counter create hit Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History

Availability: Ready to download

All the answers are here. "Jewish Literacy, " written by an esteemed rabbi, is a compendium of 346 short chapters on the essential trends, concepts, and personalities of Jewish history, religion, and culture.


Compare
Ads Banner

All the answers are here. "Jewish Literacy, " written by an esteemed rabbi, is a compendium of 346 short chapters on the essential trends, concepts, and personalities of Jewish history, religion, and culture.

30 review for Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    I appreciate the usefulness of an encyclopedia of Judaism, but I can't get over the inflammatory statements (such as, 'Muslims like to build temples on the destroyed temples of other religions' or categorizing all antizionist jews as self-hating, and categorizing all antizionist gentiles as antisemitic). I felt the term antisemitic was thrown around fairly easily while at the same time making wild generalizations about non-Jewish groups. I am irreligious so I prefer an objective POV for these so I appreciate the usefulness of an encyclopedia of Judaism, but I can't get over the inflammatory statements (such as, 'Muslims like to build temples on the destroyed temples of other religions' or categorizing all antizionist jews as self-hating, and categorizing all antizionist gentiles as antisemitic). I felt the term antisemitic was thrown around fairly easily while at the same time making wild generalizations about non-Jewish groups. I am irreligious so I prefer an objective POV for these sorts of reference books, and this was not objective. I have read other objective texts written by religious figures, so I don't think it's asking too much.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Simcha York

    Rabbi Telushkin's Jewish Literacy is intended to serve as a general introduction to Judaism and Jewish culture and history. It performs more than admirably as such an introduction. Telushkin's prose is simple and elegant and capable of delivering large amounts of information with little wasted verbiage. His style is engaging as well as informative. This is no dry Judaism 101 textbook. Telushkin clearly has a love for this work and it comes through in his writing. He has an academic's grasp of th Rabbi Telushkin's Jewish Literacy is intended to serve as a general introduction to Judaism and Jewish culture and history. It performs more than admirably as such an introduction. Telushkin's prose is simple and elegant and capable of delivering large amounts of information with little wasted verbiage. His style is engaging as well as informative. This is no dry Judaism 101 textbook. Telushkin clearly has a love for this work and it comes through in his writing. He has an academic's grasp of the facts, and a storyteller's gift for the personal and historical anecdote. This book is a must-have for anyone looking for a general introduction or reference to Judaism and Jewish cultural literacy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Hersh

    The book was extremely thorough and educational, and works both as a collection of individual encyclopedic entries and as a whole cohesive narrative. However, it only gets three stars because of the distracting and persistent Islamaphobia that came up every time the author mentions "Mohammed" or laments the permanence of the mosque at the Dome on the Rock, lest there be "an international Islamic jihad (holy war)." He also misunderstands many themes and elements of the Qur'an, which is problemati The book was extremely thorough and educational, and works both as a collection of individual encyclopedic entries and as a whole cohesive narrative. However, it only gets three stars because of the distracting and persistent Islamaphobia that came up every time the author mentions "Mohammed" or laments the permanence of the mosque at the Dome on the Rock, lest there be "an international Islamic jihad (holy war)." He also misunderstands many themes and elements of the Qur'an, which is problematic when you're trying to compare the Qur'an to the Torah.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    A good overview of Jewish ideas, history, and theological principles written by a member of the Jewish community. Arranged in short articles, the information is easy to digest regardless of background and makes for rapid reading despite its 750-page length. The author seems to come from a fairly conservative (in the context of Judaism, not necessarily politics) mindset, but makes a sincere effort to represent the many sects, opinions, and divisions within his religion. For non-Jews, this may be t A good overview of Jewish ideas, history, and theological principles written by a member of the Jewish community. Arranged in short articles, the information is easy to digest regardless of background and makes for rapid reading despite its 750-page length. The author seems to come from a fairly conservative (in the context of Judaism, not necessarily politics) mindset, but makes a sincere effort to represent the many sects, opinions, and divisions within his religion. For non-Jews, this may be the most valuable attribute of the book: dispelling monolithic assumptions about Judaism. If you grew up in any kind of Christian religious tradition, you automatically know some things about the Jewish religion, because Christianity is a historical offshoot (or appropriation, depending on who you ask) of Judaism. If your knowledge stops there though, you only get part of the picture; you've only understood something as explained by outsiders from the outside of a community. As with any encyclopedic summary of a much broader, deeper subject, it's also important to see books like this as the beginning of further research. Because of the format, Telushkin often doesn't go into detail about topics that often have entire books devoted to them. This is not his fault, but it sometimes allows him (whether consciously or not) to gloss over facts that reflect negatively on his biases. As an example, his stance on the modern state of Israel: he is understandably very favorable toward it, its survival, and in justifying certain actions taken by its government. In one entry, he briefly mentions an incident that took place at Kafr Qasim, an Arab village within Israel's borders, in 1956, where a group of Israeli soldiers murdered almost fifty Arab civilians for unknowingly violating a curfew order. Telushkin condemns this of course, and notes how the Israeli government tried, and convicted, some of the soldiers involved. He stops there, and the reader is left with the impression that Israel holds itself to high standards when it comes to the conduct of its military. He neglected to note however, that all the convicted soldiers were pardoned within a year, and their commanding officer was given a largely symbolic fine. While this revelation doesn't mean Israelis don't care about Arab civilian deaths, it can affect one's judgement overall. It also explains why Arabs may still feel some bitterness over the affair despite an official condemnation of the soldier's actions. Still, I think it's on the reader to tease out this kind of information and make decisions about its larger implications on his or her own. Personally, I came away with more sympathy toward Israel than I had before--and a greater awareness of the assumptions many Americans make when it comes to going too far in that direction and believing Israel can do no wrong. I look forward to reading more about Israel, and everything else Telushkin covered.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Coop Williams

