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on 14 November 2017
The Very Short Introductions are a major educational resource. There are presently over 500 small books covering a very wide range of subjects. Although short, the Introductions are substantial in content. Everyone would benefit from reading these books to broaden their knowledge and understanding in diverse areas of life. Perseverance with some subjects may be required but be prepared to be surprised, enlightened and enriched.
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on 12 May 2017
Other than a slightly condescending tone, this book is a nice introduction to the incredibly complicated system of Judaism.
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on 10 September 2017
Short needn't mean empty, which this admirable book proves. Read it if you want an accessible account of Judaism, both modern and unbiased, and as relevant and instructive to the newcomer as the lifelong devotee.
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on 17 September 2017
Exactly as described. Will assist with my ongoing studies.
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on 6 May 2014
A primer of our cultural history whether Jewish Christian or Islamic in the last two millennia, Something we all need to understand if not believe.
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on 12 February 2002
The "very short introduction" series is useful in that the most important facts and aspects of a topic are presented to you clearly and concisely - no need to flick through pages and pages, no need to look in the index or anything. The book itself is divided in chapters such as Festivals, Why Judaism and Christianity split etc. Norman Solomon has successfuly selected the most intriguing bits of Judaism to present to us in this 150 page book.
Not only does the book provide the facts about the religion like festivals, worship etc, but also contemporary issues like Zionism and the conflicts of modern Israel and Palestine, a topic that should interest many. It is hard to find a book that deals with this subject that is not greatly biased; Solomon on the other hand makes it very clear in the introduction that he aims to present the facts of Judaism as Jews would, i.e. not from a Christian perspective, not using Christian language.
I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in the religion. However, if you want to delve really deep into the sects in the religion (which is briefly but well dealt with in this book) and other topics, buy a big thick book on Judaism rather than this "very short introduction".
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on 29 April 2009
Good intro for non-Jews, but the author generally writes as though he suspects the reader is bored arseless, e.g. at the start of the final chapter: 'We've almost made it...'

The book contains some nice photos and tables simplifying facts, dates, etc. However, after reading the book, I still didn't 100% feel like I knew and understood some of the more salient points associated with the Jewish calendar / festivals. Also, more tips on pronunciation would've been helpful for the Hebrew names.
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on 3 August 2017
Very informative book. Totally factual and perfect for an atheists learning
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on 31 August 2013
I am generally pleased with this introduction to Judaism and its main philosophical, theological, cultural, and historical components. It goes into a great depth of detail concerning the origins of Judaism and its values and historical movers and shakers and the settings in which they lived and espoused their teachings.

The first quarter of the book is focused almost primarily on the comparison between Judaism and Christianity and asking the questions of how and why they split and what is the key differences are. That being said, for someone such as myself raised tinok shenishba and with no great in-depth knowledge of Christianity either, this can be a little difficult to grip and it isn't helped by the fact that the writing is very dry and jargonisms abound throughout. For someone who wants to dip their toes into the knowledge pool they may find this work a little cold and difficult to access, for those wishing to pursue knowledge beyond this book then it's a great book to jump right into. Thankfully I belong to the latter as I wish to study with a local shul upon entrance to university next year, and this book is an excellent reference point for topics of interest to study further.

The information packed into this tiny work is admirable however. The book takes you on a journey from exploration of Jewish identity (I feel this could have been expanded on including current inter-Jewish debate on Jewish identity both in Israel and the diaspora and the cultural, historical, and secular conceptions of Jewish identity), through the history of its great thinkers and philosophers who shaped Judaism and how it is now known, taught, and lived. Through to the way its teachings are practiced, explanation of its calendar and most important festivals, and its spiritual importance.

This then takes you back through to the comparison with Christianity and modernity in Chapter 7 and 8, a comparison of Jewish denominations (I feel there is a slight bias towards the Reform movement. Despite the author being an Orthodox Rabbi, there was a denouncement of his attitude as closer to Reform, although largely personal, see an article by Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin "When Orthodox scholarship is neither"). Then through a very small history of Zionism and Israel which could have been expanded upon, even 4-5 pages in travel books I have read are more comprehensive of these topics which find themselves in constant discussion on both sides of the political spectrum. And finally, information on Holocaust theology and law regarding abortion and artificial insemination.

The book is then capped off with Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith, and the Statement of Principles of the Philadelphia Conference regarding Reform Judaism, and a wonderful chapter by chapter suggestion for further reading.

I wont pretend to be able to expand on the knowledge already provided in this book, although believe there was little room for improvement and further information within. I appreciate however that the author was probably commissioned to write this and had limitations, and with that said, has done an astounding job. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Judaism.
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VINE VOICEon 3 February 2008
It must be a daunting prospect for a scholar, having to condense a vast store of knowledge into one of these little books, deciding what to include and what must go, but Solomon judges this well. He emphasizes the diversity and continuing evolution of Judaism, correcting common misconceptions about how ancient or orthodox certain aspects of Judaism are. He also lays special stress on the importance of the Holocaust and of the existence of a modern state of Israel in shaping contemporary Jewish thought.

There are plenty of basic facts - descriptions of festivals, etc - included here, as you would expect. It also raises a great many issues and cites a number of authors, making this an excellent place to begin a more detailed study, if you wished.

Solomon writes well, with a light, sometimes even humorous touch, where appropriate. He was a lecturer at Oxford when this book was first published in 1996, but is now retired, I believe. A revised edition wouldn't go amiss. Perhaps he is too busy working on his Penguin Classics Talmud, which is due out soon and should be worth reading. He is not to be confused with the American activist of the same name, although Amazon does exactly that, so that if you click on either author, you get a list of books by both of them. Take it from me, they are very different!
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