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What is a Jew? Paperback – November 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 5 Reprint edition (November 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068484298X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684842981
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Kertzer, who died in 1984, wrote the first edition of this book in 1953. He revised it three times, most recently in 1978. Now his nephew, also a rabbi and professor at the Hebrew Union College, has revised the book again. Originally intended to "guide non-Jews to a better understanding of their fellow Jewish Americans" as well as to "enable Jews themselves to rediscover forgotten roots of tradition and belief," the book still serves this purpose admirably, addressing all of the traditional questions: What in general do Jews believe? What are Orthodox Jews? What is Torah? Also addressed are newer concerns: What is the Jewish attitude toward feminism? According to Judaism, do animals have rights? Why do Jews persist in remembering the Holocaust? About half the material in this revised edition is new; the entire book is written from a calmly instructional, nonevangelical viewpoint and in an engaging style that will appeal to young people and old, Jews and non-Jews. Highly recommended for all public and school libraries.
- Marcia Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I found this book very easy to read and understand as well as follow.
Angela Preimesberger
`Like members of any culture, Jews describe what matters to them using a specialized vocabulary.'
FrKurt Messick
I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to understand Judaism better.
David E. Levine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Brucia on December 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some books on religion give a warm fuzzy feeling - others give a lot of detailed information. This work is definitely in category two! In a question-response format (114 of each), this volume manages to cover almost anything one would want to know about Judaism. Originally written by the late Rabbi Morris N. Kertner, his nephew Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman has updated it. ("What Is a Jew" was first published in 1953, and has gone through three revisions, and countless reprints.) A new feature I found very useful in this revised edition is its transliteration of Hebrew words -- abundant in this work -- as they occur, together with their meanings. The 148 Hebrew (and occasionally Yiddish or Aramaic) terms used throughout the text are brought together in a glossary at the end of the volume, too. ---- Though this book is written from a "middle of the road" Jewish perspective, it carefully points out the differences between the four contemporary major divisions of Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist schools). "What Is a Jew" also gives fair treatment to the Chasidim (Hassidim), and such historical schools as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Mitnagdim, and others. To give an idea of the range of questions covered in this paperback, here is a brief sample: "Who Were `The Rabbis'?"; "What is Halachah?"; "Is There a Priesthood in Judaism?"; "Do Jews Believe Literally in Satan?"; "According to Judaism, Do Animals Have Rights?"; "What is the Difference Between A Synagogue, a Shul, and A Temple?"; Why Do Some Jews Keep Only One Day of a Holy Day, While Others Keep Two?"; and "What Is the Jewish Attitude Toward Divorce?"; "Does Judaism Accept Converts?", and many other equally interesting topics.Read more ›
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Morris Kertzer's book has been extensively revised by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, an eminent Reform Rabbi who gives fair and faithful treatment to all branches of Judaism in this book. I teach a course in Judaism at a Catholic College and I use this book as a key text. Rabbi Hoffman lucidly explains theology, ethics, customs, traditions, holidays, the Sabbath, Jewish lifecycle events, etc in an easily understood style which is helpful to both Jews and non Jews alike. He also makes a very fair attempt to be non judgmental about the differing views of the various branches of Judaism and, for the most part, represents each of these views fairly. I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to understand Judaism better.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Parodi TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
What I liked most about WHAT IS A JEW? (aside from the somewhat humorous title) is how succinct and well organized it is. It is written mostly in a question and answer format, and just about all the questions a potential convert will have are listed and then answered. This book is also a good introduction for anyone just interested in learning about Judaism. I was impressed with the author's ability to convey the vastness of Judaism; there are so many different braches within the Jewish family. The author really conveys the love he has for his spiritual path, and makes it sound very exciting and interesting.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the best book I've found that provides an overview of Judaism. Its intention is to inform and provide understanding without needless bias or judgment. I read Harold Kushner's To Life! prior to What is a Jew? and was disappointed. His Conservative bias is obvious and gets in the way of his ability to present an overall understanding of Judaism. I don't get that sense at all with What is a Jew? Rabbi Kertzer and Rabbi Hoffman willingly present all the ways Judaism has come to be interpreted and practiced. They may analyze and draw conclusions, but it is done to help understanding, not to promote their own opinions or to judge others.
This book is a refreshing approach to a difficult topic, filled with wisdom and insight.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. I am a Reform Jew but I didn't really know what that meant. A friend of mine was curious about the Jewish religion and started asking me basic questions about what Jews believe but I didn't know how to answer. I picked up this book, thinking I would skim it and find her answers. Instead, I read it cover to cover and enjoyed avery minute of it. It was written in a way that was not overwhelming and it answered every question about what Jews believe from the symbolic meaning of the Star of David to Jews' beliefs on homosexuality. There was a short section on the history and each section talked about the beliefs of all different kinds of Jews. All in all a great read! I DEFINITELY recommend it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on March 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book immensely, as it helped me to better understand the religious beliefs and practices of my Jewish friends and colleagues. When a few gathered to discuss plans for Yom Kippur services, I was able to be an interested and somewhat knowledgeable participant. So the book helped me with inter-cultural relations. A little basic knowledge helped me deal with a Jewish anti-semite who criticized the young Jewish lady who was our assistant (picture this: a Christian defending a Jew against anti-semitic remarks from another Jew. Very uncomfortable for me,to say the least, but morally essential.) I'm a Christian and found the book informative, rather than insulting ... like Rabbi Kuschner's book "To Life." Kuschner's book insulted me,and I don't recommend it to any non-Jew or any Jew who has Christian friends.
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