One of my cyber Jew of Color friends recently asked me which books I’ve read and what I’m reading now. Here’s the list of what I’ve read and a little bit of information about it.
An Invitation to Shabbat by Ruth Perelson is an incredibly easy-to-read Shabbat “How To” book. I finished it in a subway trip. It includes a CD of Shabbat music with sheet music.
The Colors of Jews-Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz was the first book on Judaism that I read, actually. I put it down about three chapters in and picked up another book because I was overwhelmed with a subject I knew almost nothing about. I finished reading it after reading several other books on Judaism. The book is extremely knowledgeable and has a very strong point of view. For me, it read very academic a majority of the time.
Being Jewish-The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today by Ari L. Goldman was the first Jewish book I read cover to cover on a trip to DC. I absolutely loved it. It is easy to read, has a lot of history, as well as having a very modern feel. He talks about the Jewish Life Cycle, with an inclusiveness to LGBT Jews as well as a thorough outline of the Holidays. Maybe it was the fact that it was the first Jewish book I opened but I loved it.
Choosing a Jewish Life-A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for their Family and Friends by Anita Diamant. This book was also a really great easy to understand read. Literally anything you want to know about conversion from initial conversations with family members, stories of converts, to what happens at a Beit Din is covered in this book. Totally recommend it to anyone who is thinking about converting but hasn’t talked to a rabbi yet. It answered a lot of questions for me and I felt really prepared before my initial phone call to a rabbi.
Living a Jewish Life-Jewish Traditions, Customs, and Values for Today’s Families by Anita Diamant. Looking back through this book there are entire sections that I have underlined or highlighted. The way that Anita writes her books is so easy to swallow while being really frank and incredibly honest. She talks frankly about Christmas and it’s sometimes confusing implications on Jewish children.
From Ghetto to Ghetto-An African American Journey to Judaism by Ernest H. Adams is an amazing memoir by a man who discovered Judaism fairly late in life. We learn about the struggles of his youth to the details to a Jewish wedding I wish I could’ve seen in real-life. Mr. Adam’s retelling of his life is brutally honest at times but as a black woman converting to Judaism I related to many of his struggles. Any Jew by Choice would benefit reading this book, as well as born Jews.
The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel is more amazing the words can describe. Reading this book, and re-reading it helps to put a value on the importance of Shabbat. If any new Jew or “lazy” Jew wants to know why Shabbat is so important to the Jewish people, I would recommend this book only. He writes, “The Sabbath, thus, is more than an armistice, more than an interlude; it is a profound conscious harmony of man and the world, a sympathy for all things and a participation in the spirit that unites what is below and what is above. All that is divine in the world is brought into union with god. This is Sabbath, and the true happiness of the universe”
Black, White, and Jewish-An Autobiography of a Shifting Self by Rebecca Walker is the namesake for my blog. She clearly has a profound impact on me but not in the way that her book reflects. Walker is a born Jew and grew up shifting from Black, to White to Jewish. Still, her open story telling and heart breaking and sometimes humorous story is uplifting, motivating, and inspirational. It’s not entirely Jewish, per se, but the ability to understand her perspective is outstanding.