An Introduction to Judaism

An Introduction to Judaism

An Introduction to Judaism

An Introduction to Judaism


This book offers a full and lucid account of Judaism and the Jewish people. Written for Jews and non-Jews alike, whether students, teachers, or general interest readers, the book brings out the extraordinary richness and variety of Judaism: its historical depth, and the vigor and endurance of its traditions--in the home, in the synagogue, in its literature, in individual and community life. It contains illustrative tables and maps, a full glossary, chronology, bibliography and index. This is a stimulating and comprehensive introduction to a major world culture.


This book is intended for students of religion and others who seek an introduction to Judaism. It is, as its title says, an introduction, and nothing more. Some suggestions for further reading are given at the end. I hope I have covered the main points, without becoming too embroiled in details. I make no apology, however, for including a certain number of quotations, from the prayer book and other sources, because Judaism is a text-based religion, and to describe beliefs or rituals without giving texts would be to offer a very faint glimpse.

The focus throughout is on contemporary Judaism. Insofar as I delve into history, I do so through the eyes of the present. There are many books which tell the story of the Jewish people, but what matters for this introduction is the way that the past is perceived today and the ways that it affects contemporary Judaism.

Judaism today is very fragmented, as I have tried to explain in the book, and I have been careful to try to do justice to the different strands, roughly in proportion to their numerical importance. If I have been less than fair to secular Judaism that is because it does not yet seem to be as articulate about itself as the other trends.

The main centres of Judaism today are in the United States and Israel, and I have tried to reflect that importance in the book. However, I have also referred to Judaism in Europe, not only before the Second World War but today as well. Although the heyday of European Judaism lies in the past, it cannot be written off.

I have designed the book so that the chapters can be read in any order, and have deliberately included some repetition and cross-reference to that end. However, I believe there is a certain logic in the order in which the subject is presented, and recommend readers to follow the good advice to 'begin at the beginning'.

I acknowledge that my attempts to avoid sexist language may seem half-hearted. I have aimed at a compromise between accuracy and . . .

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