    "Jewish Literacy" is formatted as an encyclopedia of Jewish history, with 1-5 pg. entries on things like King Nebuchadnezzar and The Damascus Blood Libel. I chose to read it sequentially to my wife as a bedtime story. We found it often makes for violent and tragic bedtime stories. Nonetheless, the book is full of important summaries that seem really useful for a non-Jew trying to understand the Jewish people. Occasionally, the author shares a legend, story, or aphorism that is truly profound (I "Jewish Literacy" is formatted as an encyclopedia of Jewish history, with 1-5 pg. entries on things like King Nebuchadnezzar and The Damascus Blood Libel. I chose to read it sequentially to my wife as a bedtime story. We found it often makes for violent and tragic bedtime stories. Nonetheless, the book is full of important summaries that seem really useful for a non-Jew trying to understand the Jewish people. Occasionally, the author shares a legend, story, or aphorism that is truly profound (I loved the chapter on Rabbi Israel Salanter). And if you've never surveyed the history of the Jews, you may be amazed by all the momentous turns of events and paradigm shifts. I have two substantial complaints, though. The first is that Rabbi Telushkin does not delve deeply enough into the Jewish thinkers he discusses. For some figures, like Rabbi Akiva or Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, far too much time is spent on their geographical movements and the respect afforded them, and not enough time on their actual teachings. My second complaint is that the author is highly motivated, and not subtly, to read Zionism into potentially any part of Jewish history. If you read this book, you'll see what I mean. It becomes extremely annoying in that it feels like the author is wasting my time with politically motivated reasoning.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Suzette Tanen

