A solid guide to Judaism for reluctant believers.



One woman's rediscovery of her Jewish roots.

Hurwitz, the former head speechwriter for Michelle Obama, describes her journey into Judaism and offers advice for those looking at exploring the faith. Having basically abandoned the practice of Judaism after her bat mitzvah, the author became curious about the faith again later in her adulthood, and her initial inquiries turned into a full-blown quest to understand the religion of her heritage. Though still an infrequent worshiper, Hurwitz has immersed herself in the study of Judaism and the practice of its ethics. In this debut book, she is "essentially trying to write the book I wish I'd had five years ago,” a basic guide to what Judaism stands for, how believers live out their faith, and what sets the Jewish religion apart. She concentrates primarily on how Jews live moral lives, as opposed to what Jews believe, which she feels is secondary. Her approach is thoroughly modern and questioning, and the author, though recognizing that some Jews take their faith literally, assumes that readers will not believe in every aspect of Jewish tradition or theology. In fact, she admits that in exploring her faith, she often feared being labeled a "religious fanatic." In her recollection of a prayer exercise at a retreat, Hurwitz writes, "you can take the girl out of Washington, D.C., but Washington, D.C., is still in there, reminding the girl of how weird she's going to look and asking her what the people around her will think." These worries about the opinions of her peers seem to stymie the author's own spiritual journey, a fact apparent in her text if not evident to her personally. Still, Hurwitz provides a good introduction to basic tenets of Judaism, and her book will resonate with other secular Jews looking to regain a sense of their Jewish heritage.

A solid guide to Judaism for reluctant believers.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51071-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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