From Publishers Weekly
In Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries, popular "books of customs" brought Judaism down to the level of "Every Jew." These books dealt with holidays, life-cycle rituals, weekly Sabbaths and daily prayers. Written in Yiddish, they were illustrated with woodcuts that showed how to observe the rituals and liturgies that composed day-to-day Judaism. Kosofsky, who stumbled upon one of these books while an undergraduate at Harvard, adapts several such guides for modern usage here, including all of the original woodcuts. (He also reproduces the title page from a 1593 edition that promises to teach readers "how to live like a good person" and boasts its superiority to all previous versions.) Kosofskys book is interesting both as a history lesson12 of the woodcuts depict monthly farming activities, for example, showing how agricultural Jewish life was a few centuries agoand a spiritual guide for modern readers. As Kosofsky demonstrates, a "book of customs" does as good a job today of "helping its readers feel comfortable and competent in the Jewish world" as it did hundreds of years ago.
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Beginning in the late fourteenth century, The Book of Customs
, a compact guide to the
Jewish year, was published in Yiddish, the Jews' vernacular at that time in Europe. For nearly four centuries, elaborate editions were created, and it was among the most popular Jewish books in the European Diaspora until it disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century. Using the 1593 Venice edition as a model, Kosofsky added a number of discursive elements, including introductions to the book's major divisions and concepts, descriptions of all of the prayers and many of the Bible readings, a general chapter on Jewish law and custom, and one on Jewish prayer to explain how the daily prayer rituals are performed. Also added are chapters on customs and holidays that weren't mentioned, or didn't exist, in 1593, such as bar mitzvahs and the Holocaust Remembrance Day. This first English translation, as important as it is delightful, includes reproductions of many of the original woodcut illustrations that are housed in the libraries at Oxford and Harvard universities. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.