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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Ben'oni L'Benyamin: From Sorrow to Strength: My Journey with Depression is a nonfiction motivational self-help book written by Rabbi Sara Berman. Berman, who is an ordained Rabbi and a board-certified chaplain, had worked in the Neuropsychiatric Institute as part of her participation in UCLA’s chaplaincy residency. She was later hospitalized in the same hospital for treatment for depression. Berman shares her experiences dealing with clinical depression and discusses her need to pay continued attention to differentiating between feeling sad and becoming clinically depressed. She wrote this book to help others who are depressed or have other forms of mental illness, and she describes the challenges she faces every day in terms of the Jewish calendar. Above all, she wanted this book to help eliminate the stigma facing people with mental illness.
Rabbi Sara Berman’s nonfiction inspirational memoir details the author’s ongoing struggle with depression and illustrates how she sees the stories in the Bible and the Torah through the lens of mental illness. I loved learning more about the Jewish holidays, their historical background and meaning, and found Berman’s analysis of those holidays as well as her section on Torah tidbits to be instructive and enlightening. As someone who is interested in learning more about Judaism, and who is concerned about the mentally ill and their treatment, I was excited to have the opportunity to read this book and was pleased with the depth, honesty and empathy displayed by the author. I found the third section of her book, A Personal Look at Depression: Musings, to be quite helpful. Her journal entries were honest and thought-provoking, and the Advice from People With Depression sub-section should be required reading for anyone who has a friend or relative with depression or another mental illness. Miriam Berman, the Rabbi’s daughter, also contributed her own story about her own experiences with anxiety and OCD. She shares her poetry and personal feelings about her illness as well as her mother’s. Her story is beautifully told and inspiring, and her poetry is a rare, and, at times, brutally honest, treat. Ben'oni L'Benyamin: From Sorrow to Strength: My Journey with Depression is most highly recommended.