“Typically Jewish” by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell— What Does Typically Jewish Mean?

Maxwell, Nancy Kalikow. “Typically Jewish”, Jewish Publication Society, 2016.

What Does Typically Jewish Mean?

Amos Lassen

Looking at Judaism as a way of life, Nancy Kalikow Maxwell explores what it means to be Jewish and she does so by asking questions— many of which have several possible answers. The answers she manages to come up with are those from rabbis, researchers, and her assembled Jury on Jewishness (Jewish friends she dragged into conversation) and we learn a lot and have fun doing so. Ion eight chapters (see below), we get some kinds of answers and even though we may never know whether Jews prefer deity to deli (or vice versa), we have a lot of fun thinking about it. Even though Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitz prohibited worry, we do tend to spend a great deal of time worrying. Right now I am worrying about what my next sentence will be.

Here are a few of my gleanings:

 “Kvell-worthy fact: About 75 percent of American Jews give to charity versus 63 percent of Americans as a whole.”

“Since reciting Kaddish brought secular Jews to synagogue, the rabbis, aware of their captive audience, moved the prayer to the end of the service.”

“Who’s Jewish? About a quarter of Nobel Prize winners, an estimated 80 percent of comedians at one point, and the winner of Nazi Germany’s Most Perfect Aryan Child Contest.”

We learn how answer questions Jewishly which could mean that we never get close to the question or that we start a rant about Rabbi so and so from Eastern Europe and listen to 25o of his cute little stories which have little or nothing to do with the story.

So we learn how Jews think (or don’t think) as well as how they feel, act, love, schmooze and live. They’ll also schmooze as they use the book’s “Typically Jewish, Atypically Fun” discussion guide.

The. Book is witty and wise as it examines members of the tribe. Over time and almost everywhere in the world, the globe, Jews have built a vast library of books about every topic of interest to the Jewish people. Here is another book to be added to those libraries. There is a bit of everyone in this book and I believe that each Jew will find himself somewhere in it.

The book is a  comprehensive explanation of the complexities and conundrums but note that it is not definitive since no topic has all the answers

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Is This Book Different from All Other Books?    
1. Worrying    
2. Kvelling    
3. Dying    
4. Noshing    
5. Laughing    
6. Detecting    
7. Dwelling    
8. Joining    
Conclusion: What It Means to Be Typically Jewish    
Appendix: Typically Jewish, Atypically Fun Discussion Guide    

Leave a Reply