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100 Questions and Answers About American Jews with a Guide to Jewish Holidays Paperback – March 1, 2016
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For many years -- even before I was ordained as a rabbi -- I've been using Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's encyclopedia-like book "Jewish Literacy" to teach those interested in learning more about Judaism as well as those in classes leading toward Jewish conversion. I will continue to use that resource, but this simple book will serve as a useful introductory guide for the non-Jewish parents of those who are seeking conversion to Judaism. It will also be a quick and easy reader for non-Jews who simply want to understand more about the basics of Judaism.
This is the 10th guidebook to cross-cultural issues published by a group at Michigan State University's Journalism School and the first that takes on the Jewish faith as a subject. Many local Jewish leaders from the Detroit Jewish community contributed to the book to ensure accuracy and balance. Led by Joe Grimm at Michigan State University's School of Journalism, classes of students who call themselves "Bias Busters" meet each academic term to research, write and edit a new guide. ... The concept of the Bias Busters classes, and this resulting series of guidebooks, is to teach cultural competence by spreading awareness about a certain group or community. Ultimately, the goal is to break down cultural walls and open up discourse among groups.
I wasn't surprised to hear the process for how this book begins because it sounds very familiar to when I speak in front of non-Jewish groups and ask the attendees to submit questions about Judaism. The type of questions I receive are very familiar to the questions asked and answered in this book. The ultimate goal of this project is to bridge cultures, but a wonderful byproduct is the creation of a useful, inexpensive and easy-to-use guide that can be offered to those curious about Judaism or looking to have a better understanding of their friends, neighbors or co-workers.
--Rabbi Jason Miller, The Huffington Post
From the Author
The Michigan State University School of Journalism designed this series as a journalistic tool to replace bias and stereotype with accurate information. We create guides that are factual, clear and accessible.
Questioning and dialogue are deeply ingrained in Jewish tradition, beginning with the study of scriptural texts. Questioning keeps Judaism alive and relevant in changing times. Questions are also central to journalism. We began this guide by asking dozens of Jewish people with different perspectives and practices what they thought people wanted or needed to know about them. Some questions are simple, but the answers seldom are. A full discussion would fill volumes. It is also reasonable to ask whether these are even the right questions.
One of the last questions we took up, even after the cover had been designed, was whether the title should refer to "American Jews" or "Jewish Americans." It might seem like a simple question. But it is not. There are strongly held views, well supported, for both labels. And labels are a simplistic way to describe the complexity of a people. We made the best choice we could for the cover, based on the discussion, but we use both terms inside to recognize that opinions vary.
Finally, we know there can be no universally satisfactory set of such questions. We hope you will consider these as a place to start.
Here, then, we present an imperfect introduction to American Jews. Have the conversations the questions should engender. Use the resources we include. Understanding does not come from one small guide or from one conversation, but from an ongoing discussion and listening to many perspectives.
Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Magazine and editorial director for National Geographic Partners
Joe Grimm, visiting editor in residence, Michigan State University School of Journalism
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Top Customer Reviews
As far as content, I was rather satisfied with the integration of liberal themes and social politics - both of which are things that I go looking for in resources like this guide. There was mention of contraceptives, abortion, gay marriage, intermarriage and other important themes. I feel like the answers did a good job of addressing both men and women, without it becoming disproportionately masculine.
My only critique would be that I wished question 16 - regarding the main forms of Judaism - would have been up higher in the guide. The definitions of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc. would have been useful earlier on.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has any problems understanding the race, culture or history of the Jewish communities. It is an easy read that would only take a short couple of hours to finish. The concise narrative makes it easy to flip through and find the answers to the questions you may have been asking yourself.
The words on the pages not only create an easy understanding of its subject, but the book also has several pages of infographics and charts to give readers numbers and visuals to understand demographics and more. Not only is this book an easy read, but it is factual, concise and clear. All I would want to know now is what could possibly be missing in these 110 pages of information on one of the oldest and most influential cultures in the world.