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by Danya Ruttenberg



“Ruttenberg’s book sets out guidelines for full-hearted repentance—the kind of atonement that people should do, but often don’t.”

—Sandra Collins, Library Journal

“Excellent, necessary . . . Her careful and thoughtful writing frequently includes the voices of others, centering the needs of victims and holding the words of perpetrators to account.”

—Emily Dziuban, Booklist

“A must-read for anyone navigating the work of justice and healing.”

—Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

“When you read Danya Ruttenberg’s brilliant book, you see with fresh eyes that there is a huge omission in contemporary culture: we don’t have a road map for how someone who’s done harm can change and make amends to others, nor do we discuss why this is necessary for both individual recovery and societal well-being.”

—Rebecca Solnit, author of Orwell’s Roses

“A modern and impressive blueprint for confronting and engaging the effects of harm and the potential for reconciliation.”

—Sherrilyn Ifill, author of On the Courthouse Lawn

“A vital contribution.”

—Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her

A crucial new lens on repentance, atonement, forgiveness, and repair from harm—from personal transgressions to our culture’s most painful and unresolved issues

American culture focuses on letting go of grudges and redemption narratives instead of the perpetrator’s obligations or recompense for harmed parties. As survivor communities have pointed out, these emphases have too often only caused more harm. But Danya Ruttenberg knew there was a better model, rooted in the work of the medieval philosopher Maimonides.

For Maimonides, upon whose work Ruttenberg elaborates, forgiveness is much less important than the repair work to which the person who caused harm is obligated. The word traditionally translated as repentance really means something more like return, and in this book, returning is a restoration, as much as is possible, to the victim, and, for the perpetrator of harm, a coming back, in humility and intentionality, to behaving as the person we might like to believe we are.

Maimonides laid out five steps: naming and owning harm; starting to change/transformation; restitution and accepting consequences; apology; and making different choices. Applying this lens to both our personal relationships and some of the most significant and painful issues of our day, including systemic racism and the legacy of enslavement, sexual violence and harassment in the wake of #MeToo, and Native American land rights, On Repentance and Repair helps us envision a way forward.

Rooted in traditional Jewish concepts while doggedly accessible and available to people from any, or no, religious background, On Repentance and Repair is a book for anyone who cares about creating a country and culture that is more whole than the one in which we live, and for anyone who has been hurt or who is struggling to take responsibility for their mistakes.

Praise for Danya Ruttenberg

“In this time of increasing polarization, and a “cancel culture” in which people who make serious infractions or even minor missteps are thrown out like trash, there seems to be no path to reconciliation, or re-integration. I am grateful for the wisdom that Rabbi Ruttenberg brings to this topic, because sometimes when the wisdom of the day offers no path to healing, the wisdom of the past is the best source of hope.” – Three-time New York Times bestselling author Nadia Bolz-Weber

“A wise book [whose] ideas keep stirring after the last page is turned.” – Chicago Tribune on Nurture the Wow

“Ruttenberg, a wunderkind of Jewish feminism, leads the reader through an often racy reconsideration of what the sacred Jewish texts say about our most intimate relationships.” – Publishers Weekly on The Passionate Torah

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is an award-winning author, educator, and rabbi. Since her ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2008, she has been named by Newsweek and The Daily Beast as a “rabbi to watch,” and called one of the top 50 most influential female rabbis by Forward. She has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Time, is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and The Forward, and has made appearances on NPR, CBC, Al Jazeera America, and elsewhere. Her next book on repentance will be published in 2022 from Beacon Press. She will also release an original audiobook, Mend the World: Spiritual Tools for Healing, Repair, and Justice from Sounds True in fall 2022. Her previous books include Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting (a National Jewish Book Award finalist), Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion, and The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism. She is an avid Twitter user and her 150,000 followers include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Senator Corey Booker, and authors Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed and Glennon Doyle. Her threads on Judaism regularly go viral and spur media coverage. She lives in Chicago with her family.