Item description for What is a Jew? by Morris N. Kertzer...
Overview Discusses the basic tenets of Judaism; religious law and ritual; modern Israel; Jews and Christians; the social and community concerns of Jews; and Jewish customs, traditions, feasts, and fasts
Publishers Description With over 400,000 copies sold, "What Is a Jew?" is the classic guide that answers 100 of the most commonly asked questions about Jewish life and customs. Completely revised and reorganized, this guide to the traditions, beliefs, and practices of Judaism--for both Jews and non-Jews--tackles a wide range of subjects in a question-and-answer format. Ideal for conversion students, interfaith couples, and congregants seeking answers to essential day-to-day issues.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.28" Width: 5.47" Height: 0.84" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Nov 1, 1996
ISBN 068484298X ISBN13 9780684842981 UPC 076714014008
Reviews - What do customers think about What is a Jew??
G O O D.......I N F O............M I S L E A D I N G......T I T L E Feb 13, 2008
This is a neat little book. It explains not only the major rituals and holidays in Judaism, but also WHY these holidays and rituals occur. It also explains what has happened to these rituals and holidays through the centuries. For instance, there is a Biblical prohibition against shaving....yet all but the very, very, very, very Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men DO shave. The reason for this is that "shaving" has become synomous with using a RAZOR. When electric shavers came along, many Jewish men, wanting to appear less conspicuous in their lives, decided they COULD shave....with electric razors! As the author says, "the prohibition against shaving has virtually been re-interpreted out of existance."
I heartily recommend this book -- for Jewish people who want to know more about their heritage, for open-minded non-Jews who are curious about what Judaism really is, and for anti-Semites, (yes!) ....because, between the covers of this book, they will learn the gentleness and wisdom which comprise REAL Judaism. (A reader may not agree with everything in this book..but he or she will certainly come away with more Respect for Judaism as a religion!)
The one misnomer in this book is it's TITLE. It would be far more accurate for this book to be named: "What is Judaism"? To ask,"What is A Jew?", both "super-semites" and "anti-semites" have wrong answers. "Super-Semites", (or, as I sometimes call them, "Professional Jews" -- because Judaism seems to be all they want to "profess"!), seem to think Jews are almost another species....and a better one, than other people. "Anti-Semites" think the same... only they, of course, think Jews are far, far worse than other people. (It is one thing to love your religion, and your ancestry, and find comfort and joy in them. It is quite another to feel superiour, in any way, because of that religion and/or ancestry! This for anyone, in my opinion, Gentile or Jew!) Indeed, both of these views, in my own opinion, and that of my Rabbi, when I was growing up....are totally, completely wrong. "Jews are no better, and no worse, than anyone else. One God created everyone. This is to show that everyone is equal before the eyes of God", So said my Rabbi. And my parents. And I agree.
"What is a Jew"? The answer is obvious. A Jew is A Human Being!
Great as a quick reference, not intended for depth Dec 24, 2006
This book is written in a unique, FAQ format: ask a question, get an answer. Questions like: do Jews believe in life after death, do Jews believe that Judaism is the only religion, etc. Therefore, it's EXTREMELY easy to find the answer you're looking for; simply find your question in the list and jump to that page. That said, the answers are very to the point and don't go into very much depth. If you're looking for an in-depth understanding of Judaism, get Kushner's "To Life!". However, if you're looking for a quick reference or just a quick overview of Jews, this is a great book (especially for the price).
If your only going to own one book on Judaism... Nov 10, 2006
This is undoubtedly the best general intro to Judaism that I have come across. One important advantage of this book is that it covers in detail the views of all three branches of Judaism...Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Another popular book on Judaism, Joseph Telushkin's Jewish Literacy is written strictly from an Orthodox perspective and therefore gives a much more limited, unyielding view of the Jewish faith than is really representative based on the overall population Since around 85% of Jews (according to a recent survey) consider themselves Conservative or Reform, it's very important to get the full views of the different branches before jumping in with Orthodox statements about homosexuality, the ordination of women, or other topics as if these views are shared by all Jews.
This book is organized in an easy question and anwer format and gives enough information without getting bogged down in too much detail on any one topic. This is the fourth revision since it's original publication in 1953 and reflects recent scholary research and re-appraisals.
Very useful Oct 13, 2006
Like another reviewer, I too use this book as part of an undergraduate course on Modern and Contemporary Judaism, which I teach primarily for military personnel as part of their distance education undergraduate degrees. I include a few other books in the syllabus, but this book is often one of the ones most frequently cited as helpful due to its question-and-answer format. When I was studying for a Jewish Studies certificate at Indiana University some time ago (nearing a quarter of a century ago), an earlier version of this book was one of my regular references for a quick and informative answer to questions as they arose. The more recent edition, revised carefully and thoroughly by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, preserves the style and utility of Rabbi Morris Kertzer's base text while adding material both for extension of questions and updating of information.
The book is broken into nine major sections, each one presenting within a series of questions. The first section looks at the different kinds of Judaism - Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, etc., and some other issues that come up with regard to basic identity - what is a Zionist? How does the Jewish community relate to the wider community?
The next few sections look specifically at religious questions, in terms of Bible and history, ritual and practice, and basic belief structures. Rabbis Kertzer and Hoffman address the differences in beliefs and practices largely for a Christian readership or for the Jewish person raised in a predominantly Christian culture.
Other sections include ideas of home and homeland, calendar issues (what is Chanukah and why does it fall at different times of year? etc.), and Jewish views on various issues in shared society such as divorce, children, and other topics.
The book also includes a useful glossary. `Like members of any culture, Jews describe what matters to them using a specialized vocabulary.' Throughout the book, specialised words are provided with pronunciation keys (although there are a few sounds in Hebrew that are difficult to transliterate into English). In addition to the glossary, there is a very handy index, so that if the particular question needing to be answered cannot be found easily in the table of contents, the topic should be able to be found in the index.
This book is very useful for anyone who is looking for basic answers and insights into Judaism in its different aspects.
very good book Dec 28, 2005
As I read this book it helped me better understand my boyfriend's religion and beliefs. I do reconmend this book to anyone who wants to know about the jewish religion. Now when i am about my boyfreind's family and they talk about their relgion or certin holidays I was able to join in instead of looking like a fool not knowing. The book is very detailed and answers pretty much all questions about the religion that most peolpe ask.