do not Return]. . . . Deen opens the curtains on an insular society with nary a vitriolic tangential paragraph for leaders who betrayed him unimaginably.”Heeb Magazine, “5775: The Jewish Year in Books”