Jonathan Miller's famous quotation about being "not Jewish, but Jew-ish" might well apply to "Judaism - All that Matters". Despite its title, this book goes well beyond Judaism as a religion to cover many, if not all, aspects of Jewish history, culture and identity.
Despite its length (150 pages) and user-friendly format, author Keith Kahn-Harris manages to cram this book with an impressive amount of information, taking the reader from Biblical origins, the complex question of "Who are the Jews?", through the Diaspora, anti-Semitism, Jewish responses to the Enlightenment, the Shoah, Zionism, Israel and the place of Jewish people in the modern world.
As with all the "All that Matters" series, there is a list of 100 ideas for exploring topics covered by the book in greater depth including books, songs on YouTube and films that aren't "Fiddler on the Roof" or "Schindler's List".
My only real quibble with the book is that Hebrew and Yiddish terms are explained in the text, but not necessarily the first time they are used - a glossary at the back might have been useful.
I think that "Judaism - All that Matters" pretty much achieves its objectives and would recommend it to anyone who wanted an introduction to all things Jewish or to the background of the Israel-Palestine question.
Judaism, as the author points out, has had an enormous impact on the world considering the number of people who practise it. This 'All that matters' book opened my eyes to what Judaism is really about, made me aware of the differences between Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Liberal Jews, introduced me to a number of practices I've often seen referenced but never seen explained, and gave me a flavour of the key issues within the Jewish community.
I've read several All That Matters books now, and this is the one which told me the most which I didn't know. The most important part, I think, starts in chapter 4 with 'Living Jewishly'. Author Keith Kahn-Harris introduced me here to something I had completely failed to grasp -- that Judaism is a continuum of practices, rather than defined by belief. This is not to say that Judaism is inexact in its beliefs, but, rather, living Jewishly is more important than adhering to a particular set of doctrines.
There is a wonderful section of Jewish literature, music and films at the end which I may, in time, dip into. In the mean time, this was a hugely enlightening book which I enjoyed reading and would recommend.
This booklet provides a very fair and balanced guide on all things Jewish and will be of interest I am sure, to those within and outside the religion. Being jew-ish myself,I was expecting either to have my preconceived ideas on the subject confirmed [i.e.that all was good], or to see just another negative view, especially on the subject of the middle east. Here, the author has provided a very balanced explanation of what it is to be jewish, and has attempted to explain why anti-semitism exists and will continue.
The booklet provides explanation, information and humour. It is divided into short sections which asks pertinent questions. I have never really understood whether we are expected to believe in God. This question is answered, or at least to my satisfaction. It explains the various jewish sects and confirms what we all know, that Israel is a fractured and vibrant country living under what is going to be a permanent siege from its neighbours, and most of the rest of the world. It places the blame for Israels situation where it belongs - on many shoulders.
The booklet deals simply with what it means to be jewish, and how that jewishness manifests itself in everyday life. The reason why jews are famous - often regarded more as infamous, for their close involvement with finance, and why their situation in the diaspora is a permanent [for them] cause for concern. It also attempts to speculate on the future for this religion.
The book has stimulated me into seeking answers to further questions.
This is a nice, concise and quick guide to the main points of Judaism. Whilst not giving the in-depth detail that some people might want or require, it never promises this. It gives you the lowdown on key points of Judaism and could be very handy for people interested in understanding more about this often complex faith which has such a long history. I know that when I studied GCSE (quite a number of years ago) I would have found this very useful, interesting and enlightening.
Perfect for a quick, crash course in the history of Judaism and current practice.
This pocked-sized book of just 156 pages belies its diminutive size by providing a vast amount of fascinating information about Judaism and the Jewish people.
Clearly and concisely indexed, it's very easy to find what you're looking for. An explanation of the events leading to the foundation of the modern state of Israel is particularly well covered and described in a refreshingly balanced manner.
It's illustrated by plenty of fascinating black and white photos of everything from historical events, satirical cartoons and even Sasha Baron-Cohen.
If you're looking to learn more about the Jewish people, their history, culture and, of course, their religion, then Judaism All That Matters is a highly recommended initial source of reference.
What is so different about Jews as compared with the rest of mankind? Not a lot apart from their religious beliefs and activities - and the consequences of those beliefs and activities - including the persecution they have suffered through more than two millennia.
Yet when someone starts reading this book they are almost immediately told (in the first sentence of the introduction)_that:
"It says 'Judaism; on the front of this book and perhaps you were expecting a book that explains the Jewish religion:; what Jews believe, what they do in synagogues, what rituals they practise, But a book on the Jewish religion alone would be selling you short."
Sorry? "A book on JUDAISM alone would not suffice to explain Judaism"?
Personally I find this claim utterly ludicrous and unacceptable. Of course there are plenty of Jews who don't subscribe to Judaism at all, and variations in the way people perceive and practice Judaism. But those are differences between PEOPLE'S PERCEPTIONS, NOT differences in Judaism itself. And I, for one am certainly not interested in sociologist Keith Kahn-harris' personal interpretation of Judaism (which seems to me to be utterly invalidated by his opening explanation). What a pity the publishers didn't put that essential explanation on the back cover (for whatever reason).
Maybe they'll correct that error on future printings.
At the time of writing this is the third 'all that matters' title I've read. To my mind, it's also easily the best. As well as conveying in a simple manner much basic detail on Jewish history, tradition, religion and identity, Kahn-Harris gives welcome breadth to his account by including a more secular and sceptical notes, in addition to detailing mainstream and orthodox ideas. Another very attractive facet of this book is the inclusion of humour. The 'how many [insert whatever Jewish sect] does it take to change a lightbulb?' jokes did make me smile!
