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Reading list

Explore different ideas and perspectives through books on Jewish thought, leadership, fiction, and haggadot. Let us know if you’d like to connect with others who have read the same book!

I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Considered by many to be one of the most significant Jewish theologians of the 20th century, Abraham Heschel finds just the right words to startle the mind and delight the heart. He addresses and challenges the whole person, portraying that rarest of human phenomena—the holy man.

The Sabbath

Abraham Joshua Heschel

The classic book by 20th century Jewish philosopher, Abraham Joshua Heschel. In this short, poetic book he offers a powerful and relevant way of thinking about Shabbat and its contemporary meaning that transcends denomination.

A Passion for a People: Lessons from the life of a Jewish Educator

Avraham Infeld with Clare Goldwater

Avraham Infeld’s book takes the reader on a journey through Jewish Peoplehood, that powerful yet intangible idea that connects Jews together, no matter where they live or how they practice. Starting with the core components of Peoplehood, and ending with his ideas about the future of the Jewish People.

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

Ilana Kurshan

At the age of twenty-seven, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world’s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for “daily page” of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about six hundred years. Her story is a tale of heartache and humor, of love and loss, of marriage and motherhood, and of learning to put one foot in front of the other by turning page after page.

My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew

Abigail Pogrebin

This book explores what has kept Jewish holidays alive and vibrant, for thousands of years. My Jewish Year travels through this calendar’s signposts with candor, humor, and a trove of information, capturing the arc of Jewish observance through the eyes of a relatable, wandering―and wondering―Jew.

#IsraeliJudaism: Portrait of a Cultural Revolution 

Camil Fuchs & Shmuel Rosner

A new kind of Judaism is developing in the 21st century. In Israel, Judaism is experiencing one of its greatest changes since biblical times. This revolution is rooted in a unique and vibrant culture, which is different from all other Jewish cultures, past and present. Israelis have made a new way of being Jewish, by facing and overcoming the great challenges of modernity, secularism, assimilation, and apathy. Israeliness and Jewishness are becoming one and the same.

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Book of Jewish Food

Claudia Roden

This is more than a cookbook. It is the story of the Jewish people told through food. This book follows the growth of both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish communities and their gastronomy over the centuries. The 800 magnificent recipes are gems collected by acclaimed author Claudia Roden through nearly 15 years of traveling around the world. Plus 50 photos & illustrations and lots of great personal anecdotes.

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Jews Don’t Count

David Baddiel

There are people who work against homophobia, disablism, transphobia and racism. But one type of racism has been left out of this fight – anti-Semitism.  In his distinctive blend of close thinking, polemic, personal experience and humor, British comedian David Baddiel argues that those who think of themselves as on the right side of history have often ignored Jew hatred. He outlines why Jews don’t count as a real minority and why they should.

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Leadership in the Wilderness

Erica Brown

By metaphorically crossing the ancient desert, educator Erica Brown leads readers through the book of Numbers in search of the key to successful leadership. How might a leader prevail over conflict? How does one deal with outside challenges and internal doubts? And how do we revive the faith of a people who have all but given up? Bringing together bible and commentary, literature and philosophy, travelogues and business handbooks, this book presents a guide to good leadership.

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Ceremony and Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Explore the deep meanings of the central Jewish holidays in this excellent overview. Rabbi Sacks focuses on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot, to expose what these holidays are really about and how to connect to them.

Koren Magerman Tanach

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Why another bible? What does this one have that is special? A glittering new English translation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and others which is easy to follow; the Koren Hebrew text which is aesthetically attractive; plus notes and explanations when needed.

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Future Tense: Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the Twenty-first Century

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Historically, Jews have thought of themselves in terms of the biblical phrase, ‘The people that dwells alone.’ In the current global environment, this is dangerous. It leads to the isolation of Jews, Judaism and Israel. Future tense attempts to persuade Jews and non-Jews alike that Jews, Judaism and Israel have something unique to contribute to the future. It provides an overarching vision for the future of Judaism, Jewish life and Israel for the twenty-first century.

