What It Means to Be Jewish: The Voices of Our Heritage

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9780312261948: What It Means to Be Jewish: The Voices of Our Heritage
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In this collection of past and present story-telling, scholarship, and spiritual autobiography, the many facets of the Jewish identity—both ancient and modern—are illuminated by a multitude of writings and recollections on history and exile, literature and art, selfhood and victimization, immigration and opportunity, and thought and belief. Indeed, such a vast array of first-person voices forms a chorus that both documents and contextualizes the history, tradition, and culture of the Jews.

As Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler points out in his Foreword to this wise, well-assembled, wide-ranging anthology, What It Means to Be Jewish "takes us on a journey from biblical times to today, intertwining the words of Hillel and Louis Brandeis, Mark Twain and Winston Churchill, Martin Buber and Philip Roth, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin into a multicolored tapestry of literary and ethnic diversity that reflects the rich and universal texture of Jewish living and Jewish life.

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Several years ago, when Ina Abrams began what she calls "a renewal of my life as a Jew," she began wondering how practicing Jews saw the world. She collected the most compelling answers to that question in the anthology What It Means to Be Jewish: The Voices of Our Heritage. The volume--a grab bag of quotations from scripture, rabbinic tradition, pop culture, politics, literature, and poetry--is arranged thematically, including chapters pondering the topics of covenant and identity, Jewish holidays and culture, Jewish immigrants to America, the Holocaust, and prayer. Most of Abrams's selections are "first-person writings": a young writer's memories of his first Hasidic wedding in Brooklyn, for instance, or a child's poem describing the "last butterfly" that flies over the wall of the ghetto at Theresienstadt. A strikingly large number of the contemporary writers included here are women, including Cynthia Ozick and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What It Means to Be Jewish collects Judaica's greatest thoughts, in a format that's easy to read and hard to put down. --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author:

Ina Abrams is a journalist who has written several books (under the name Ina Yalof) on medical and health issues, including Open Heart Surgery, Life and Death, and Straight from the Heart. She lives in New York City.

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