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Jewish Literacy Revised Ed: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 17, 2008
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About the Author
Joseph Telushkin is a rabbi, scholar, and bestselling author of eighteen books, among them A Code of Jewish Ethics and Words That Hurt, Words That Heal. His book Jewish Literacy is the widest-selling work on the topic of Judaism. He lives with his wife, Dvorah, in New York City, and lectures regularly throughout the United States.
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Top Customer Reviews
That's how it gets after 3500 years, I'm afraid.
Well, here it is for your perusal; Judaism between two covers. It's not complete, but it's pretty much the best damn overview of Judaism that I have ever seen. It's well-written, concise, informative, and thorough. There is very little authorial agenda in the book, and he clearly tries to treat potentially hot "political" issues (such as the divisive "Who is a Jew" issue) as even-handedly as possible (Telushkin is an Orthodox Rabbi). Further, the book is laid out in such a way, like encyclopedia entries, that a person looking for information on a particular topic--such as the Jewish take on Jesus, say--can find it quickly and easily.
If you are interested in learning about Judaism at all, or if you are a Jew yourself who wants a good starting point for educating yourself, I highly recommend this book.
One of the things I like most about the book is how it mixes the familiar and unfamiliar; covering topics that I think I know about, confirming some of my recollection but pushing me to understand things in new ways. For example, in the discussion about the ten commandments, Telushkin discusses the significance of not taking god's name in vain -- he points out that this is generally misinterpreted. He posits that the appropriate interpretation is that the "shall not" refers to acting in the name of god when one is doing something ungodly (i.e. doing bad things while claiming to be a representative of god). This is, in a sense, "ranked" as worse than murder. I thought this was very eye-opening.
I've found the combination of history, biography, religious studies, and Jewish trivia to be very good reading. Numerous times I've read a section and turned to my fiance with a "you've got to read this." My understanding of Judaism is definitely better for the reading, particularly Judaism in the context of a mostly Christian society. I highly recommend this book.
(By the way, I bought this very cheaply in the discount section of a local bookstore, so you may want to look around before making your purchase. But it would be worth the full price, even if you can't find it for less.)
The author is a member of the Modern Orthodox movement (which combines traditional Talmud study with secular study). His work treats quite fairly the three largest denominations of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform), but the section on Mordecai Kaplan and Reconstructionist Judaism is rather weak--a much better summation is given by Emanuel S. Goldsmith in the Preface to Dynamic Judaism (pp. 15-30). Humanistic Judaism isn't treated at all.
The typography is very good; I found just two typos (p. 345, "statue" instead of "statute"; p. 364, "Orthodox rabbits" instead of "Orthodox rabbis"). The index is fine, but there is no glossary of terms. One glaring omission in the history section is a table of famous, accomplished Jews in the areas of mathematics, science, engineering, business, philosophy, music, and sports. (The history section is really very gloomy and disturbing; it ignores the lives of many high-achieving and happy Jews.) Leon Trotsky is covered, but Ayn Rand isn't! The section on theodicy discusses supernaturalism and atheism, but not transnaturalism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book for an assignment several years ago. It literally covers all aspects of being Jewish, from kosher food, to the Bible, to history, charity, and the smallest,... Read morePublished 10 days ago by Nancy A
I love this book. It is well written and helps me understand in simple terms. I am still reading this book right now, but so far, it has been inspirational and I love it.Published 11 days ago by J
Bought these as gifts several times. Thoughtful and informative!Published 1 month ago by Read A. Lot
This book is great for beginners however it has some "nuggets" for those that have been studying for a while. What I love about this is the way the entries are setup. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nunya
The first book to read for the basic - but comprehensive - information about Jewish people's history and Judaism.Published 1 month ago by Judy
I have been studying this book with a Rabbi and conversion class for the last 6 months. Since I know history and reading/writing, here is my review: The information is choppy, dry... Read morePublished 2 months ago by MerryPirate
It might seem incongruous for a Christian believer to purchase a hefty book about the Jewish faith, but what better way to familiarize oneself with the religion, history, and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by G. Delaney