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From Craigslist to the book list

Brooklyn Daily

Craigslist — where you can meet your new roommate, buy a used car, or find the inspiration for your next novel.

Writer Rebecca Dana spent nearly a year living in Crown Heights with an Orthodox rabbi she met on the popular classified website after a fallout from a bad breakup — and this unintentionally uplifting living situation inspired her first book.

Dana says she was struck by the contrast between her world of covering fashion and lifestyle for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, and the world of Orthodox Judaism of her roommate — but that the alternative was not an option.

“I was so shipwrecked at this point of my life, and the idea of living with four girls in 250 square feet in SoHo made me want to kill myself,” said Dana, who will present her first novel “Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story” at BookCourt bookstore in Cobble Hill.

But rather than lingering on the differences between the two unlikely roommates, Dana says the book is about the crossroads each faced. He was a bass-playing, jujitsu-praciticing “badass” Russian rabbi named Cosmo, who at times questioned his faith — as she questioned her own very different ideals.

“He called this our cultural exchange,” she said.

Dana said there was no big religious epiphany or conversion at the end of her time living in Crown Heights, but that she came away feeling more connected to the world.

“[Before] I had a very specific idea of who I wanted to be that was cobbled together from books and movies — ‘Sex in the City,’ Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, and all of that,” she said. “But I realized that was all kind of individually focused. What that left out was a sense of myself as part of something bigger.”

Rebecca Dana at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875–3677,]. Jan. 28, 7 pm, free.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at

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