By and About Halfies
Half/Life: Jewish Tales from Interfaith Homes, edited by Laurel Snyder. A beautiful collection of personal essays highlighting the navigational challenges of the Half-Jewish experience. You will see yourself in these mind-blowing pages.
Getting to the Heart of Interfaith: The Eye-Opening, Hope-Filled Friendship of a Pastor, a Rabbi, and a Sheikh by Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, and Sheikh Jamal Rahman. Known for their radio show “The Three Interfaith Amigos,” the authors share what their personal faith journeys, and reveal what they love and what they question in their own faith tradition.
The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz. The author begins with the question “Are white Jews white?” – from there, she discusses interracial dynamics in the U.S. and the many varieties of Judaism beyond the dominant American Eastern-European model.
Introduction to Judaism
To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking, by Harold S. Kushner. This book encapsulates the spirit behind the holidays and rituals, the “why” of Jewish living. Engaging and accessible.
Jewish Literacy, by Joseph Telushkin. An encyclopedic volume that begins with a study of biblical history to the present day. Includes holidays, life cycle events, a little who’s who in Jewish history, discussion of anti-Semitism and Israel.
The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness, by Sylvia Barack Fishman. This is an excellent academic history. It covers the development of Judaism from the earliest known records to the present, and shows how the various American movements emerged.
Living Judaism: The Complete Guide to Jewish Tradition, Wisdom, & Practice, by Wayne D. Dosick. General concepts, holidays, and history, presented with depth, nuance, and texture.
Living a Jewish Life, by Anita Diamant. An exploration of liberal Judaism in the United States.
Beyond the Basics
The Way of God (Derech Hashem), by the 18th century Italian rabbi, kabbalist, and philosopher Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (AKA “the Ramchal”). A discussion of Jewish theology.
The Path of the Just, R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. An exploration of Jewish ethics.
Duties of the Heart, R’ Bachya ibn Paquda, 11th century Spain. Investigates the existence of God and what God wants from human beings via logical analysis.
Great is Peace: A Modern Commentary on Talmud Bavli Tractate Derek Eretz Zuta, by Rabbi Dr. Arthur Segal and Sara Davies. A contemporary translation of Derek Eretz Zuta. Explores Jewish ethics and spirituality in the areas of relationships, business, labor, environmental stewardship, and personal growth.
Chofetz Chaim: A Lesson A Day: The Concepts and Laws of Proper Speech Arranged for Daily Study, Finkelman/Berkowitz. Provides a comprehensive exploration of the rules of lashon ha ra.
The Handbook to Jewish Spiritual Renewal, by Rabbi Dr. Arthur Segal. An exploration of the ethical foundations of a Jewish life.
The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshua Heschel. One of the leading Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, author of God in Search of Man. This book encourages exploration of the sabbath as an adventure in the “sanctification of time.”
A Code of Jewish Ethics: Vol. 1 – You Shall Be Holy, by Joseph Telushkin. Explains what Jewish law has to say about how we should treat each other.
Great Jewish Thinkers: Their Lives and Work, by Naomi E. Pasachoff
Biographies and contributions of big-name Jewish philosophers from ancient times through the 20th century.
The Rituals & Practices of a Jewish Life: A Handbook for Personal Spiritual Renewal, by Kerry Olitzky & Daniel Judson. An engaging “how-to” for home ritual.
Jewish Renewal, by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Rabbi Lerner begins by exploring the choice made by Abraham in the story of the binding of Isaac, describing that pivotal decision a rejection of “the voice of cruelty,” establishing the Jewish spiritual mission to change the world “from that which is to that which ought to be.”
Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew, from EKS Publishing. Explains the sounds made by the letters, provides reading and writing practice. If you really want to learn, I suggest supplementing this book with “Sounds of Hebrew Flashcards” also produced by EKS.