Judaism discussion


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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello everyone-

I wanted to take an opportunity to introduce myself. I am a Jew-by-Choice in the Cincinnati area. I was raised non-denominational Protestant by a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. Going through the gerut process really helped me to examine my religious views closely and build a strong connection to Judaism.

I've encountered a lot of really great books on Judaism, but I'm always on the lookout for more. I'm going to add some of my favorites to the bookshelf. What is your background? What are your favorite books with a Jewish theme?


message 2: by Isaac (new)

Isaac | 1 comments Hey Robert,

Welcome to the group! I absolutely love Jews by choice. I think it takes incredible bravery and deep soul searching and truth seeking to find a pathway to Judaism. So, Kudos to you! ;-)

I was born and raised Jewish but I reexamined everything I was taught when I was in my twenties and discovered a much more nuanced and open minded approach to Judaism within the classic texts. I have learned that for major issues its best to study the relevant texts for oneself rather then relying on others that might have a particular agenda. Its all about the truth.

Some of my favorite books on Judaism are Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's A letter in the scroll - understanding our Jewish identity and exploring the legacy of the worlds oldest religion. As well as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's book - G-d in search of man, a philosophy of Judaism.

I would love to hear what everyone else thinks is their best books about Judaism.

Yitz ;-)

message 3: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments I'm so glad you introduced yourself! I'm new to this group also, and yours was the very first post I've seen.

I've got two Jewish "bookshelves" - one is called "Jewish" and one is called "Torah." The "Jewish" bookshelf is culturally Jewish, and not necessarily frum. The "Torah" shelf contains halacha, mussar, and even some frum memoir and fiction.

May I ask what everyone's favorite bookstores are for Jewish books?

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

We don't have any wonderful bookstores for Jewish books, but Half Price Books isn't terrible. I typically buy books off Amazon or Half.com. Does anyone else know any good places?

message 5: by Antimidas (new)

Antimidas | 6 comments I am a "near Jew by choice" in the Mpls/STP area. I say near because I have not gone through the conversion process, and have too many political differences with the local rabinnical staff to bear the political messages of services any longer. I prefer to worship and not be told I am evil for being white, republican and having money. I guess that makes me more of a ben Noach.

Judaism is a quest I began over 20 years ago when I was trying to find my spiritual place in the world. I finally decided that since most monotheistic religions are based on the one text, I should learn the language and study what the text meant for me rather than what I had always been told to believe during protestant services growing up. Heschel succunctly stated how I felt on page one of "G-d In Search of Man". I have never turned back.

Artscroll is a great source if you are looking for modern English translations of older texts such as Rashi, Nachmanides, Baal HaTurim, etc. I have spent a small fortune acquiring everything I can get my hands on from them. The anthology of commentary in the Stone Edition chumash is unequalled. Their's is also the most comprehensive English translation on Talmud I have ever found, though a 73 volume set will cost you around $2000.

I am now the research library for all of my friends be they Jewish, protestant or Messianic. The favorites of everyone I know not interested in historical texts are Telushkin, Heschel and Kushner.

We are fortunate that there are two Jewish bookstores locally (Elijah's Cup and Brochin's). But I still primarily order directly from Artscroll, Feldheim and Soncino. Barnes & Noble has a growing selection, but it is really small in comparison to Christian texts and the locals keep reshelving their Christian books into the Jewish section. I think they are trying to make their point subtle. Amazon also has a wide selection for more modern books. Stanford University Press is working on publishing a modern English translation of the Zohar.

Looking back at this, I think I have spent a small fortune on books on Judaism. I had not realized that I filled an entire room with them.

message 6: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments I'm so glad you mentioned the Noahides! I'd like to recommend a book of one Noahide's journey: Turning to Torah by Kimberly Hanke. For more of a review, check out my shelves!

message 7: by David (new)

David | 1 comments Hi ---

I just joined this group -- I'm a Jewish writer and teacher living in Ohio -- and am looking forward to any discussions the group might start.

I'm posting now to let the members of the group know about a Jewish blog I've recently launched. My blog explores the nature of creativity and the creative process for writers, artists and others, using a Jewish spiritual lens. If you want to get right to the site, here’s the address:
artiststorah.typepad.com (no "www" at the beginning)

If you’d be interested in a little more detail:

As a writer, and as a person who teaches about creativity, I find myself regularly wrestling with a number of big questions that are rooted in the life I lead: What is creativity? Where does it come from? Who has it? How does it work? What does it do in the world? As a Jewish writer, I find myself asking: What, if anything, does Judaism have to say about all this?

