Like the many other Dummies books, Judaism for Dummies
organizes a wealth of material into an easy-reading format with a warm, accessible voice. Readers can expect to find translations of common Yiddish words, the difference between Orthodox and other denominations, the meaning and rituals of high holidays, the origins of the Jewish people, and a stirring passage about the Holocaust.
The authors make this book especially engaging by deftly tackling those "I've always wondered..." kinds of questions about Judaism. For instance, what are the guidelines for kosher food? What's the Jewish version of sin? Was Marilyn Monroe really Jewish? (Yes, she converted.) And what exactly do Jews believe about God? The authors answer this last question with characteristic reverence and humor: "Some Jews see God as an external force, a Being outside of the universe.... Some Jews say that God contains the Universe.... Other Jews say that God is the universe.... The one thing that Jews won't argue about, period, is that God--whatever you imagine God to be--is ultimately unknowable and therefore un-nameable." They also note that Jews argue with God in order to know God better. They're called "Children of Israel" because of the biblical story in which Jacob wrestles with an angel and gets his name changed to Israel, meaning "one who wrestles with God."
The authors' lively voices give this stylistically formatted book a unique personality. Sometimes they sound as though they're telling jokes at a dinner party: "Have you heard the one about the two rabbis arguing over the Torah?" and "Yom Kippur means always having to say you're sorry." Other times they sound like fireside elders sharing the old stories of an ancient faith. This is an excellent book for someone preparing to become a bar or bat mitzvah. It could also be helpful for gentiles marrying into Jewish families, or any adult who is planning on converting. --Gail Hudson
A concise and upbeat primer on the Jewish faith, Judaic history, and what it means to be a Jew. -- Senator Joseph Lieberman