    I read this 670 page book over the course of the year - it's a great overview of Judaism and though I knew a lot of what's in it, R. Telushkin's stories and examples make it a very enjoyable read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Really interesting for the first 600 pages. Har har. Exactly what I was looking for in terms of a book on a religion - it's essentially a narrative encyclopedia about Judaism. Goes through the Bible, religious texts, historical periods, and then contemporary practice and custom (the last bit I skimmed through). It picks out events, people, ideas, and places that you should know about to have some sort of literacy when thinking about Judaism (and by extension, good parts of Christianity, Islam, a Really interesting for the first 600 pages. Har har. Exactly what I was looking for in terms of a book on a religion - it's essentially a narrative encyclopedia about Judaism. Goes through the Bible, religious texts, historical periods, and then contemporary practice and custom (the last bit I skimmed through). It picks out events, people, ideas, and places that you should know about to have some sort of literacy when thinking about Judaism (and by extension, good parts of Christianity, Islam, and world history). Really interesting. Each entry is anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages, usually brief and well written. I almost gave it 4 stars because at times he tries to paint Judiasm as logically the best choice of religions, but then I realized he's a Rabbi, writing a book called Jewish Literacy, and my goyim self should be more surprised at how even-handed and restrained it really was.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Rabbi Telushkin's books are always welcomed on my nightstand, as his writing style is unassuming, eloquent, yet basic. This book serves almost as an anthology to all things Jewish, which is great for non-Jews to learn "why they do that?" for a variety of holidays, events, customs, tenets, etc. Considering Christianity is founded on many principles of Judaism, I think this book should be explored more by Christians than those of our own faith. This book certainly is written to assume that the audi Rabbi Telushkin's books are always welcomed on my nightstand, as his writing style is unassuming, eloquent, yet basic. This book serves almost as an anthology to all things Jewish, which is great for non-Jews to learn "why they do that?" for a variety of holidays, events, customs, tenets, etc. Considering Christianity is founded on many principles of Judaism, I think this book should be explored more by Christians than those of our own faith. This book certainly is written to assume that the audience knows nothing of Judaism. My favorite section of this book is that which is devoted to the noteworthy Jews of history, included Golda Meir and many others. I slowly savored each word of these mini-biographies, absorbing as much wisdom as possible.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lirazel

    5/5 for thoroughness and accessibility. I docked a star because sometimes Telushkin's bias comes through. He actually does a quite admirable job of presenting a range of Jewish beliefs on most topics in a fair and balanced way (if this were a Christian book, I'd describe it as ecumenical, but I don't know what the Hebrew/Jewish equivalent to that word is), especially considering that he's Orthodox, but there are definitely a few moments, many related to how he talks about the Arab world, that ma 5/5 for thoroughness and accessibility. I docked a star because sometimes Telushkin's bias comes through. He actually does a quite admirable job of presenting a range of Jewish beliefs on most topics in a fair and balanced way (if this were a Christian book, I'd describe it as ecumenical, but I don't know what the Hebrew/Jewish equivalent to that word is), especially considering that he's Orthodox, but there are definitely a few moments, many related to how he talks about the Arab world, that made me uncomfortable. Still, I think this is a truly excellent resource and would recommend it to anyone who's trying to increase their Jewish fluency--just keep your eyes open for those moments he might go too far. I listened to the whole audiobook from start to finish, but I think this would also be very useful as a reference book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan Jay

