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The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness

Sylvia Barack Fishman, PhD

6 x 9, 288 pp, Quality Paperback, 978-1-58023-367-5

Also Available in Hardcover

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An accessible introduction to the many ways Jews understand Jewishness and identify themselves and their communities—throughout history and today.
For everyone who wants to understand the varieties of Jewish identity, its boundaries and inclusions, this book explores the religious and historical understanding of what it has meant to be Jewish from ancient times to the present controversy over “Who is a Jew?” Beginning with the biblical period, it takes readers era by era through Jewish history to reveal who the Jewish community included and excluded, and discusses the fascinating range of historical conflicts that Jews have dealt with internally. It provides an understanding of how the Jewish people and faith developed, and of what the major religious differences are among Jewish movements today.
“Marvelous … an excellent introduction to the diversity of Jewish life.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Cogent … highly approachable…. Highlights some significant and striking diversities in the Jewish experience in earlier times and portrays a broad spectrum of contemporary American modes of Jewishness.”
American Library Association’s Booklist
“Brief but insightful and well sourced … does not sacrifice scholarship for brevity. Recommended.”
“Remarkable…. Displays a deft touch as well as considerable intellectual depth and profound Jewish knowledge. Will inform and educate both the introductory as well as veteran reader on this topic … highly recommended as a primary text in popular and academic settings.”
Rabbi David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion
“Engagingly written … a superb introduction to the diversity of Jewish culture and identity, and of Judaism itself, throughout three millennia of history. With sharp insight Fishman illuminates the contemporary American Jewish scene.”
Paula Hyman, Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History, Yale University
“A readable, engrossing analysis of Judaism within a historical perspective.... A useful tool for understanding Judaism at this point in the twenty-first century. Highly recommended.”
Congregational Libraries Today
“Short but substantial, learned but accessible … a wonderful survey of the varieties of Jewishness from ancient to modern times.”
Shaye J.D. Cohen, Littauer Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature; director, Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University
“Wonderfully engaging and erudite. Interweaves women’s experience into the general story, as opposed to making their story a separate one; naturalizes feminist Jewish scholarship in a way that I hope will serve as a shining precedent.”
Prof. Rebecca Goldstein, author, Betraying Spinoza
“A miracle of compression … Jews of every persuasion, women and men alike, will come away from this book with a deeper understanding of Judaism’s many faces and possibilities.”
Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University; author, American Judaism: A History
“Inspirational.... Will help readers establish their own relationship with sacred text.”
Jewish Book World
“At last, a cogent and deeply engaging road map to contemporary American Jewish life.”
Pamela S. Nadell, professor of history; director, Jewish Studies Program, American University
“Arresting…. Synthesizes respect for the elements of tradition with critical scholarship. Combines a kind-spirited awareness of weakness with a no-nonsense understanding of the strengths of each variety. I enjoyed every minute of reading this tour-de-force.”
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president, Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation
The Way Into...
The Way Into… Series offers an accessible and highly usable “guided tour” of the Jewish faith, people, history and beliefs—in total, an introduction to Judaism that will enable you to understand and interact with the sacred texts of the Jewish tradition.
Each volume is written by a leading contemporary scholar and teacher, and explores one key aspect of Judaism.
The Way Into… enables all readers to achieve a real sense of Jewish cultural literacy through guided study.
Sylvia Barack Fishman, PhD, a well-known author of many articles and books including Double or Nothing? Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage and Jewish Life and American Culture, is professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University, and codirector of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. She speaks frequently at temples and Jewish communal events as well as at academic conferences.


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978-1-58023-463-4 Other Talmud--The Yerushalmi
978-1-58023-259-3 I Am Jewish (PB)
978-1-58023-201-2 Way Into Jewish Prayer
978-1-58023-198-5 Way Into Torah
978-1-58023-268-5 Way Into Judaism and the Environment
978-1-58023-247-0 Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice
978-1-58023-337-8 Touch of the Sacred (HC)
978-1-58023-328-6 Way Into Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) (PB)
978-1-58023-199-2 Way Into Encountering God in Judaism


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