Post by dovnorman18 on Feb 14, 2012 11:37:59 GMT -5
First, best Jewish book for ANY Jew or anyone interested in Judaism, bar none: "Jewish Literacy" by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Huge, exhaustive, fascinating. I read it like a novel.
Essentials for former Christians who want perspectives on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, historical and theological:
"The Jewish Annotated New Testament," Oxford University Press "Constantine's Sword; The Church and the Jews," James Carroll, Mariner Books "The Crucifixion of the Jews," Franklin H. Littell, Harper & Row "Why The Jews Rejected Jesus," David Klinghoffer, Doubleday "Judaism and Christianity: The Differences," Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Jonathan David Publishers
There are many more. Anybody read any of these? If so, comments are welcome.
"The Torah is true, and some of it may even have happened." --Rabbi William Gershon
I totally concur about "Jewish Literacy". It is a very basic book with each chapter no longer than a few pages, BUT it covers so many topics that it is well over 800 pages long. And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Although Rabbi Telushkin is Orthodox, the book gives fair and respectful information on not just the other movements themselves, but also the important non-Orthodox leaders. I particularly enjoyed his relevant personal vignettes, some of them very funny which helped lighten up what could be very dry material and added a human aspect. For me, the book was very helpful in filling in the gaps in my knowledge of Jewish history.
I can't comment on the books for former Christians because I'm not really a "former Christian" so I haven't read any of them nor do I have any interest in the topic. However, a book that I haven't read myself but might recommend having met the author (the invited speaker for my lay-led minyan's 25th anniversary celebration and Shabbaton) and read some of his other writings: "The Jewish approach to God: a brief introduction for Christians" by Rabbi Neil Gilman books.google.com/books/about/The_Jewish_approach_to_God.html?id=IXuOAAAAMAAJ
What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism - if you can find it, I think it's out of print.
Basic Judaism - Milton Steinberg
God in Search of Man - Abraham J. Heschel
The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism- Telushkin and Prager (VERY good - also see their book on antisemitism: Why the Jews)
The Way Into Encountering God in Judaism - Neil Gillman
also - especially for the theologically minded -
the Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought - Neil Gillman
Judaism and Christianity - the Differences - Trude Weiss-Rosmarin (older and a bit dated, but still in print and good - and short, too)
Understanding Judaism: the Basics of Deed and Creed - Blech (orthodox)
You Take Jesus, I'll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries - Levine - sometimes quite useful - he does have at least one howler of a misunderstanding of Christian theology, but that's not a huge problem overall.
Your People, My People: Finding Acceptance and Fulfillment as a Jew By Choice - Lena Romanoff - something for one's self, maybe, rather than something to give to others - but this is an outstanding book, in my opinion.
I do love personal accounts of conversion - here's a couple of the better ones:
Lovesong: Becoming a Jew - Julius Lester
Pilgrimage of a Proselyte: from Auschwitz to Jerusalem - David Patterson
There is a whole series of 'brief introduction' books available from Jewish Lights:
Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians - Kushner
The Jewish Approach to Repairing the World: A Brief Introduction for Christians - Elliot Dorf
Jewish Ritual: A Brief Introduction for Christians - Kerry Olitzky
The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians - Neil Gillman
and so on - all are good. Which you want would depend on what your friends are most interested in knowing about, or what aspect you are most interested in conveying.
Also - To Life: a celebration of Jewish being and thinking - Harold Kushner and This is My God - Herman Wouk
both those are more about what it is like to BE Jewish, rather than explaining holidays or rituals or theology.
If I had to teach another course on basic Judaism, I would probably use To Life as a text.
Judaism for Dummies and the Complete Idiot's Guide to Judaism actually are pretty good.
If you want Judaism via the festivals and holidays, both Seasons of Our Joy (Arthur Waskow) and The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (Irving Greenberg) are both very good. (Waskow is Renewal, Greenberg is Orthodox)
For general 'how to do holidays' I often consult Strassfeld's Jewish Holidays....
The three books my sponsoring rabbi suggested I read have now been named: 1. "Jewish LIteracy" by Telushkin 2. "Basic Judaism" by Sternberg 3. "This Is My God" by Wouk
"Basic Judaism" showed me how much my lay-led minyan is different from a typical Conservative synagogue. It kept describing things my minyan does as "Orthodox", like having the bima set back from the front of the room and the prayer leader (shaliach tzibur) facing in the same direction as the rest of the congregants, i.e. towards the Ark (Aron Kodesh). And I kept saying to myself, but my minyan does that and we're not Orthodox. But of course having no mechitza and allowing women to lead services, read Torah/Haftarah, and take Aliyot makes it clear tthat we are certainly "not Orthodox". That's why I like to call us "traditional egalitarian" ('traditional" with a small "t" since we are definitely not affiliated with UTJ).
"This Is My God" takes its name from a Biblical passage, but a more descriptive name would be "This is my (Modern Orthodox) Jewish life". It is written in a easy to read narrative style (Wouk is after all a renowned novelist) and I enjoyed it.
After my rabbi made the recommendations, I checked out #2 and #3 from my public library and had read them by our next meeting two weeks later. I read the sections of #1 out of order, starting with the laws and ritual, moving to texts, and ending with Jewish history. But I did still end up reading every single one of the 800+ pages.
Later, after I had read the above three books and I was asking some very detailed questions about halacha*, my rabbi suggested "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice" by Rabbi Isaac Klein, which is a rather extensive guide to Conservative Jewish practice. Definitely not a book for beginners since it assumes familiarity with Hebrew and halachic terminology. (And those with weak stomachs should definitely skip the chapters about ritual slaughter with graphic detail about what types of animal deformities render the animal treif. ) I believe much of the book was a compiled from booklets that R. Klein had written over the years for JTS rabbinical students. (* I had a lot of questions because although my lay-led minyan had several rabbis as members, none of them were "mara d'atra" so I decided to take the opportunity to ask my sponsoring rabbi about all the things for which there was more than one acceptable Conservative opinion.)
Last Edit: Feb 16, 2012 0:38:51 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
If it's a topic related to why Judaism is different, then I think I'd recommend a couple or three books by Samuel Sandmel - he died years ago, but his books are still in print and very good - We Jews and Jesus is one. Also Judaism and Christian Beginnings, and A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament.
there's also books by Amy-Jill Levine which are very good - for instance, The Misunderstood Jew: the Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (don't be put off by the title, Dr Levine is highly respected AND quite respectFUL of Christianity). She's also co-author on the new Jewish Annotated New Testament, which is the NT with footnotes and commentary and such, explaining what the texts mean from the Jewish context most of them came from (and which is so rarely understood).