In Judaism, we turn for understanding first and foremost to the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Our sages have even suggested that God read the Torah for instructions when creating the universe! Now, I should say that I personally don’t take a story like that literally, but see it instead as a kind of inspired metaphor for just how rich the Torah is as a text, how full it is of a people’s accumulated wisdom, how engaged it is with what we feel as sacred in the universe. With that understanding, this blog delves into our weekly Torah readings for wisdom on all aspects of the creative person’s life. Above all, this exploration is meant to be open and useful to all creative people, whether religious or not, whether Jewish or not, whether a professional artist or a part-time amateur.

So – feel free to check out “The Artist’s Torah.” If you like what you read and want to be notified whenever there’s a new post (I’ll post once or twice per week), click the “subscribe” link on the right side of the page. And if you think you know someone else who might be interested, don’t hesitate to spread the word as far as it’ll go.


B’shalom (in peace).

message 8: by Shlomo (new)

Shlomo | 5 comments I'm always looking for an interesting read.. someone in this group (I can't remember who) had "The Quest for Utopia" on his/her bookshelve, I took it out and read it. If the person who had it on the shelf wants to talk about it, speak up.

message 9: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments I've got it on my "to-read" list, so I can't discuss it yet. Where'd you get your copy?

message 10: by Shlomo (new)

Shlomo | 5 comments Kressel wrote: "I've got it on my "to-read" list, so I can't discuss it yet. Where'd you get your copy?"

At a university library. I can take books from two university libraries and a Jewish library, so I can usually find books at one of them. btw, you can read my brief review of this book at www.jtasbookclub.blogspot.com

message 11: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments Very interesting. There's a chapter on Jewish communists, I hope? That's the author's specialty, as I understand it.

message 12: by Shlomo (new)

Shlomo | 5 comments Kressel wrote: "Very interesting. There's a chapter on Jewish communists, I hope? That's the author's specialty, as I understand it."

Actually, there's no chapter dedicated to Jewish communisits, but the chapter covering 1840-1939 talks about them. It's a very short book (apprx 150pgs) for a few thousand years of history.

message 13: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments Short history is the kind I like best. And I heard the author speak on Rabbi Wein's new film "Faith and Fate 7" so I'm very intrigued. He said that when the State of Israel first started, it was a socialistic welfare state, which was absolutely necessary for the time.

message 14: by Shlomo (new)

Shlomo | 5 comments "socialistic welfare state, which was absolutely necessary for the time"

'socialistic welfare state' can mean a lot of things. A libertarian could argue that the U.S today is one. We could argue that the Soviet Union was one.

I do not agree that Israel needed the type of autocratic socialist party rule that it had in its first years.

There's a place for overviews of history (short history) and there's a place for more detailed history (like McCullogh's 1776 and 'John Adams'). If a person is really interested in a prticular period an overview is not sufficient to get an appreciation of the time.

"The Quest for Utopia" is not really a 'history' book, it looks at models of Jewish models, or views, of how 'rule' or government should be handled in different periods time. I found most of the chapters interesting (each chapter is written by a different professor). I wish I had time to look up the footnotes on the chapters that interested me more.

message 15: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments Oh, I thought it was all by Prof. Gittelman.

And what he said about the social welfare was not regarding the autocratic aspect of the government, but all the benefits given to the Sephardim in their resettlement.

message 16: by David (new)

David Hazony (davidhazony) | 1 comments I just launched an Amazon List called "Smart Books About the Bible," many of which are heavily Jewish. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/9zuADw
Love to hear your thoughts, and any additions you want to suggest!

message 17: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 9 comments Will you accept audio books?

message 18: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 2 comments I just joined this group, and was happy to find it. I belong to several other groups here on Goodreads, and of late I've noticed that some of the books I'm reading are bringing up my issues with anti-semitism frequently. For example, I was reading "Down and Out in Paris and London", by George Orwell, and ended up having to stop reading it because the anti-semitism was really bothering me. I am finding it more important these days to talk to other Jewish people, both online and in person. I am a 61-year-old woman who is disabled from fibromyalgia and haven't got much money, but when I can (or sometimes when I can't!) I buy books. I'm also very interested in cooking and recipe collecting, and love Jewish cookbooks. Other interests include needlework, especially counted cross-stitch, jewelry making, and art. I'm looking forward to getting to know the members here and reading books with you. Thanks!!

message 19: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 2 comments Kressel wrote: "I'm so glad you introduced yourself! I'm new to this group also, and yours was the very first post I've seen.

