It’s no secret that I am a hopeless biblioholic — I can’t stop buying books (and I do read most of them!). Since I have so many, I often get asked for recommendations and I am always happy to serve as a resource. That is actually my excuse for getting another book — someone may need a resource! As a Jewish educator, I have quite the collection of books on all sorts of Jewish knowledge and am often asked for a book that will answer questions on being Jewish. The challenge is, first, that there are so many on what it means to be Jewish and so many different perspectives. (Aside: One can also explore websites for answers but since we are “The People of the Book” we should definitely reach for a good book!)
So how to choose? Jewish questions always have lots of answers and we must find the one that makes sense for us at the time. We do change and an answer today may be different than the answer that works for tomorrow. With so many answers from so many rabbis, how do we know whom to ask and whom to listen to? It is a little like getting opinions from a number of doctors about a condition or even a real estate agent on where to live in a new town. Often we would like the definitive answer: What happens after we die? Believe it or not, that is one of the big questions we hear about Judaism and no matter how many rabbis you ask, no one really knows the answer.
This lead-in on questions and answers is all to say that I have a new book to recommend: “Why Jews Do That or 30 Questions Your Rabbi Never Answered” by Avram Mlotek. This is a book filled with great questions, wonderful quotes and fun pictures, and it is a bit irreverent but the info is well based in Jewish thought and knowledge. The author is a rabbi, cantor, actor and writer who was named as one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by The Forward. The questions range from “Do Jews Believe in Heaven and Hell?” to “Is Mikvah a Jewish Spa?” and “Why Are Jews Obsessed with Food?” However, if you are looking for something a little more subdued, “The Jewish Book of Why” by Alfred Kolatch is still the standard.
I have rambled as I share my love of books and now I am going to give you a sneak preview into a J program coming on Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (no, we do not do Halloween and my column next week will be on why). After the tornado, I lost many books (and bookshelves and most of the house) but when everything was returned, I sorted through the books I must keep and those I am ready to share. Then I cleaned my office which meant sorting through more books. On Sunday, Oct. 31, we are having a biblioholic’s dream program — a Jewish book sidewalk sale! Bring a bag (or we will provide) and for a $10 donation per bag (any size) fill it with books and more! There are children’s books, novels, Jewish nonfiction of all sorts. Fill your bag and start reading. Watch for more details and PLEASE come take books!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.