Radical Then, Radical Now: The Legacy of the World’s Oldest Religion

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

A classic statement in answer to the question “how has Judaism survived for so long and, more importantly, what does it offer us today?” Clearly written and accessible, this is an inspiring statement about Jewish identity and the beauty of Jewish life in the contemporary world.

A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood

Raymond P. Scheindlin

Written by a respected Hebrew scholar, cultural historian, noted author, and rabbi, A Short History of the Jewish People carefully describes the story of a people as varied as the many cultures in which they have lived. Including detailed maps and stirring photos, as well as timelines and sidebars, this pioneering work is a valuable resource for anyone broadly curious about the Jewish people.

All Spoons and No Elbows

Maureen Kendler

For over twenty years, Mareen thrilled BBC Radio 2 listeners to her insights during a two minute “Pause for Thought”, drawing inspiration not only from her deep knowledge of Judaism, but also from her experience as a teacher, mother, and faith leader. This book is a collection of her Pause for Thought broadcasts, capturing Maureen’s unique voice, her enthusiasm for literature and music, her profound love of teaching, her passion for the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Jewish tradition, and her devotion to family and community.  Maureen Kendler was an inspiring Jewish educator, writer and broadcaster, who believed passionately in the power of lifelong learning. She died in February 2018 after a brief illness, but her voice lives on in the teachings and broadcasts she left to us and future generations.

Pirkei Avot: A Social Justice Commentary

Shmuly Yanklowitz

Pirkei Avot is the oldest text of Jewish practical wisdom. In many ways, the words of Pirkei Avot were the first recorded manifesto of social justice in Western civilization. This commentary explores the text through a lens of contemporary social justice and moral philosophy, engaging both classical commentators and modern thinkers.

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times

Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Sacks explores how we have outsourced morality to the markets on the one hand, and the state on the other. The markets have brought wealth to many, and the state has done much to contain the worst excesses of inequality, but neither is capable of bearing the moral weight of showing us how to live. Delivering a devastatingly insightful critique of our modern condition and assessing its roots and causes from the ancient Greeks through the Reformation and Enlightenment to the present day, Sacks argues that there is no liberty without morality, and no freedom without responsibility. He presents an inspiring vision of a world in which we can all find our place and face the future without fear.

Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew BibleNew Jewish Canon

Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser & David Shneer

Torah Queeries brings prominent rabbis, scholars, and writers together to interpret the weekly Torah portion through the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies. They bring methods of reading and interpretation that allow the Torah to speak to issues such as sexuality, identity, gender, and LGBTQ+ life. Torah Queeries examines topics such as sexual prohibitions, the Exodus, the rape of Dinah, and the life of Joseph. The commentaries outline a future of inclusion and social justice based in Jewish texts.

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New Jewish Canon

Yehuda Kurtzer & Claire E. Sufrin

Wouldn’t it be great to have a guidebook to Jewish history and memory, politics and government, religion and religiosity, identity and community? Well, here it is. With over eighty passages from important primary texts and perceptive essays by top scholars, this book makes order of the important ideas and debates of the past two generations and promotes discussion and scholarship about what is yet to come.

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A Bride for One Night

Ruth Calderon

Ruth Calderon is a secular educator who served as a member of Israel’s Knesset (parliament). In this book, she offers an intriguing view of some of the sparkling and vibrant stories in the Talmud. These tales come alive as we read about the woman who risks her life for a sister suspected of adultery; a humble schoolteacher who rescues his village from drought; a wife who dresses as a prostitute to seduce her devout husband in their garden.

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Five Books of Miriam: A Woman’s Commentary on the Torah

Ellen Frankel

Weaving together Jewish lore, the voices of Jewish foremothers, Yiddish fable, Midrash, and stories of her own imagining, Frankel creates a vivid exploration into what the Torah means to women. Here are Miriam, Dinah, Lilith, and many other women of the Torah in dialogue with Jewish daughters, mothers and grandmothers, past and present. Together these voices examine and debate every aspect of a Jewish woman’s life-work, sex, marriage, her connection to God and her place in the Jewish community and in the world.