Whilst these elements make for an improved book, there are still some issues common to the other titles I've read in this series, with obscure terms introduced without necessarily being defined (the index will sometimes help you find a definition, but not always), the occasional lapse of editorial finesse, with oddly constructed sentences slipping through ('have started to rethinking [sic] the idea...' p.107, is jut one example), or what appear to be factual errors. In ref. to the destruction of Ashkenazi Jewry in the holocaust, Kahn-Harris makes a statement about Jews already ('by then') being in Israel when much of European Jewry was wiped out in the 'Shoah' (holocaust). But modern Israel was founded after (and in no small part as a response to) the holocaust, in 1948. Perhaps he meant the increasing population of Jews settling in the area. But that was then Palestine. Such clumsiness seems odd, especially in regard to such a sensitive issue.
As an avid reader of Napoleonic history I was interested to read that Napoleon, for so many (in Britain at any rate) only ever cast as the bloodletting bogeyman of Europe, whilst undeniably a warmongering despot, did at least extend some of the enlightenment thinking that had helped get him into power across his empire, his treatment of European, and especially French Jewry confirming this. But ironically 'emancipation' threatened to make the tough membrane that had kept this mobile diaspora together more permeable; in being allowed to be part of their wider communities they could no longer remain 'one nation within another nation' as one Frenchman put it in 1789. Another figure being lambasted in contemporary Britain, Cromwell (under whom, if we are to believe art historian Andrew Graham Dixon, conditions were like those under the Taliban) re-admitted Jews to England. They'd been officially expelled in 1290, having been bled dry tax-wise by Edward I.
Kahn-Harris may well say 'Long lists of prominent and successful jews are all very well...' Never mind: here's mine (and it's a heck of a lot shorter than it could've been. The Jewish culture I get most sustenance from is on the more secular side, from Woody Allen to Bob Dylan, via Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Guston, to Freud, Marx and beyond. And there are musicians and music lovers, like Dave Grisman, Blue Notes' Francis Wolff, the late lamented Dave Brubeck, Becker and Fagen of Steely Dan, hell, even the Beastie Boys, it's a long, illustrious and diverse list. Oh, and then there's the humourists: (I've already mentioned Woody Allen, but hey, let him appear twice... I love him!) from Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks to Jackie Mason and Groucho Marx.
Similarly, all the people ofmHewish of part-Jewish ethnicity that I've know personally tend to come from the most secular sections of that community, and indeed, to be so integrated as to not appear Jewish ar all. My wife and I were exposed to something very different when we lived near Stamford Hill for a while, where one regularly saw, but generally had very little interaction with, very orthodox looking Jews (prob Haredi, going by what Kahn-Harris says here). A more recent encounter with an aspect of British Jewish history was a visit we made to Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire, a French château style palace built in the late C17th, for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. The Rothschilds are amongst many of the very successful Jews Kahn-Harris briefly mentions in this interesting book. I'd quite like to read Niall Fergusson's two volumes on that fascinating dynasty.
All in all, a good educational read, very broad ranging and balanced, and whilst benefitting from 'insider insights', not so partisan as to be rendered redundant.
This is another volume in the "All That Matters" series of little books bursting with information.
Keith Kahn-Harris has tackled this complicated subject in a calm and mannered way dividing his book up into digestible chunks although the largest and most difficult to digest is the prejudice and bigotry that spawned anti-Semitism in a world that should have been so much more enlightened. But he is fair and does not write judgementally : he is an historian and writes it how it was ( and unfortunately still is in many parts of the world)
He begins with definitions, the history of the Jewish nation ~ its problems and misunderstandings, follows this with a closer look at what it means to be Jewish ~ the rites, rituals, diets, costumes etc what it is like to live Jewishly.
Kahn-Harris has a wry sense of humour (perhaps a Jewish trait) and intersperses his text with examples of the great Jewish joke.
This book, as all the others in the series, is packed with references to further reading, studies on Jewish writing, film,songs, culture particularly books on the Shoah, Zionism and the new state of Israel.
Any student of the faith will find this little pocket size volume invaluable
This is small compact book in the series " All That Matters", that includes titles Buddhism, Radical Islam, God, Human Rights, and many others.
I found this book interesting but mostly I think it works as a signpost leading the way to where to look for more detailed information on all matters Jewish.
I wanted more Yiddish, more food, more humour.
However there are a lot of good facts, loads of historical details and explanations.
Chapter headings include: Living Jewishly, Anti-Semitism, The State of Israel, The Jewish People today and Tomorrow.
I think this book does a great job of including a great scope of information and is really the book version of a bus tour around the town of Jewishness.
Definitely left me feeling I want to read up more on the subject, think I might try the Dummies Guide next, then see if I want anything heavier to wade through.
The author of this book Keith Kahn-Lewis gives a long list of books to follow on with, he also mentions five Jewish themed films "that aren't Fiddler On The Roof, or Schindler's List ".
A good Intro book, but to get your teeth stuck into the subject you will need to read more than this one.
on 30 June 2013
This was a punchy, readable introduction to Judaism - not quite what I was expecting but excellent. Generally speaking this book is more concerned with the cultural and historical aspects of Jewishness than the religious or spiritual (and I suppose this was what surprised me) yet having read it I can understand why these strands are so intertwined.
It left me with a greater understanding of Judaism, and some definite areas that I'd like to follow up and learn more about. For me, I'd have appreciated a little more on the spiritual side of Judaism - but I feel I've had a good concise introduction and the book included some good suggestions of follow up reading, so all in all it was the right place to start. And that, I suppose, is what an 'All That Matters' book should be like.
If this is a representative example of this series of books, I'm most impressed by the quality and writing style. I will look out for other books in the same series in future.