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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture, 2nd Edition

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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture, 2nd Edition

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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture, 2nd Edition
By Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Alpha Books - A Member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc.: 2004
www.idiotsguides.com
ISBN: 1-59257-240-5

Reviewed by Boris Segel - February 2, 2009

Beginning with Adam up through the present, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture (2nd Edition), by Rabbi Benjamin Blech, is an amazing conglomeration of facts and information about Jewish history and culture. As a textbook, and as a reference book, Rabbi Blech has written an outstanding introduction to Jewish history that could be used as the main text in a Jewish History 101 adult education or high school course, as a supplemental college text, or a self-study guide. Rabbi Blech's writing style is friendly, engaging, and witty. You'll not find a dull passage in this entire book, and even if you are well versed in Jewish history, you'll be constantly saying to yourself, "Well, I never knew that!"

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture begins with an overview of who exactly are the Jews, then moves onto Jewish history, starting with Adam and moving to modern times. Some sections, such as the one dealing with Adam, are by the nature of the subject, very brief. Other topics, such as the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel are covered in much greater detail.

The material in this book is divided into eight, thematic parts.
  1. Who Are the Jews?
  2. In the Beginning
  3. Judges, Kings, Prophets - Those Were the Days
  4. Confronting Empires: Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome
  5. The Crescent and the Cross
  6. Emancipation and Enlightenment
  7. Death and Rebirth: The Twentieth Century
  8. The Hall of Fame: A Jewish Who's Who
Rabbi Blech's vibrant retelling the history of the Jewish people is interwoven with accounts of the lives of real people, intriguing tidbits of trivia, 'sage sayings', definitions of unusual words or terms, and keen insights into the events that transpired in the past and the repercussions from many of these events, many of them still affecting us today.

From beginning to end, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture is a fascinating book to read. I consider myself well versed in Jewish history, and still found this book to be very enlightening. Most important, Rabbi Blech's writing style and in-depth knowledge and understanding of the subject matter will engage readers of all ages. Once you read this book, you'll surely want to continue with your studies into Jewish history and culture. I recommend that you start out by tackling Rabbi Blech's suggested reading list, which you find in the book's appendices. It is not a comprehensive reading list, but it does provide an excellent starting point for further study. Don't let the 'idiot' in the book's title fool you. This is an excellent, introductory guide to Jewish history and culture, and one that I'm sure you will keep around as a reference book long after you are finished reading it. Happy learning!


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