A Jewish bucket list

I’m reading a most unusual book whose title might inspire you (but perhaps even offend you); it is “100 Jewish Things to Do Before You Die.” But please don’t let this put off your getting familiar with its 200+ pages! 

I suspect none of us really wants to be faced so boldly with our own mortality, but when you get into Barbara Sheklin Davis’ accounting of what she sees as necessary, you may change your mind. I think that, at the very least, I’ll have to hurry up to make sure I do a lot of her recommendations in time — My Time — whatever of it may be left to me after 87 years…

Our author begins simply enough: No. 1 is “Add a Jewish Object to Your Home.” If you don’t already have at least one somewhere in your house, you really do need this book! Hanging a mezuzah (properly, of course!) is the first item to start with, if “the doorpost of your house” is religiously naked. Ninety-nine Jewish things later, she challenges each of us to write our own prayer. I guarantee you’ll be ready for that by the time you have read all the preceding 202 pages.

Some of the author’s suggestions (actually more like demands!) are quite simple. For example, try to wish people “Shabbat Shalom” instead of “Thank G-d It’s Friday!” But many require a lot more work, such as “Plant a Tree for Tu B’Sh’vat.” With this one, she provides background information on the holiday itself, plus why it’s a mitzvah to do what she recommends — either right where you live, or through purchase of one or more trees (easy enough to take care of through such organizations as Hadassah) to augment those already in Israel.

The variety of her suggestions goes remarkably from “learn your own Jewish name” — if you don’t already know it — to familiarizing yourself with the names of the many Jews who have contributed so much to the American music we all love. “How the Jews Influenced Broadway” is her tribute to those who made possible an array of hits from “Annie” to “Zorba.” This is Chapter 52 of the 100, introduced by a
immortal but certainly unforgettable line from Monty Python’s “Spamalot”: “If you don’t want to lose…you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews…”

One fun chapter is dedicated to “Tchotchkes You Never Knew Existed,” such as a Golda Meir action figure, a “schmutz” doormat and a box of notecards starting with the message to “Keep Calm and Kvetch On…” Or perhaps, on that great May “holiday for all,” you might send this mug to the most appropriate person in your own life: “I don’t do calm — I’m a Jewish mother…”

I could go on and on, happily quoting and raving, but that would only deprive you of the pleasure of reading everything for yourself. So just Google the title, and you’ll find you can purchase this little treasure from Amazon as a brand-new paperback, just as first published in time for Hanukkah five years ago. Now that we’re again approaching holiday gift-giving time, at $15.95, and even 80 cents less for your Kindle, how can you lose?

In the very back of this book there’s a listing of 97 of the recommended “100 Jewish Things to Do Before You Die,” to help direct readers on the road to accomplishment. I don’t know what happened to the other three, but I can’t account for them myself and won’t worry about it — I have more than enough to ponder already!

Harriet Gross can be reached at

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