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On Being a Jew [Paperback]

By James Kugel (Author)
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Item description for On Being a Jew by James Kugel...

Composed as a dialogue between a wily Syrian-Jewish banker and an American graduate student of literature, this engaging book explains the basic beliefs and practices of Judaism. Includes Jewish teachings on intermarriage and conversion, keeping the Sabbath, prayer and Torah, midrash and mitzvot, and God's presence in the world.

Publishers Description

Composed as a meandering dialogue between a wily Syrian-Jewish banker and an American graduate student of literature, this engaging book explains all the basic beliefs and practices of Judaism--Jewish teachings on intermarriage and conversion, keeping the Sabbath, prayer and Torah, midrash and mitzvot, and God's presence in the world. Although the book has plenty of the "how to" of religious practice, "Being a Jew" is in the end an eloquent reflection on Judaism's deepest theme: living life as a way of serving God.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Pages   202
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.17" Width: 5.43" Height: 0.46"
Weight:   0.54 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 20, 1998
Publisher   The Johns Hopkins University Press
Age  18
ISBN  0801859433  
ISBN13  9780801859434  

Availability  74 units.
Availability accurate as of May 28, 2017 04:51.
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More About James Kugel

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James Kugel is the Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University and Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Poetry and Prophecy, Early Biblical Interpretation and The Idea of Biblical Poetry, the last available from Johns Hopkins. His The Bible as It Was, an introduction to the Torah's ancient interpreters, was published in 1997.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Jewish
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Jewish Life

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Reviews - What do customers think about On Being a Jew?

Admirable purpose less than perfect realization   Dec 24, 2004
James Kugel writes his own up-to- date Kuzari in the form of a dialogue between a young man newly interested in Judaism and a wise old practicioner of the faith. This is not a very harsh dialogue but rather a kind of ' maieutic dialogue' in which the questioner brings out the great knowledge inherent in the older master. In this there comes much explanation and justification of traditional practices. The problem is that this is done in a largely humorless and non- appealing way. The book is admirable in purpose but its less than perfect realization make me wonder who exactly would be convinced by such a work.
For better and worse, a modern "Cuzari"  Sep 20, 2004
While I take issue with some of his views, especially those on non-Orthodox religious Judaism, Kugel's book deserves attention because of its unique approach. Instead of explaining Jewish religious traditions in humanistic terms, as do most contemporary defenses of traditional observance (Orthodox and non-Orthodox), Kugel does what Yehuda Halevi did for medieval Jews. Like Halevi's, Kugel's is not a rationalist approach. He describes the life of observant Jews as it is experienced by (at least some of) those who live it. His quirky reading of the tradition has a charm and attraction that shouldn't be written off.
Honest, Stimulating, and Provocative  Aug 15, 2003
Kugel's book provokes you to think rather than present you with pre-packaged answers to complex questions. If you're looking for easy answers, look elsewhere. If you're looking for an approach, this is a good place to start.

Rather than use the stadard approach to selling religion: It will make you happier and healthier, Kugel provides an alternative to this narcissistic version of G-d's place in our lives.

A brilliant insight into traditional Judaism  Mar 13, 2003
The current time period can be described as the polarization of Modern orthodoxy. Modern orthodoxy is being stretched on two opposite fronts and faces a serious danger of collapse. On the one side there is a "blackening" of Judaism and this threatens compromising basic fundamentals of Judaism which although stems from a tremendous respect and fear (as the term "Charedi" means) for the mitzvoth is nonetheless not ideal. At the same time there is a counter pull which is equally as destructive if not more so (but only on a technical level being that the former adheres to halacha, yet fundamentally they both represent the same horrors and threats). The counter pull is assimilationism.

In contrast to both of these ideas stands Modern orthodoxy. It must be realized that Modern orthodoxy is not a middle ground, it is not a buffer ground between charredim and Conservative/Reform/Reconstructionism. This is a fallacy. Modern orthodoxy is not a compromise. It is not a combination. It is neither an enhancement of religion by the introduction of society nor the enhancement of society by the addition of culture/religion. It is the way of truth. We believe it is the lifestyle that g-d demands out of us. There is no reason that in the modern time people are embarrassed, silent, shy, apprehensive, or apologetic about "our way", the way of Truth! (Rabbi Lamm)

With this understanding the battle to maintain a true Modern orthodoxy in which its adheres are both truly living in the world to serve G-d is 1. a proper understanding of Judaism and 2. a sense of pride within Judaism. I think this work by Professor Kugel is brilliant in that it outlines the fundamentals of Judaism and presents them in an extremely well expressed manner. The book describes how Jews live to serve g-d and he leaves the reader with an inspiration. Essentially I see the book as the answer to what Modern Orthodoxy needs in its current struggle. I see this book as a critical read and encourage it heavily.

Biased Presentation of Judaism  May 30, 2002
I would give this book zero stars if it were possible to do so. Kugel's presentation of what it means to be a Jew in the world today has a heavy-handed Orthodox bias that is most present in its presentation of other Jewish movements. The most disappointing aspect of the book was Judd Lewis's (Yehuda HaLevi's) failure to raise any serious questions to the dogma and doggerel laid down by the man who is supposed to convince him not to intermarry. If you are seeking a good book about what it means to be a Jew today, check out any of Joseph Telushkin's books, which, though written from an Orthodox viewpoint, manage to present all forms of Judaism without bias/

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