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Jewish Literacy, Revised Edition

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Jewish Literacy, Revised Edition

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Jewish Literacy, Revised Edition
The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History
By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
William Morrow and Company, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-137498-2

Reviewed by Boris Segel - January 19, 2009

Wow! The revised edition of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's book, Jewish Literacy is one of the best reference books I've ever read. Within the pages of this massive, 768 page tome, Rabbi Telushkin provides an in-depth and engaging overview of Jewish history, religion, and culture. Reading this book will provide you with a complete, general Jewish education that is perfect for Jews seeking to acquire a basic understanding of Jewish history and religion, as well as for non-Jews wishing to learn about Judaism and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Telushkin is a respected educator and scholar. Since it was first published in 1991, this book has been the gold standard for books imparting the basic tenets of Judaism and Jewish history and culture. This new revised edition has been thoroughly updated, and will continue to stand as the best, all-round, reference book in its field. Rabbi Telushkin is also the author of other significant books such as Biblical Literacy, A Code of Jewish Ethics, The Book of Jewish Values, and Jewish Wisdom.

Most important, not only does this book provide the reader with a thorough education, a virtual course in Jewish Everything 101, but it is also a great book to simply sit back and read for pleasure. It is also an outstanding reference book that should be on the bookshelf of every Jewish home and school. Rabbi Telushkin's writing is engrossing, and he writes in a flowing narrative style that not only keeps your interest, but entertains as well. In addition, Rabbi Telushkin's writing style is so accessible and warm that you can easily image that he is talking directly to you as you meet on a one-on-one to study pertinent issues about Jewish history, faith, and culture.

The information in this book is organized into fifteen, thematic sections:
  1. Bible
  2. The Second Commonwealth: The Mishna and the Talmud
  3. Early Medieval Period: Under Islam and Christianity
  4. Late Medieval Period
  5. Modern Period - Western and Eastern Europe
  6. Zionism and Israel
  7. The Holocaust
  8. American-Jewish Life
  9. Soviet Jewry
  10. Antisemitism
  11. Jewish Texts
  12. Jewish Ethics and Basic Beliefs
  13. The Hebrew Calendar and Jewish Holidays
  14. Life Cycle
  15. Synagogue and Prayers
Within each section, related material is grouped into short chapters. The topic to be covered is listed at the top of the chapter, followed by an essay on the given topic. In all there are 352 chapters in this book, and each chapter concludes with a list of sources and suggestions for further readings, which can easily serve as a jumping-off point for those wishing to delve deeper into the subject presented.

The only drawback to this otherwise exceptional book is that its lacks a comprehensive bibliography that lists all the sources and suggestions for further readings that are noted throughout the book. Otherwise, this is an excellent general reference guide on information that every well-informed Jew should know. If you are using this book as a reference book, you will find that it is contains a superb index and that you will easily be able to find any specific topic, or answer to a question, which you might want to look up.

While this book will not teach you everything there is to know about Jews and Judaism, it will provide you with a solid footing from which to embark upon a more in-depth study of the various topics covered within the pages of this inspirational and edifying book. A must for both home and school!


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