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Explore different Jewish ideas and perspectives through books on Jewish culture, history, fiction, Israel, leadership, philosophy, shabbat, chaggim and texts.

A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture

Shachar Pinsker

Shachar Pinsker’s A Rich Brew: How Cafes Created Modern Jewish Culture gives a fascinating glimpse into the world of the coffeehouse and its role in shaping modern Jewish culture. Unlike the synagogue, the house of study, the community center, or the Jewish deli, the café is rarely considered a Jewish space. Yet, coffeehouses profoundly influenced the creation of modern Jewish culture from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Pinsker depicts how Jewish modernity was born in the café, nourished, and sent out into the world by way of print, politics, literature, art, and theater.

Book of Jewish Food

Claudia Roden

Jewish food tells of an uprooted, migrating people and their vanished worlds. It lives in people’s minds and has been kept alive because of what it evokes and represents. From the Jewish quarter of Cairo where Claudia Roden spent her childhood to the kitchens of Europe, Asia and the Americas, The Book of Jewish Food traces the fascinating story of Jewish cooking and its people. The over 800 recipes – from tabbouleh and falafel to the Yemeni wedding soup Ftut – are the treasures garnered by Roden during almost fifteen years of travelling around the world, tasting, watching, talking and gathering stories.

What Does a Jew Look Like?

Keith Kahn-Harris

“What does a Jew look like?” Well, it’s complicated… Too often, the answer seems to be: “Jews wear black hats, black coats and have beards.” Of course, some do, but the answer to the question “what does a Jew look like?” is much more complicated – and much more interesting.

“What does a Jew look like?” is a book of portraits of British Jews showcasing some of the many different ways men and women can be Jewish in Britain today.  The book is designed to surprise, inform and beguile. For those who are Jewish, the book will perhaps introduce parts of the Jewish community that they may not be familiar with.

Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai

Matti Friedman

In Who by Fire, journalist Matti Friedman gives us a riveting account of those weeks in the Sinai at the Front Lines during the Yom Kippur War, drawing on Cohen’s previously unpublished writing and original reporting to create a kaleidoscopic depiction of a harrowing, formative moment for both a young country at war and a singer at a crossroads.

The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List

Alana Newhouse

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. Contributors include Ruth Reichl, Éric Ripert, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov, Dan Barber, Gail Simmons, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Colicchio, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Maira Kalman, Action Bronson, Daphne Merkin, Shalom Auslander, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Phil Rosenthal, among many others.

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.

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

Raymond P. Scheindlin

This highly informative work by Raymond P. Scheindlin presents the major geographical, cultural, and political forces that have determined the course of Jewish history, introducing the many individuals, both religious and secular, who have shaped the character, mindset, and prospects of the Jewish people. The narrative follows the Jewish experience from legendary times to the peace agreements currently being negotiated in the Middle East.

People of the Book

Geraldine Brooks

This novel takes place in the aftermath of the Bosnian War, as a young book conservator arrives in Sarajevo to restore a lost treasured Jewish artefact, a Jewish prayer book. On her journey she discovers its secrets and pieces together the story of its miraculous survival.

The Choice: A True Story of Hope

Edith Eger

In 1944, sixteen-year-old ballerina Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive.

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 an unforgettable story showing that hope can flower in the most unlikely places.

The Light of Days: Women Fighters of the Jewish Resistance 

Judy Batalion

One of the most important untold stories of World War II, The Light of Days: Women Fighters of the Jewish Resistance is a soaring historical landmark that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who inspired Poland’s Jewish youth groups to resist the Nazis.

Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland – some still in their teens – became the heart of a wide-ranging resistance network that fought the Nazis

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.

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.

#IsraeliJudaism: Portrait of a Cultural Revolution

Shmuel Rosner & Camil Fuchs

Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs make the first serious attempt to explain the revolutionary process of a new emerging “Judaism” in Israel. Using stories, numbers, and insights, the authors sketch the outlines of a culture in which Israeliness and Jewishness are becoming one and the same. It introduces Israeli culture to the non-Israeli reader in a fresh way, while shedding light on why Israel and the Diaspora face a great divide.

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

Micah Goodman

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 a balanced and insightful analysis, Micah Goodman sheds light on the ideas that have shaped Israelis’ thinking on both sides of the debate, and among secular and religious Jews about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

Daniel Gordis

Daniel Gordis explores the history of the state of Israel from its inception to today. It is a tiny state, and yet has captured the world’s attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the object of its opprobrium. Why does such a small country speak to so many global concerns? More pressingly: Why does Israel make the decisions it does? And what lies in its future?

Gordis seeks to answer these questions, by exploring and understanding the people of Israel and the questions and conflicts, the hopes and desires, that have animated their conversations and actions. Though Israel’s history is rife with conflict, these conflicts do not fully communicate the spirit of Israel and its people: they give short shrift to the dream that gave birth to the state, and to the vision for the Jewish people that was at its core.

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

Yossi Klein Halevi

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor is one Israeli’s powerful attempt to reach beyond the wall that separates Israelis and Palestinians and into the hearts of “the enemy.” In a series of letters, Yossi Klein Halevi explains what motivated him to leave his native New York in his twenties and move to Israel to participate in the drama of the renewal of a Jewish homeland, which he is committed to see succeed as a morally responsible, democratic state in the Middle East.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Avraham Infeld and 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 elements of Peoplehood, and ending with his ideas about the future of the Jewish People, the book contains powerful messages about how to achieve unity without uniformity in today’s global world.

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.

Warm and Welcoming: How the Jewish Community Can Become Truly Diverse and Inclusive in the 21st Century

Warren Hoffman & Miriam Steinberg-Egeth

Warm and Welcoming: How the Jewish Community Can Become Truly Diverse and Inclusive in the 21st Century tackles institutionalized biases and barriers to inclusion, offering not only stories and context about the issues facing Jews of all backgrounds, but more importantly offering practical and concrete advice that Jewish institutions can implement right away to change how they engage with diverse populations.

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

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.

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.

The Power of Ideas: Words of Faith and Wisdom

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Commemorating the first anniversary of his death, this book brings together a compelling selection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ BBC Radio Thought for the Day broadcasts, Credo columns from The Times, and a range of articles published in the world’s most respected newspapers, along with his House of Lords speeches and keynote lectures.

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.

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.

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.

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times

Rabbi 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.

Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul

Naomi Levy

Bestselling author and rabbi, Naomi Levy profoundly and affectively explores the meaning and purpose of the soul, inspired by the famous correspondence between Albert Einstein and a grieving rabbi.

Stories for the Sake of Argument

Abbie Dauber Sterne & Robert Gringas

Well known educators, Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras, in their book: Stories for the Sake of Sake suggest the opposite: we should argue more. This book features an eclectic mix of 24 short stories specially designed to get your family and friends arguing about some of the thorniest issues facing Israel and the Jewish world today.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Hidden Order of Intimacy: Reflections on the Book of Leviticus

Avivah Gottleib Zornberg

Celebrated biblical scholar, Avivah Gottleib Zornberg weaves  together traditional Jewish exegesis, psychoanalysis, and postmodern criticism in her book The Hidden Order of Intimacy. Exploring the image of the Golden Calf and how it haunts the commentaries that thread through Leviticus. This catastrophic episode, in which the Israelites, freed from Egyptian slavery and forty days after their momentous encounter with God at Mount Sinai, worship a pagan idol while Moses is receiving the Torah from God on the mountaintop, gives the mostly legalistic text a unique depth and resonance. Gottleib Zornberg anaylses the post-traumatic effects of the sin of the Golden Calf linger through the generations, the sin to be “paid off” in small increments through time.