Album cover of Madonna's "Ray of Light" (1998)(Maverick Records)

Alana Newhouse grew up in a Modern Orthodox community in Lawrence, Long Island. She studied Torah and Talmud in high school, but in her free time supplemented that with whatever she could get her hands on—Shakespeare, General Hospital, and Top 40.

Back then, it never occurred to her that these two worlds—the Jewish world and the world of popular culture—would someday collide. But collide they did, and she traces that meeting to a single afternoon in high school when she was home alone, and ventured to open the door to a bearded man who came knocking. Later that day, she was faced with a choice—Madonna or Kabbalah. It’s a choice that’s become more complicated with the passage of time.