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Monday, August 1, 2011

Judaism for Dummies Book Review

Besides just being someone who enjoys learning about different religious beliefs and traditions, I've been on a bit of a for Dummies kick lately.  The for Dummies series of books, as you probably know, are usually written with the complete newbie in mind in regards to whatever the subject of the book is.  Judaism for Dummies is no different and I believe is a good introduction for non-Jews interested in the faith and Jews who were raised in a more secular atmosphere and want to get back to their roots.

The authors David Blatner and Rabbi Ted Falcon I believe come from a Reform background.  However, I'm not  sure of that in the case of Mr. Blatner as I don't have the book in front of me anymore (it was a library loan).  They treat the three main branches of Judaism, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, fairly, though I've seen some reviews to the contrary on Amazon.

They don't separate the book into three parts, one for each branch.  What they do is more organic and helps you understand the different strands of belief and practices.  The book is basically broken down into the following six parts:

  1. What Jews Generally Believe
  2. From Womb to Tomb:  The Life Cycle
  3. An Overview of Jewish History
  4. Celebrations and Holy Days
  5. The Part of Tens
  6. The Appendices

The first four parts cover very topically each of those subjects.  The history overview includes biblical history you may already be familiar with.  The authors mention within each section what some of the differences between the branches are.  The Part of Tens introduces different aspects of Judaism and Jewish history, sort of a names and places you should know section.  The appendices cover things like Jewish words, a sampler of prayers and blessings, a Jewish calendar and Jewish books and organizations for you to learn more.

Blatner and Falcon share personal anecdotes which bring humor and warmth to the subject.  This isn't a dry, scholarly tome because of this, but it's certainly not dumbed down either.  But it would be fair to say that like most for Dummies books, the authors only have so much space to handle a very complex subject, so again, it's a topical work.

Judaism for Dummies is a gentle introduction to the faith and culture of the Jewish people. It doesn't overwhelm but doesn't treat the reader, well like a dummy.  It can stand alone as an intro for those interested in comparative religion (besides reading the religious texts themselves) as well as whet the appetite for people who want to delve deeper and go on to study the religious texts and other works.

Author websites:

FTC Disclosure:  The publisher has not paid me for this review and I checked this book out of my local library.


© Trish Deneen