The Essential Talmud

Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, who recently passed away, was a teacher, philosopher, social critic and prolific author who has been hailed by Time Magazine as a “once-in-a-millennium scholar.” He devoted his life to making the world of Jewish knowledge accessible to all, including the entirety of Jewish canon (Torah, Prophets, and Writings), the Babylonian Talmud, the Mishna, Mishneh Torah (Maimonides’s Code of Jewish Law), and many others. In this seminal work (one of over 60 he has written), he presents a general introduction to the beliefs, attitudes, and methods of the sacred text by which the Jewish people have lived and survived through the ages. The first book to capture the flavor and spirit of the Talmud as a human document and to summarize its main principles as an expression of divine law.

The Choice: A True Story of Hope

Edith Eger

A native of Hungary, Edith Eger was a teenager in 1944 when she and her family were sent to Auschwitz during the Second World War. Despite overwhelming odds, Edith survived the Holocaust and moved with her husband to the United States. Having worked in a factory whilst raising her young family, she went on to graduate with a PhD from the University of Texas and became an eminent psychologist. Today, she maintains a busy clinical practice and lectures around the world. The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story. It shows that hope can flower in the most unlikely places.

The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List

Alana Newhouse

Tablet’s list of the 100 most Jewish foods is not about the most popular Jewish foods, or the tastiest, or even the most enduring. It’s a list of the most significant foods culturally and historically to the Jewish people, explored deeply with essays, recipes, stories, and context. Some of the dishes are no longer cooked at home, and some are not even dishes in the traditional sense (store-bought cereal and Stella D’oro cookies, for example). The entire list is up for debate, which is what makes this book so much fun. Many of the foods are delicious (such as babka and shakshuka). Others make us wonder how they’ve survived as long as they have (such as unhatched chicken eggs and jellied calves’ feet). As expected, many Jewish (and now universal) favourites like matzo balls, pickles, cheesecake, blintzes, and chopped liver make the list. The recipes are global and represent all contingencies of the Jewish experience.

A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture

Shachar Pinsker

Coffeehouses profoundly influenced the creation of modern Jewish culture from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. With roots stemming from the Ottoman Empire, the coffeehouse and its drinks gained increasing popularity in Europe. The “otherness,” and the mix of the national and transnational characteristics of the coffeehouse perhaps explains why many of these cafés were owned by Jews, why Jews became their most devoted habitués, and how cafés acquired associations with Jewishness. Examining the convergence of cafés, their urban milieu, and Jewish creativity, Shachar M. Pinsker argues that cafés anchored a silk road of modern Jewish culture. He uncovers a network of interconnected cafés that were central to the modern Jewish experience in a time of migration and urbanization, from Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, and Berlin to New York City and Tel Aviv. A Rich Brew explores the Jewish culture created in these social spaces.

The Road to Character

David Brooks

In this New York Times Number One Bestseller, David Brooks David Brooks argues that our hunger for wealth and status is eroding our ability to create meaningful inner lives. To show us how to live better, he looks at people whose sense of humility was fundamental to their success. What they all understood was a simple but counterintuitive truth: in order to fulfil yourself, you must learn how to forget yourself.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts

Brene Brown

In her #1 NYT bestsellers, Brené Brown taught us what it means to dare greatly, rise strong and brave the wilderness. Now, based on new research conducted with leaders, change makers and culture shifters, she’s showing us how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and lead.

Take Your Soul to Work: 365 Meditations on Every Day Leadership

Erica Brown

Jewish leadership expert and scholar Erica Brown condenses her ideas about leadership and how to practice it every day into accessible exercises and readings that help Jewish community professionals reflect, grow and put their best selves into their acts of daily leadership.

Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War

Micah Goodman

A controversial examination of the internal Israeli debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a best-selling Israeli author Since the Six-Day War, Israelis have been entrenched in a national debate over whether to keep the land they conquered or to return some, if not all, of the territories to Palestinians. In 2017, best-selling Israeli author Micah Goodman published a balanced and insightful analysis of the situation that quickly became one of Israel’s most debated books of the year.

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

Daniel Gordis

A comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, Gordis offers us a brief but thorough account of the cultural, economic, and political history of this complex nation, from its beginnings to the present. Accessible, levelheaded, and rigorous, Israel sheds light on Israel’s past so we can understand its future.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

A groundbreaking tour of the mind, explaining the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

It’s Our Challenge: A Social Entrepreneurship Approach to Jewish Education

Jonathan Mirvis

Drawing from the lessons of social entrepreneurship, Jonathan Mirvis offers a model for understanding the work of Jewish community professionals as making social change; envisioning and implementing new ideas to meet evolving community needs. He brings a practical model for doing this, illuminated with lots of examples.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

Priya Parker

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive–which they don’t have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.

Lessons in Leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

In this companion volume to his celebrated series Covenant & Conversation, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks mines the weekly Torah portions for insights into the nature of power, authority, and leadership. Profound, eloquent, and deeply inspiring, Lessons in Leadership reveals the biblical secrets of influence, as relevant now as they were three thousand years ago.

Relational Judaism (and the Handbook)

Ron Wolfson

“It’s all about relationships!” This is the key message of Ron Wolfson’s book, which argues that the key to thriving Jewish communities and organizations is building meaningful relationships. Using many helpful examples (drawn from the American community) Wolfson demonstrates what can be done and how to think about relationship-building. This book also comes with a practical Handbook for how to implement these ideas in your community.

Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities

Erica Brown

Drawing on the past and looking to the future, this practical guide provides the tools you need to work through important contemporary leadership issues. It takes a broad look at positions of leadership in the modern Jewish community and the qualities and skills you need in order to succeed in these positions. Real-life anecdotes, interviews and dialogue stimulate thinking about board development, ethical leadership, conflict resolution, change management and effective succession planning. Whether you are a professional or a volunteer, are looking to develop your own personal leadership skills or are part of a group, this inspiring book provides information, interactive exercises and questions for reflection to help you define leadership styles and theories, expose common myths and coach others on the importance of leading with meaning

The Red Tent

Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah’s voice, it opens with the story of her mothers – the four wives of Jacob – each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah’s own startling and unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love.

The Hilltop

Assaf Gavron

On a rock-strewn hilltop in the heart of the West Bank stands a lone second-hand shipping container, a generator and some goats. On this contested land, Othniel Assis – under the wary gaze of the neighbouring Palestinian village – installs his ever-expanding family. As he cheerfully manipulates government agencies, more settlers arrive and, with a hodge-podge of bankers, teachers, kibbutzniks and townies, religious and secular, the outpost takes root. But when a curious journalist stumbles into their midst, the settlement becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal.

Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor

Yossi Klein HaLevi

Israeli-American scholar and journalist Yossi Klein HaLevi writes a series of imaginary letters to his Palestinian neighbor, trying to reach across the barriers that exist in a highly conflicted region. In lyrical, evocative language, he unravels the complex strands of faith, pride, anger and anguish he feels as a Jew living in Israel, using history and personal experience as his guide.

Eternal Life

Dara Horn

Celebrated American-Jewish author, Dara Horn’s latest work of fiction is about life and death, the power of the generations and much more, as she imagines Rachel, a Jewish woman whose life spans more than 2000 years. Rich, beautiful and profoundly contemporary.

Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul

Naomi Levy

Based on the famous correspondence between Albert Einstein and a grieving rabbi, this book is an inspiring, deeply affecting book for people of all faiths filled with universal truths that will help us reclaim our own souls and glimpse the unity that has been evading us.