    As I am away from my library which still has many many books that I have not read, stuck in Florida during this Coronavirus pandemic, I order books online to feed the beast. While reading my last book, I ordered the next two books online I wanted to read almost a month ago. One finally arrived yesterday. In the meantime, I scrounged around my father's house, which has a very limited selection, and found a box that Robin and I did not send to Israel. In it was "Jewish Literacy: by Rabbi Joseph Tel As I am away from my library which still has many many books that I have not read, stuck in Florida during this Coronavirus pandemic, I order books online to feed the beast. While reading my last book, I ordered the next two books online I wanted to read almost a month ago. One finally arrived yesterday. In the meantime, I scrounged around my father's house, which has a very limited selection, and found a box that Robin and I did not send to Israel. In it was "Jewish Literacy: by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. It is a book that Rabbi Telushkin wrote at the suggestion of Rabbi Nathan Laufer, VP of the Wexner Heritage Foundation. He suggested a book in the same genre as Professor E.D Hirsch Jr's "Cultural Literacy" as a primer of what everyone Jewish should know. At one point, it may have been the perfect book to fill in big gaps in my knowledge. Having been brought up Conservative in a house that did not keep Kosher, but attended Shabbat services every week with parents who encouraged me to attend services every morning after Bar Mitzvah and who insisted I continue my Jewish education throughout High School, I was had some background when I first decided to further my religious observance. As it says in Pirke Avot 1.6, "Find yourself a teacher and acquire a friend." Thus my first step in exploring expanding my Jewish observance was to find a Rabbi to teach me. I was lucky to find one who was able to understand how I learned and what I needed; he recognized that I loved to read. Thus he started my journey by assigning me some books to read. Considering "Jewish Literacy" was written for exactly such a first step, I am rather surprised that he never suggested the book. He never suggested any books that provided an overview. Instead suggested books to challenge me on why I was searching. "Jewish Literacy" is considered, by www.myjewishlearining.com one of the top 10 "Introduction to Judaism" books. Many of these books approach Judaism as a religion; however, "Jewish Literature" takes the approach that Judaism is much more; Jews are a nation, a race, and a culture that has a 5000-year history. The topics covered go way beyond the Jewish religion. They include: - The Bible - The Second Commonwealth: The Mishna and The Talmud - Early Medieval Period: Under Islam and Christianity - Late Medieval Period - Modern Period: Western and Eastern Europe - Zionism and Israel - The Holocaust - American-Jewish Life - Soviet Jewry - Antisemitism - Jewish Texts - Jewish Ethics and Basic Beliefs - The Hebrew Calendar and Jewish Holidays - Life Cycle - Synagogue and Prayers As you can see from the list of "Parts" this work attempts to be a comprehensive overview. Since it has been over 30 years since my Rabbi recommended my first books, and I have since read hundreds of books on Judaism, Jewish History, and Israel, most of these subjects were not new to me. Even so, I admit there were a handful of subjects that were new to me. So I am certain there is something for everyone. I did find some sections to be a well-rounded overview of the subject matter. This was especially true of the section on Zionism. Then there were other sections that I found lacking in the basic information. The section on Antisemitism is rather brief. One of the shortcomings of the book is the coverage of any subject is brief and high level. I believe this is by the design of the author. Most of the topics are presented with the basic bare facts; however, Rabbi Telushkin offers the reader suggestions at the end of most sections on where they can go for further reading. I found these lists to be rather extensive, and I was happy to see that I agreed with many of his suggestions considering I have read a good number of recommended books. One of the challenges of a brief overview is that some fundamental facts could be overlooked. I especially found this to be the fact in many sections. One example was his overview of Shabbat. He did an excellent job of presenting the activities of a traditional Shabbat; however, I think he missed the point. When I was first becoming more observant I remember riding up 30 flights in an elevator with a Hassid and a non-observant Jew or perhaps even a non-Jew. The Hassid was telling the persons I don't do this on the Sabbath and I don't do that on the Sabbath. I thought that was an awful way to present the beauty of Shabbat. After the person left, I commented to the Hassid that to me Shabbat was a time when we emulate HaShem by ceasing all creative activities so we can sit back and celebrate the HaShem's creation and share the time with our community, family, and friends. It gives me the time to take a "time-out" from my busy life to appreciate what I have. Had I been introduced to Shabbat as a list of what I could not do, I think I would have never continued my journey. It is these sorts of sentiments that Rabbi Telushkin is missing from certain topics. On other topics, I found that he does an exemplary job. This includes balancing his discussion of Judaism and observance between Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox. He does cover the major personalities of many of the movements. Even though Rabbi Telushkin was ordained by Yeshiva University, a Modern Orthodox institution, he took the time to include the history, personalities, and practices of all movements. He resists the urge, with one exception, to proscribe action or observance. This book is clearly written from the perspective of a Jew who has lived in the United States his entire life. Not only have I made Aliyah, but I have spent my entire adult career traveling conducting international business. I have spent Shabbat in many foreign places across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Rabbi Telushkin's writing clearly is targeted towards a North American audience which is probably not a drawback; however, he does spend a section praising Rabbi Steinsaltz's efforts to reach Israelis with his translation of the Talmud to Hebrew. There are many jews around the world that could benefit from such a Primer who might not appreciate it as much because it is written for an American audience. Would I recommend this book to a neophyte looking to learn about Judaism, Jewish History, culture, and Israel? I would say that depends. I hope I would be as wise as my Rabbi was for me to assess the needs of the person and recommend what is best for the particular situation. This book is definitely a candidate for a specific type of person looking for a general overview.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    An excellent and comprehensive guidebook to the various aspects of Jewish life, culture, and history. Telushkin's writing is accessible and the book itself is formatted to be used as a reference, so this is a good book to keep on hand to refer back to as the occassion arises. As other reviewers have noted, the author has allowed his personal feelings to weigh on how he presents the Muslim and Arab world, and I would take his words with a grain of salt here. I made it a point to verify politically An excellent and comprehensive guidebook to the various aspects of Jewish life, culture, and history. Telushkin's writing is accessible and the book itself is formatted to be used as a reference, so this is a good book to keep on hand to refer back to as the occassion arises. As other reviewers have noted, the author has allowed his personal feelings to weigh on how he presents the Muslim and Arab world, and I would take his words with a grain of salt here. I made it a point to verify politically motivated statements against other, more neutral sources -- some stack up, some don't. If you're reading this book, I presume you're ready to do some heavy reading, so adding more research to the list shouldn't be that tall of an order. You'll find plenty of it within these pages -- each chapter ends with a bibliography on the subject.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is such an enjoyable and educational book! It is full of wise stories and insights about the Bible and Jewish life that will profit everyone who reads it. The Rabbbi is a gifted writer and exteemly knowledgeable. The book is devided into a page or two chapters that are easy and pleasant reading. Every page brings new information or a slant on things I had never considered. There are Christians who avoid what they call the OT believing it has little to do with them. But, we are Judeo Chrisit This is such an enjoyable and educational book! It is full of wise stories and insights about the Bible and Jewish life that will profit everyone who reads it. The Rabbbi is a gifted writer and exteemly knowledgeable. The book is devided into a page or two chapters that are easy and pleasant reading. Every page brings new information or a slant on things I had never considered. There are Christians who avoid what they call the OT believing it has little to do with them. But, we are Judeo Chrisitans who branched off Judiasm and it is to our Abrahamic roots we owe the life of our faith. The more we know about Judiasm the more we know of Jesus and the faith he believed in and lived by. Get this book, get an education and deepen your faith.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is an amazing book. In the past I'd used it for study but only read assigned pages. I'd also used it for reference. Since whatever I read was so interesting and educational, I finally decided to read it cover to cover. I learned SO much. It's not for in-depth knowledge with its chapters of 2-3 pages or less. But enough to know at least a little bit about almost every Jewish topic of import regarding history, theology, tradition, modern Jewish issues, important Jews and Jewish scholars, the This is an amazing book. In the past I'd used it for study but only read assigned pages. I'd also used it for reference. Since whatever I read was so interesting and educational, I finally decided to read it cover to cover. I learned SO much. It's not for in-depth knowledge with its chapters of 2-3 pages or less. But enough to know at least a little bit about almost every Jewish topic of import regarding history, theology, tradition, modern Jewish issues, important Jews and Jewish scholars, the Holocaust, etc etc. After reading, one should be literate about most aspects of Judaism. Exactly as the title says. It is a tremendous work, and clearly a long labor of love by Joseph Telushkin.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Written by a rabbi for Jews hoping to understand more about their own cultural, historical, and religious background, but accessible to anyone, and I found it a fascinating read for a layman with a mostly Christian-inflected upbringing. Full of little nuggets that are often underplayed in a Christian education, like the deep roots of the supposedly Christian Golden Rule in Jewish writings (Leviticus) and teachings (Rabbi Hillel).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Magy

