Book Recommendations


Staff Picks

Overviews

Holidays

Jewish Law

Jewish Life

Jewish History

Jewish Prayer

Jewish Thought

Kabbalah


Staff Picks

PASSOVER SURVIVAL KIT Shimon Apisdorf

by Sarah Rochel Hewitt

Passover…the season of matzah, maror and minding the minutes until you can get away from your family. Not anymore! Shimon Apisdorf’s fantastic Passover Survival Kit is the perfect solution for bringing meaning and movement to every Seder table.

Shimon Apisdorf draws his readers in with a light, conversational style to his writing: not lecturing to his readers, but rather holding a friendly dialogue with them.

The Passover Survival Kit is a combination of Apisdorf’s survival guide and a Haggadah. The survival guide is for pre-Passover preparation. As all good Jewish books do, it starts with Passover questions such as why four cups of wine, why hide the afikomen, and why is so much time spent cleaning for Passover. The answers to these questions lead into a chapter long discussion about the concept of freedom and how Passover is the Jewish celebration of freedom. The first section of the Passover Survival Kit also contains guidelines for “how to survive the seder” whether you are guest or host, as well as an explanation of the fifteen sections of the seder.

The Passover Survival Kit is also equipped with an enhanced Haggadah. Not only does Apisdorf include the complete Haggadah in English, but also questions and answers, mini-essays and activity suggestions. Apisdorf also clearly marks important seder points with recognizable symbols such as stop signs and question marks. The Haggadah is enlightening for everyone — from the first-time seder participant to someone who has led the seder for the last ten years.

Shimon Apisdorf’s Passover Survival Kit is an essential addition to enhance everyone’s Passover.

Printed by Leviathan Press

Sarah Rochel Hewitt is NJOP’s Publications Coordinator


Maus, Art Spiegelman

Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman are graphic portrayals of the Holocaust memories of his father, Vladek Spiegelman. Through the medium of illustration, Spiegelman metaphorically relays the stories and accounts of an interview he conducted with his father. The books are filled with emotion, that will make you laugh and cry. Moving back and forth from the interview with his father to the stories his father tells, Spiegelman makes it clear how his father was affected by being a part of the Holocaust. Don’t be misled by the illustrations. The Maus books are not children’s books. They are intense books for anyone who is interested in learning about events that happened during the Holocaust. I highly recommend Maus, but not for people with a weak stomach or a bad heart.

-Jonathan Solomon (Former) Regional Program Coordinator
National Jewish Outreach Program


Ethics from Sinai, Irving Bunim

There is a custom during the summer months to study Pikei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, the section of the Mishnah (oral law) which records the ethical and moral teachings of the Rabbis. The custom of weekly study began in order to fill the long summer days with Torah study and discussion. The Talmud states (Bava Kamma 30a) that a person who wishes to be considered pious should fulfill the teachings of Pirkei Avot. Irving Bunim ¹s 3 book set entitled Ethics From Sinai, is a superb way to learn and understand Pirkei Avot. Bunim uses a comprehensive compilation of rabbinic commentaries and anecdotes to expound on the ideas and values taught by our sages. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his book, Jewish Literacy, says that Ethics From Sinai ³has helped revive and deepen study of the book among traditional Jews. ² Ethics From Sinai is a book that can be used by all Jews to strengthen and solidify their moral and ethical values.

-Andrea Snyder (Former) Regional Program Coordinator
National Jewish Outreach Program


The Book of Our Heritage, Eliyahu Kitov

The Book of Our Heritage is a Jewish “must have.” In three outstanding volumes, Eliyahu Kitov, gives a clear, month-by-month explanation of Judaism. Not only does the book describe holidays and customs, it also gives detailed explanations as to what these customs mean, and offers insights from various commentators throughout Jewish history. On a personal note, I consider The Book of Our Heritage a staple of my Judaic library. I was fortunate to be able to study in Israel for year, and while there, obtained a teachers certificate. One requirement for certification was taking a comprehensive test on the contents of The Book of Our Heritage. Since then, whenever I have a question as to why we have certain customs or what the meaning of a holiday is, the first place i look is in The Book of Our Heritage. I highly recommend The Book of Our Heritage to all Jews. It does not matter what your level of knowledge or observance is, it only matters that you have a desire to know more. This book is a great place to start.

Andrea Snyder (Former) Regional Program Coordinator
National Jewish Outreach Program


Overviews

The following books offer excellent overviews of Judaism

To Be A Jew, by Hayim Halevy Donin A detailed description of Day-to Day Jewish Life.

Jewish Literacy, by Joseph Teslushkin
brief essays on almost anything you wanted to know about Judaism.

Generation to Generation, by Abraham Twerski.

This Is My G-d by Herman Wouk Well known novelist Herman Wouk’s reflections on traditional Jewish life. This Is My G-d is the perfect overview of the philosophy and details of Jewish life.

Holidays

The Book of Our Heritage, Eliyahu Kitov

The Book of Our Heritage is a Jewish “must have.” In three outstanding volumes, Eliyahu Kitov, gives a clear, month-by-month explanation of Judaism. Not only does the book describe holidays and customs, it also gives detailed explanations as to what these customs mean, and offers insights from various commentators throughout Jewish history. On a personal note, I consider The Book of Our Heritage a staple of my Judaic library. I was fortunate to be able to study in Israel for year, and while there, obtained a teachers certificate. One requirement for certification was taking a comprehensive test on the contents of The Book of Our Heritage. Since then, whenever I have a question as to why we have certain customs or what the meaning of a holiday is, the first place i look is in The Book of Our Heritage. I highly recommend The Book of Our Heritage to all Jews. It does not matter what your level of knowledge or observance is, it only matters that you have a desire to know more. This book is a great place to start.

Jewish Law

The following books will help you in your understanding of Judaism and Jewish Law

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Maurice Lamm

Becoming a Jew by Maurice Lamm
-a guide-book for non-Jews who are contemplating conversion to Judaism, for those who have already converted, and for Jews by birth who wish to gain a deeper insight into their heritage

Jewish Life

The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage by Maruice Lamm

To Raise a Jewish Child by Hayim Halevy Donin

Jewish History

Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach

Jewish Prayer

The Art of Jewish Prayer by Lisa Aiken and Yitzchak Kirzner

To Pray as a Jew by Hayim Halevy Donin

Jewish Thought

Read any of the following books for some perspectives on Jewish philosophy and thought

Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed by Benjamin Blech

Ethics from Sinai by Irving Bunim
-a wide ranging commentary on Pirkel Avot

The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology by Aryeh Kaplan

The Informed Soul by David Gottlieb
-essays on Jewish thought

Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin

Teshuvah: A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Kabbalah

The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz