C.S, Lewis' stepson, David Gresham

My older daughter just told me that the stepson of the Anglican writer, C. S. Lewis, became an ultra-Orthodox Jew and now lives in Meah Shearim ( a very Orthodox stronghold in Jerusalem).

This is a shocker to me! I’d never heard it before, and I can’t seem to find much (just passing references to it) via Google.

Is anyone here familiar with the background? I know C. S. Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidman, had been married before, and she had two sons (Douglas and David) by her first husband. I also know she had been a Jewish convert to Christianity before her untimely demise.

But this is the first I’ve heard of one of her sons becoming a very Orthodox Jew.

Anyone know anything about it?

I knew that he became interested in Judaism while still a young boy, after being adopted by Lewis. Lewis is said to have been supportive and to have done things like find kosher food for the boy.

The Gresham boys’ mother was Jewish by birth, then an atheist, then a convert to Christianity.

I did some more research on him, this is what I found out:

David Gresham became an Orthodox Jew, and the most recent news is that he is a Chasidic Jew now, living in Meah Shearim in Israel.

I also found what you said, that while he lived with C. S. Lewis, Lewis made many accomodations for him re: kosher food, etc. I never realized Lewis would be that accepting!

Why wouldn’t he? He was a gentleman.

It is a bit ironic, since Lewis seems to have had the opinion at one point that there were practically no “real Jews” (i.e., practicing Jews who believed in the supernatural, the Torah, etc.) left. Perhaps God wanted to teach him a lesson on that score!

Edwin

I didn’t know Lewis felt that way, and maybe you’re right! I just don’t understand why this aspect of Lewis’ life with his stepson is not more widely known.

I can see why Lewis would think that though: MOST Jews are not religious, and some are even anti-religious. So I’d guess that most nonJews rarely ever meet up with a genuinely religious Jew, which is sad.

Yes, and I think the number of practicing Jews was much smaller in mid-20th-century Britain than in the contemporary U.S.

In one letter, Lewis advised that a Jewish woman considering conversion to Christianity should challenge her rabbi and other Jews trying to prevent her conversion to find her a spokesperson for Judaism who was a “real Jew” and not a “modernist.” (In other words, the choice she appeared to be facing was one between a very liberal, de-supernaturalized version of Judaism and a robustly orthodox Christianity.) Lewis commented “I don’t think they’ll be able to find one.”

Edwin

In the years I have done exit counseling, one thing I have found which is consistent: of the Jews who choose to convert to Christianity, they are usually Jews who felt a deep spiritual need that was not fulfilled or met by mainline liberal Judaism. Such Jews, when they return to Judaism, almost always so do via either the Chasidic movement as represented by CHABAD (Lubavitch), or they return to the Jewish Renewal Movement (also highly spiritual, but of a more liberal political bent.)

Jewish mysticism teaches that the Jewish people were created to follow Torah, but that when Jews get away from that, they still have that deep, spiritual drive that unfortunately ends up being channeled into other “isms” (communism, socialism, atheism, zionism, etc). And so the strong drive, instilled in them by God, get diverted into godless things, and this is why you see so many people with Jewish names involved in all sorts of crazy “isms” that have nothing to do with Torah Judaism.

When such Jews return to Torah (or find it for the first time, which is more common), they truly blossom spiritually!

The sad thing is Douglas and David Gresham are apparently estranged from each other–and religion (Douglas being Christian) may play a part in this.

Being estranged from my own brother, I know the lasting hurt this causes.