    This book isn't an absorbing read, but it is exactly as advertised. This book is, cover-to-cover, an overview of all of the important elements of Judaism. I found it an invaluable resource in my journey through conversion to Judaism, and found the references within it even more helpful. Telushkin has written or collaborated on other books about Judaism, and I would recommend those as reference and resource books as well.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Weiler

    In his epic work, Rabbi Telushkin provides a superb introduction to all things relevant to Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish people and their history. It is next to my dictionary and I have already consulted it a number of times. I am richer and wiser because of this book. It loses two stars because, far too many times, the author ascribes motives where it is not certain that one exists. Keep that in mind when you read this book. But, do ... read this book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kerin Jacobs

    Excellent historical summarizations. Unfortunately, extremely biased on many of the religious topics toward a preference for Conservatism, rather than an open-minded overview of the various viewpoints and philosophies.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    A great overview of Jewish history, customs and beliefs. If you are interested in Judaism, this is a good reference to start with. It explains things in concise, bite size parts, from the stories of the Torah, to the creation of the state of Israel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda J

    Comprehensive and very well organized reference book on the Jewish people and Judaism.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    The short chapters on Jewish essentials make this a quick and easy book to read. Chapters are backed by scholarly references and historic anecdotes. It is best used as a reference guide.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lesli

    A good survey, not profound, but interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Farless

