“The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between” by Stephanie Butnick, Leil Leibowitz and Mark Oppenheimer— “An Unorthodox Guide to Everything Jewish”

Butnick, Stephanie, Liel Leibowitz and Mark Oppenheimer. “The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between”, Artisan, 2019.

“An Unorthodox Guide to Everything Jewish”

Amos Lassen

One of the best things about being Jewish is the ability we have to be able to laugh at ourselves. With the “Newish Jewish Encyclopedia”, you will be doing just that. It is filled with knowledge and is educative while being irreverent (but irreverent with class).  It covers such topics as culture, religion, history, habits, language, and more. We read about our forefathers and foremothers and Barbra Streisand as well as get definitions of Zionism, Kashrut and so much more. We learn a bissel Yiddish (the important terms) and we get explanations of the major and minor holidays. One of the things that really sold me is we are reminded to read Hannah Arendt (my hero) and we are told that we must listen to Leonard Cohen and rewatch reruns of “Seinfeld”. If you have ever wondered how the Jews invented Hollywood, you will find that out here. Since we love to eat, there is a great deal about our food and culinary customs. The encyclopedia has hundreds of photos, charts, infographics, and illustrations.

While this is a very funny read, it is also a historical look at Judaism as well as a look at Judaism as it is and thoroughly covers each topic. I found myself so into it that I read it straight through and then read it again. It is so interesting to see how Jewish culture is seen and observed today.  What we really have is a celebration of the Jewish religion and I am sure I will be referring to it often for classes that I teach all over Boston. I simply cannot give it a high enough recommendation.

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