Norman Solomon's succinct book is an ideal introduction to Judaism as a religion and way of life. In addition to surveying the nature and development of Judaism, this Very Short Introduction outlines the basics of practical Judaism its festivals, prayers, customs, and various sects. Modern concerns and debates of the Jewish people are also addressed, such as the impact of the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, the status of women, and medical and commercial ethics.
Authored by a theology lecturer at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Modern Jewish Thought at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, this work provides an accessible, perceptive introduction to central features and figures in Judaism, in a non-biased manner. Separated into nine broad chapters, the work begins by answering the questions: Who are the Jews? How did Judaism and Christianity split up? How did Judaism develop? The fourth chapter focuses on the calendar and festivals, while the fifth addresses the spiritual life of prayer, meditation and Torah. Next, the making of a Jewish home is discussed. Chapter Seven begins again the historical treatment, entitled Out of the Ghetto, into the Whirlwind. The eighth chapter deals with contemporary Judaism, while the final chapter focuses on the eternal law in changing times. This volume provides an introduction to Judaism as both a way of life and a religion, addressing the basics of practical Judaism, the festivals, prayers, customs and sects as well as introducing and discussing the modern concerns such as the status of women, the impact of the Holocaust, the State of Israel, and medical and commercial ethics. The two appendices, The Thirteen Principles of the Faith, and the "Philadelphia Platform" of Reform Judaism, illustrate again the wide range of coverage and sensitivity to all denominations presented in this work. A list of suggestions for further reading by chapter and a lengthy index make this work a good jumping-off point for further research. This is a useful brief overview of most aspects of Judaism, but as with any broad treatment this is only an introduction, leading to a need for further research for any in-depth inquiry. For the price, this book is a welcome addition to any high school or adult collection where brief overviews and introductions are needed to aspects of Judaism. Reviewer: Sara Rofofsky Marcus