    Pretty good overview. It touches on almost anything one could think to ask about.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Amazing and totally a staple for me on my path!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This is by no means a small book, and I must admit I have some quibbles about it--especially where the author engages in Talmudic studies--but if you want to understand Judaism from a contemporary Conservative Jew, this is certainly a worthwhile reference source although at 750 pages is not the sort of book that most people will want to plow through in one go.  Even an ambitious reader like myself read this book in chunks over the period of a couple of weeks, and I cannot imagine this book being This is by no means a small book, and I must admit I have some quibbles about it--especially where the author engages in Talmudic studies--but if you want to understand Judaism from a contemporary Conservative Jew, this is certainly a worthwhile reference source although at 750 pages is not the sort of book that most people will want to plow through in one go.  Even an ambitious reader like myself read this book in chunks over the period of a couple of weeks, and I cannot imagine this book being read much faster than this without becoming the stuff of nightmares.  It should be noted that there are a lot of parallels between this book and the author's work on biblical literacy, although in both cases the author's view of biblical interpretation involves the Talmud rather than merely the midrashic interpretation that non-Jewish readers would be more amenable to.  This book could likely be considered to be the sort of work that would not be likely to appeal outside of an audience of Jews who might want to understand their own background better or those who are at least somewhat close to Judaism in terms of their own religious thinking. This book consists of 352 entries arranged into fifteen parts that give an introduction to Jewish life and history and culture, followed by an index.  After various introductory material the author opens with a discussion about stories of the Bible, divided by book of the Bible, containing the first 63 entries (I).  After that there is a discussion of material taken from the mishnah and Talmud and the history of the second commonwealth period (II).  After this the author discusses the early medieval period where Jews were under Islam and Christianity (III), followed by the late medieval period (IV) and the early modern period in Western and Eastern Europe (V).  A somewhat sizable section includes the author's thoughts about matters relating to Zionism and Israel (VI) and another grim set of reading concerns the author's reflections on various aspects of the Holocaust (VII).  From this point the author moves on to a discussion of Jewish life in America (VIII) and short sections on Soviet Jewry (IX), Anti-Semitism (X), and Jewish texts (XI).  After this the author has some longer comments on Jewish ethics and basic beliefs (XII) as well as a discussion of the Hebrew calendar and Jewish holidays (XIII).  The author concludes the book with a discussion of the life cycle within the Jewish culture (XIV) and the synagogue and prayers of Judaism (XV), which makes for a satisfying conclusion. With a book like this I am not necessarily looking for things I agree with because there will be much that is outside of my own experience and practice.  That said, this book was very informative and I found it a worthwhile reference material from a Jewish perspective that I could take seriously even if I did not fully agree with it.  And that is likely to be the case with many readers, as this book reveals a great deal of the division that exists over authority and interpretations and beliefs and practices that is within the Jewish community.  The author is forthright about these divisions and makes a point of talking about distinctive elements that both bind people together and separate them, and that give the Jewish community a great deal of diversity even if there are frequently similar experiences of persecution to be found within the grim experience of Jews throughout much of the world.  The author has clearly thought and read a lot and conveys a melancholy sense that there is far more to say than he can manage but that he felt it important to try to provide a guide to Jewish life and history.  The achievement, if an incomplete one, is certainly a worthwhile one, and if you want a book on the subject this is certainly a fine one.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This is an amazing narrative reference to most topics related to Judaism. Because it is a reference guide, it does not go in-depth into anything, but I, as relatively well-read goy with a lot of background in Christianity, learned a ton from this book, particularly his discussion of biblical topics. Frankly, all of Telushkin's discussions of the biblical past or of the historical rabbis were fascinating. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get an introduction to Jewish histor This is an amazing narrative reference to most topics related to Judaism. Because it is a reference guide, it does not go in-depth into anything, but I, as relatively well-read goy with a lot of background in Christianity, learned a ton from this book, particularly his discussion of biblical topics. Frankly, all of Telushkin's discussions of the biblical past or of the historical rabbis were fascinating. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get an introduction to Jewish history. But Telushkin fails to maintain the objectivity necessary for a good reference work whenever he discusses 20th century issues or anything related to the state of Israel. Towards the end of the book, on page 630 of the edition I was reading (there are several editions), Telushkin says, "Throughout this book, I have generally tried to be descriptive rather than prescriptive." But he does nothing of the sort whenever he talks about things he feels strongly about, a fact that other reviewers have noted. Examples: He insists repeatedly that anti-Zionism is the same thing as antisemitism. Certainly, he is right to point out that there are many today who use anti-Zionism to hide their antisemitism, but to insist that they are the same without demonstrating why is irresponsible, and not how a reference book should be written. He uses the word 'regime' to mean any government that he dislikes. On page 468, he refers to King Faisal's "regime" in Saudi Arabia. He is not suggesting that the Saudi King is illegitimate. It is just that Telushkin cannot help himself from being petty, so he uses negative words to try to smear any country he does not like with the term 'regime.' When discussing Israel, he veers out of objectivity and into jingoism when talking about Israel. The "Never Again" chapter is bombastic to the point of almost becoming propaganda. "'Never again,' more than any other phrase, explains world Jewry’s commitment to maintain Israel’s military strengths."Hannah Arendt is accused of exaggerating and lacking a love of the Jewish people (in other words, being an objective scholar, something he fails to do). For this, her work on the holocaust is dismissed. Though knowledgeable, Telushkin also seems to be fairly limited in the breadth of his knowledge. As I pointed out, his understanding of the Bible is impressive. But as he gets further away from his expertise, the narrative some times loses the persuasiveness that the chapters on the Bible have. A related problem is how few non-Jewish sources he seems to be consulting. The chapter on Arendt appears to be largely from a Jewish scholar, not from Telushkin's own reading of Arendt. When talking about Jesus, Telushkin tells readers that, if Jesus appeared today, "most Jews believe, he undoubtedly would feel more at home in a synagogue than a church." This line is problematic for several reasons. First, the opinion of "most Jews" or most of any group is irrelevant in a reference work. Second, in his book, Telushkin disucsses the vast changes that Judaism underwent after the destruction of the Second Temple. Statements like the above suggest that, when Telushkin wants to, he can convienetly forget the lessons that he himself offers in other parts of the book. The historical Jesus would have likely been as unfamiliar with contemporary Judaism as he would be with contemporary Christianity. Telushkin narrow, Jewish-centric worldview prevents him from seeing the hole in his argument. By only looking at Jewish sources, he provides the reader only with a fairly narrow understanding of what the consensus is. This is fine for studying the Bible or the Talmud. Less so for thinking seriously about Israel's role in the Middle East.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Littrell

