Living a Jewish Life, Updated and Revised Edition

Title: Living a Jewish Life, Updated and Revised Edition: Jewish Traditions, Customs, and Values for Today's Families
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN13: 978-0061173646
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Living a Jewish Life is a 21st century hands-on guide to the cultural and spiritual treasures of Judaism. From how to hang a mezuzah to celebrating Passover, from lighting Sabbath candles to choosing a synagogue that’s right for you and yours, this is a practical and user-friendly reference for ways to inform and enrich your Jewish life.

A perennial text in “Judaism 101”and “Introduction to Judaism” classes, Living a Jewish Life spans the spectrum of liberal Jewish thought and practice, for people who describe themselves as Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal, unaffiliated, or secular. A celebration of the diversity, joy and fulfillment that Jewish life can bring, today, it is a “why-to” book as well as “how-to,” with context provided by ancient commentaries, Jewish history, and contemporary interpretations.

Coauthor Howard Cooper is a master Jewish educator.


While it is not a book of “do’s and don’ts,” Living a Jewish Life does have a point of view and even an agenda — which is to encourage readers to make Jewish choices, to try on some of the rituals, observances, and customs described in the following chapters — to see how they feel and to explore what they can mean. Although there is a great deal of practical information in these pages — suggestions, instructions, and menus for everything from prayers to arts and crafts projects — the “how-to” materials are not presented as ends in themselves, because one of the hallmarks of liberal Judaism is its insistence on meaning, on considering the “why” of everything: Why light candles on Friday night? Why forego shrimp? Why get married under a canopy? Why join a synagogue?

For liberal Jews, the answers to these questions are not fixed, but open, dynamic, and personal. The answers come from many sources: through the process of studying traditional Jewish texts, such as the Torah, the literature of Jewish law (halachah) and imagination (midrash); through the sweep of Jewish history; through discussion with teachers and peers; through a sense of God’s presence; and through personal reflection and experimentation.

Living a Jewish Life takes a descriptive rather than a prescriptive approach to Judaism. The word “should” does not appear in these pages. Since Jews do things – well, actually nearly everything — in many different ways, this book contains “menus” of choices about the hows, whens, and whys of modern Jewish life.