All Who Go Do Not Return: A Memoir by Shulem Deen

A moving and revealing exploration of Hasidic life, and one man's struggles with faith, family, and community

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.

Graywolf Press



French / Français:
Celui qui va vers elle ne revient pas


Italian / Italiano:
Indietro non si torna


2015 National Jewish Book Award Winner

Myra H. Kraft Memorial Award for Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice

  • Winner of the 2017 Prix Médicis (Essai) for French Edition
  • Winner of the 2016 Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award for Creative Non-Fiction
  • Finalist for the 2016 Housatonic Book Award for Nonfiction
  • One of "42 books to read before you die" by The Independent (UK)
  • A Star Magazine “Fab 5 Can't-Miss Entertainment Pick” of the week

The most lyrical [and] also the most searchingly spiritual of the “ex-frum” memoirs.  —The New Yorker

A provocative subgenre... the best of the lot [is] Shulem Deen's.  —The New York Times

Eloquent and Heartbreaking. —Wall Street Journal

Astonishing. . . . An indictment of those who are standing by and allowing it to be. —The Washington Post

Painful and elegiac... Deen is a profoundly intelligent thinker and writer, whose sorrow is as deep as that in a sad Psalm. —Minneapolis Star Tribune

Of all the ex-Orthodox memoirs thus far, [Deen's] is undoubtedly the best. —The New Republic

Remarkable.... Careful and levelheaded. —Chicago Tribune

Stunning. Harrowingly recounted. —Boston Globe

A resounding lesson of his book is that once doubt creeps into your life, certainty never returns. —Maclean's Magazine

[A] beautiful, heartbreaking memoir. —Richard Dawkins

Deen is the poet laureate of ex-Chasidim. —The Jewish Week

[A] page-turner.... Moving and vivid throughout. —Haaretz, Alona Ferber

A universal story about the pursuit of personal truth. —Haaretz, Mira Sucharov

[Deen] is an achingly expressive writer. —The Jerusalem Post

A work of remarkable introspection.The Forward

A beautiful and tragic story... this is really a book about honesty.Tablet

Heartbreaking [and] absolutely spellbinding. —Washington Jewish Week

A rueful, painful, deeply reflective story. —Jewish Standard

Deeply moving. —New Jersey Jewish News

An extraordinary memoir. [Deen's] voice is an important one in our generation. —Zeek Magazine

Achieves emotional truth and plot-driven suspense that eludes some other attempts. —Killing the Buddha

Gripping. —The Rumpus

Deen's solid prose [moves] swiftly and cleanly. —Colorado Review

Wrenching.... Deen's writing soars.Washington Independent Review of Books

Outstanding.... A story of great courage. —The Atheist Rabbi

There is something deeper here, a need and hunger for authenticity, for rigor, for freedom. —Haroon Moghul, The Muslim Observer

Beautifully written.... Insightful and worth readingBrooklyn Bugle

A heartbreaking read.... [but] also one of great courage and hope.Publishers Weekly

A clash of cultures made fascinating and personal. —Booklist

[Deen's] narrative flows beautifully on the page.... 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 harrowing journey not to receive the laws, but to respectfully hand them back.... [A] heartbreakingly beautiful ride. —Arizona Jewish Post

Read more reviews »

More Praise

"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  

"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, author of The World Without You and Swimming Across the Hudson

"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, author of Visible City and The Ladies Auxiliary

"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