Reading List: Basic Judaism

Jewish Shelves

Looking for some basic reading about Judaism? Here are some of the best bets around:

Settings of Silver, an Introduction to Judaism by Stephen M Wylen – This is the book I use for my Intro courses. I chose it because the information is solid, it includes a brief history, and it has a good index.

Living Judaism: The Complete Guide to Jewish Tradition, Belief, and Practice by Wayne Dosick – Another good basic text, used by many rabbis.

Basic Judaism by Milton Steinberg – Published in 1947, this is still a classic work. It’s small but powerful.

What is a Jew? by Morris N. Kertzer – This book has a Q&A format and it’s extremely basic. If you are looking for just some basic facts without details, it might be the right book for you.

These are not holiday or “how-to” books – I’ll post a list of those soon.

Do you have a favorite basic Judaism text?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

2 thoughts on “Reading List: Basic Judaism”

  1. So far I’m split between Kushner’s work and Telushkin’s work. I would have to say that Telushkin’s The Book Of Jewish Values and Telushkin’s Jewish Literacy are great for basic information, and pretty much anything by Kushner is valuable for the liberal Jewish theology.

    1. Rabbi Harold Kushner (“To Life!” and “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”) is a wonderful author. I very nearly included “To Life!” on the list. Thank you for mentioning him!

      Rabbi Telushkin has written a lot of books that I’d consider in the next tier of books – they are not the first books that I’d hand someone, but I definitely recommend him highly to anyone who wants to take the next step in learning. He wrote a favorite of mine, “Words that Hurt, Words that Heal” about Jewish practice concerning the use of words. The two books you mention are wonderful, too – anything with his name on it is good.

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