The Chosen

Chaim Potok

Following a baseball game that nearly became a religious war, two Jewish boys become friends. Danny comes from the strict Hasidic sect that keeps him bound in centuries of orthodoxy. Reuven is brought up by a father patently aware of the twentieth century. Everything tries to destroy their friendship, but they use honesty with each other as a shield and it proves an impenetrable protection.

As a driven Leaf

Milton Steinberg

First published in 1939, this masterpiece of modern fiction tells the tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah s struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Set in Roman Palestine, As a Driven Leaf draws readers into the dramatic era of Rabbinic Judaism. Watch the great Talmudic sages at work in the Sanhedrin, eavesdrop on their arguments about theology and Torah, and agonize with them as they contemplate rebellion against an oppressive Roman rule.

The Jewish Journey Haggadah: Connecting the Generations

Adena Berkowitz

The Haggadah adds meaningful commentary, stories, questions for discussion, fun holiday parody songs, jokes, Seder recipes, and activities to delight both adults and children.

The Jonathan Sacks Haggada

A refreshing and insightful commentary to the Haggada, together with illuminating and inspiring essays on the themes and motifs of the Festival of Freedom.

A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices

Mishael Zion & Noam Zion

A full traditional haggadah with a contemporary and Israeli accent. Commentaries from scholars, rabbis, novelists, poets, political leaders, and others. This book is for the family that wants to enhance their seder by bringing in ideas that will make the evening rich, thought-provoking, and fun for all.

Seder Talk: The Conversational Haggada

Erica Brown

Two books in one: an erudite, sensitive commentary on the Haggada text with conversation trigger points, and eight short essays for each day of the holiday. Dr. Brown includes art and poetry to engage the reader in the sensory emotions of Seder night in addition to thought-provoking questions and life-homework exercises for greater mindfulness, intention, and inner freedom.

Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel

The world’s first Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, conceived and written by acclaimed Batman comics creator and Jewish cartoonist Jordan B. Gorf Gorfinkel, and illustrated in gorgeous color by Israeli artist Erez Zadok. The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel integrates the full traditional haggadah text, a brand-new, modern translation into sophisticated and super-fun sequential art that brings the epic story to life.

Koren Youth Haggada

Designed and written to speak directly to the child in appropriate and engaging language, beautifully illustrated with educational illustrations that form their own commentary, as well as stories, quotes, questions, and reflections to engage the child and encourage connection to the haggada text. Educational features include discussion questions, stories and quotes, experiential activities, and age-appropriate translation and instructions.

The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah

Moshe Rosenberg

This book is the perfect companion for young and old at the Seder table. Enchant your guests with lessons from the magical realms of Hogwarts and Jewish tradition. Foster conversation with student responses to Seder questions. And learn the ultimate lesson: Holiness can be found everywhere, if you know where to look.

The Kveller Haggadah: A Seder for Curious Kids (and their Grownups)

From the Jewish parenting site comes “The Kveller Haggadah,” designed to guide families through an epic journey from slavery to freedom, and to promote curiosity, even when there are no easy answers. This haggadah is both rich and accessible, kid-friendly without overlooking the dramatic tensions at the center of the Passover story. Woven through the Exodus story is an exploration of memory: how memories are made, how they’re kept, and how they connect us to one another.

Tablet Magazine Passover Haggadah: An Ancient Story for Modern Times

Both proudly traditional and blazingly modern, this haggadah is a perfect blueprint for remembering the past, living in our present, and imagining the future. Here you’ll find the entirety of the Seder text for those who don’t want to miss a thing, alongside, contemporary questions, illustrations, and meditations on freedom, community, destiny, and other topics that will engage the whole group in a lively and memorable discussion.

René Cassin’s Women’s Seder Haggadah Companion 

This Haggadah from René Cassin offers the reader a human rights based and contemporary approach to reading and actioning the messages of the haggadah.

PJ Library Family Haggadah

This free downloadable PDF version, beautifully illustrated guide to the seder (Passover ritual meal) will make your Passover experience more family friendly, as a guest or a host. The language in the Haggadah is especially suited for ages 6 and up.