    For the book's flaws and warts and baggage, the vibrant, long history and deeply rooted culture has a way of shining through like a diamond. Telushkin oughtta be proud of what he's made. Because in spite of his hangups, he's wrote one mightily thorough, readable, and earnest catalog of everything Jewish. I cannot stress this enough: it's dizzyingly chockful of Judaica. Ancient history, modern history, biblical figures, the state of Israel, blessings, philosophies, holidays, wars, denominations, g For the book's flaws and warts and baggage, the vibrant, long history and deeply rooted culture has a way of shining through like a diamond. Telushkin oughtta be proud of what he's made. Because in spite of his hangups, he's wrote one mightily thorough, readable, and earnest catalog of everything Jewish. I cannot stress this enough: it's dizzyingly chockful of Judaica. Ancient history, modern history, biblical figures, the state of Israel, blessings, philosophies, holidays, wars, denominations, gender roles, the Holocaust, mysticism, famous writers, thinkers, politicians, and messiahs. Abraham, Fiddler on the Roof, the Jewish-Roman War, kibbutzim, Anne Frank, Flavius Josephus, and Sigmund Freud. Shoot, Telushkin even takes particular delight every chance he gets to share a little dose of Jewish humor in between: A Jew wants to get into a country club. He can’t get in because he’s Jewish; he converts and applies for membership. They ask him, ‘What’s your name?’ He gives one of those pompous names like Hutchinson River Parkway III. ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘I own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. I also have an estate; I raise horses.’ Shoo-in for membership, one last question — ‘Sir, what is your religion?’ ‘My religion? Why, I am a goy .’ Although Telushkin, being a conservative Rabbi, naturally has some biases here or there about his own religion, he really does try to give an even-handed description of all varieties of Jewry. Reconstructionist, Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox get their time. As does Ashkenazim and Sephardim. And the peculiarities of American Jews, Russians Jews, and even Ethiopian Jews. Golly, Telushkin paints this beautiful picture of an eternal, living nation spread across the world united by a history that -- not for nothing -- not even the most powerful empires in the world could break. So, then there's the problematic parts, and that's the baggage Telushkin brings with him. He is unbalanced and unfair, if not downright hateful, when he talks about Arabs and Muslims. Any mention of Islam is followed in the same damn breath as the word 'terrorist.' It's really disappointing that he speaks of Judaism's moral and ethical ideals, its millennia of surviving antisemitism, and he still depicts Arabs as, in general, the enemy. And his chapter of "Self-hating Jews" was likewise...not great. It is admittedly helpful in understanding that attitude. It is helpful to remember Jews are no more free than other groups of people from toxicity and divisive language. However, a blurb seems hardly fair to drag someone's name. It's against the encouraging spirit of the rest of the book. I think that section, as well as many others, calls for additional reading to make up your own mind, not what Telushkin's decided. (And, by the way, he is very thorough in his citations and extended readings...but boy howdy he cites himself a lot) Yet still, I gave it five stars. Mostly on the merits of Judaism itself, a really fascinating religion and people. Telushkin's best asset is clear, effective writing that stays out of its own way most of the time. And as much as it aggravated and frustrated me sometimes, I think I can call it a wonderful, unmitigated success in one aspect: many many pages later, it has me, a gentile, wanting to know much more.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Kittredge

