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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful, 6 Jan 2013
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What Is a Jew? (Paperback)
Like another reviewer, I too use this book as part of an undergraduate course on Modern and Contemporary Judaism, which I teach primarily for military personnel as part of their distance education undergraduate degrees. I include a few other books in the syllabus, but this book is often one of the ones most frequently cited as helpful due to its question-and-answer format. When I was studying for a Jewish Studies certificate at Indiana University some time ago (nearing a quarter of a century ago), an earlier version of this book was one of my regular references for a quick and informative answer to questions as they arose. The more recent edition, revised carefully and thoroughly by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, preserves the style and utility of Rabbi Morris Kertzer's base text while adding material both for extension of questions and updating of information.

The book is broken into nine major sections, each one presenting within a series of questions. The first section looks at the different kinds of Judaism - Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, etc., and some other issues that come up with regard to basic identity - what is a Zionist? How does the Jewish community relate to the wider community?

The next few sections look specifically at religious questions, in terms of Bible and history, ritual and practice, and basic belief structures. Rabbis Kertzer and Hoffman address the differences in beliefs and practices largely for a Christian readership or for the Jewish person raised in a predominantly Christian culture.

Other sections include ideas of home and homeland, calendar issues (what is Chanukah and why does it fall at different times of year? etc.), and Jewish views on various issues in shared society such as divorce, children, and other topics.

The book also includes a useful glossary. `Like members of any culture, Jews describe what matters to them using a specialized vocabulary.' Throughout the book, specialised words are provided with pronunciation keys (although there are a few sounds in Hebrew that are difficult to transliterate into English). In addition to the glossary, there is a very handy index, so that if the particular question needing to be answered cannot be found easily in the table of contents, the topic should be able to be found in the index.

This book is very useful for anyone who is looking for basic answers and insights into Judaism in its different aspects.
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What Is a Jew?
What Is a Jew? by Morris Norman Kertzer (Paperback - 1 May 2012)
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