I've got two Jewish "bookshelves" - one is called "Jewish" and one is called "Torah." ..."

I just joined this group and saw your question about Jewish bookstores. There's one in Chicago on Devon Avenue, called Rosenblums. You might wish to Google it to see if they are online and if they ship books. Good luck!

message 20: by Anna (new)

Anna I joined this group a little while ago but haven't got around to posting yet. I'm from England where I live with my husband and dog. My sons have all grown up and I'm trying to adjust to life with an empty nest. I'm an avid reader so I guess more time to read will be on the horizon so it's not all bad.

Shana Tova to you all.

message 21: by rivka (new)

rivka Shana tova!

message 22: by Nic (new)

Nic Hello, London based 27 year old.

message 23: by Chris (new)

Chris | 5 comments Hello, I'm from northern Canada. I have never met a Jew face to face, and I would love to sit down and have a good conversation with one, so far books are the only way that is going to happen. I'm Christian but I have high regard for the Jewish people.

I am currently reading "To Life" By Harold Kushner and I have especially enjoyed A Code of Jewish Ethics Vol. 1 and 2 by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin as well as "Covenant & Conversation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

message 24: by PSLB (new)

PSLB | 1 comments Hi Chris, Welcome! I have also read R. Telushkin's Code of Jewish Ethics and am now reading C&C by R. Sacks. They're great books. Have you read Cahill's Gifts of the Jews? You might enjoy that book, too.

message 25: by Chris (new)

Chris | 5 comments I have not read Gift of the Jews, But I will now. Thanks for the recommendation.

So far I have yet to be disappointed by anything I have read by a rabbi. There is a certain depth that is generally lacking with Christian authors.

message 26: by Antimidas (new)

Antimidas | 6 comments I too started out with Telushkin and Kushner. Another good author is Abraham Joshua Heschel - a rabbi who was intimately involved in the civil rights movement in the 60's. He has two books in particular on Jewish philosophy that - coming from a christian background - would be helpful in seeing the similarities and differences. One of the books is "God in Search of Man." The other is "Man Is Not Alone." I highly recommend both. In fact, I placed a quote from God in Search of Man in a review of it that will most likely hook you. ;-)

Welcome to our little group!

message 27: by Chris (new)

Chris | 5 comments One person I have been wondering about is Hillel. Is there anything by him or about him that I should be reading? He sounds intriguing.

message 28: by Antimidas (new)

Antimidas | 6 comments Actully, there is one by Telushkin. It is the best biography I have found, even though it is not absolutely biographical. It is more an exposition of his philosophy.

Telushkin, Joseph (2010-09-14). Hillel: If Not Now, When? (Jewish Encounters). Random House, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8052-4289-8

You will not find anything written by Hillel himself though. You will find him mentioned and quoted throughout the Talmud, but that is a full 73 volumes that are encyclopedia size (for the Hebrew and English Shottenstein edition).

message 29: by Chris (new)

Chris | 5 comments I was wondering about that thanks! I noticed the Telushkin one, and was wondering if it was any good.

message 30: by Antimidas (new)

Antimidas | 6 comments I think it will give you the most complete information about Hillel as well as extrapolation as to how those teachings can be used today. There are appendices which will tell you which reference works have attributions to Hillel.

I see a number of books at Amazon regarding Hillel, but this is the only one I have purchased and read. I did so because of my prior experiences with Telushkin. I can't speak to the quality of any other than the Telushin.

By the way, I have not found a book by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Joseph Telushkin or Harold Kushner that I would not recommend. :-)

message 31: by Oriyah (new)

Oriyah Nitkin | 1 comments Anything by Akiva Tatz is awesome.

message 32: by Chris (new)

Chris | 5 comments Has anyone read these books, or have any recommendations for good Jewish folktales?


message 33: by Debra (new)

Debra (sociosight) | 3 comments Dear Friends,

In an attempt to offer a brief respite in these troubled times, starting this Saturday night, at midnight, until Monday night, at midnight, I will be giving away free download copies of my book, "There's Jews in Texas?" on Amazon.com.

I am asking each person who reads this email to please publicize this event widely to everyone they know, and to send it to their Jewish friends, family and people they know would appreciate receiving a copy of the book. You do not need to have a Kindle reader to read the e-book, there is an easy download on the Amazon website you can use.

I am thankful for the amazing response this book has received, and it is my pre-Chanukah gift to you and your friends and family. You can find the book to download here:


message 34: by Antimidas (new)

Antimidas | 6 comments Thanks Debra! I look forward to reading it.

message 35: by Debra (new)

Debra (sociosight) | 3 comments Great! Please sure with friends and loved ones. Amazon has a free e-reader on their site do you don't have to have a Kindle to read my book. Enjoy!

message 36: by Antimidas (new)

Antimidas | 6 comments I may have shared with more people than you care to know. I will be interested to see how many copies you generously give away.

message 37: by Debra (new)

Debra (sociosight) | 3 comments You're a jewel! As of just now, the Report says 276 folks have downloaded my book since 12:00 am this morning -- the special runs until midnight Monday night. The last time I only ran the special for one day and 201 folks downloaded it -- I've been a little better at getting the word out this time around, and people are really helping by sharing widely. I appreciate you a lot!

message 38: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Trupp I’m taking this opportunity to do what authors like to do best- Kvel and Kvetch. Kvelling, a quintessential Yiddish word, conjures up images of beaming parents; proudly boasting about their offspring. While I do my fair share of maternal boasting, today I’m kvelling about another sort of offspring- my book, a memoir with a twist. My story is a bit like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” meets “Father Knows Best” meets “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” And for old movie buffs, this book is a nod to such classics, as “I Remember Mama.” The other “K” word, kvetching, is something with which any Indie author can relate: complaining. Simply put, I had NO IDEA how difficult it would be to publish, to promote, or to merely get people to “Like” my book’s page.

I always knew I had at least one good book in me. Being inspired by the old adage, “write what you know”, how could I not? My unique background has been the ideal conversation opener on numerous occasions, including many awkward, social affairs, yet I never could get pen to paper… until the advent of a job promotion. Being the “new kid on the block,” I was once again, prompted to explain where I was from…you see, it’s my name- Mirta; the great ice-breaker. The series of questions that inevitably followed led me to explain how a “white girl with blue eyes” speaks Spanish, has Russian grandparents, and is Jewish. In between trying to settle down in a new office and adjust to new responsibilities, my co-workers pursued their line of questioning...Jews in South America? How did that happen? When they learned that my husband was from Argentina as well, they were enchanted by our long distance romance. One question led to another until one woman exclaimed, “You should write a book!” When, a few days later, she insisted that I review an article about self-publishing, my creative juices began flowing.

I had the material- fifty years’ worth at least, but creative juices or not, I struggled. I struggled with first person vs. third person, real names or fictitious, copy right regulations and the oh-so-beloved Chicago Manual of Style. I struggled to appease family members who wanted to be removed from the story line and then, complained when they were not included- Oy vey! Dios mío! Oh my goodness! It took me about two years of work and yet; once I typed that final word, the real struggle began. I had no clue how to get the book published “the old-fashioned way.” Researching on the Internet, I learned about marketing proposals, submission requirements and inquiry letters; the entire undertaking felt like a full time job that required a university degree. Although I received several positive and encouraging emails in reply, no one wanted to pursue the project. It seemed an impossible task for this “newbie” memoir scribbler, so I began considering the self- publishing route with renewed enthusiasm.

Createspace seemed to be a good fit for my project. It afforded me the opportunity to publish easily and cost-effectively. The name recognition didn’t hurt either…Amazon, hello? Spending a good deal of my spare time marketing, I use the most simplest of means- Facebook, Goodreads and of course, countless emails and flyers to friends and family. I’ve participated in Giveaways with bloggers, donated books to local groups and had an article printed in the hometown newspaper. The amount of memoirs on the market is daunting; my wholesome story is competing with some pretty serious material in the same category, not to mention the coming-of-age vampires and charming sorcerers in other genres.

After all is said and done, when I look at the finished product, I still can’t believe it. This little Jewish, Russian, Argentine, American girl who was timid and self-conscious grew up and wrote her story to share with her friends and family and with complete strangers! And those strangers like it! Mazal Tov (congratulations) to me!

With Love, The Argentina Family: Memories of Tango and Kugel; Mate with Knishes

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