    This book is a treasure. Somehow, Rabbi Telushkin manages to give the broad strokes of Jewish history, culture, liturgy, observance, philosophy, and humor in a coherent, easily digestible manner. Chapters are short and piquant, often encouraging further study. Also, even though, the book serves a a sweeping survey of Judaica, it never feels perfunctory. Every section is detailed, well-researched, and written in a thoughtful, narrative manner. Most chapters feel like entering into a warm, engagin This book is a treasure. Somehow, Rabbi Telushkin manages to give the broad strokes of Jewish history, culture, liturgy, observance, philosophy, and humor in a coherent, easily digestible manner. Chapters are short and piquant, often encouraging further study. Also, even though, the book serves a a sweeping survey of Judaica, it never feels perfunctory. Every section is detailed, well-researched, and written in a thoughtful, narrative manner. Most chapters feel like entering into a warm, engaging conversation with a trusted professor. I enjoyed listening to the Audible version, but feel like I'm going to need to buy a print/kindle copy, if only to be able to dig into the copious bibliography and suggestions for further study. Recommended for Jews, Gentiles, and potential converts alike!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marcie Lovett

    This is a large book, meant as a reference, not as a story to be read continuously. Each "chapter" is one or two pages, allowing for a quick read; however, the layout is confusing and the reader is directed to other chapters for more information. I wanted to read the entire the entire book, but because it is so long, I stopped, and I doubt I'll have the desire to pick it up again. It is better suited to perusing when you have a question about a particular person or event in Jewish history. I'm a This is a large book, meant as a reference, not as a story to be read continuously. Each "chapter" is one or two pages, allowing for a quick read; however, the layout is confusing and the reader is directed to other chapters for more information. I wanted to read the entire the entire book, but because it is so long, I stopped, and I doubt I'll have the desire to pick it up again. It is better suited to perusing when you have a question about a particular person or event in Jewish history. I'm also not a fan of the writer's style, interjecting asides into the text.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a primer on all things Jewish--and I mean all the things. At over 700 pages, it covers several hundred topics in short 1-2 page chapters, and serves as a great reference book. Yet at the same time, due to the organization and skillful writing, I happily and eagerly read it cover-to-cover. As a Christian wanting to learn more about the Jewish roots of my faith, this was a perfect resource. There is just so much more to Jewish history, life and faith than I ev I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a primer on all things Jewish--and I mean all the things. At over 700 pages, it covers several hundred topics in short 1-2 page chapters, and serves as a great reference book. Yet at the same time, due to the organization and skillful writing, I happily and eagerly read it cover-to-cover. As a Christian wanting to learn more about the Jewish roots of my faith, this was a perfect resource. There is just so much more to Jewish history, life and faith than I ever realized.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chrisanne

    Caveat-- Didn't read the whole thing. I read mostly from the end of the biblical section to the end of medieval period and the section on Sholem Aleichem (the Twain story was great!) through the end of WWII. Was appalled at many things, thoroughly impressed with others (Denmark and Sweden), and thought much about "the 614th commandment." This sort of book has a place and a use. I find that Jonathan Sacks often has a broader scope and wish that he would attempt something like this.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.