As #DidJewKnow is a significant force in the Jewish Book Council’s social media campaign, the staff was delighted to find an entire book titled with the same pun. Did Jew Know? A Handy Primer on the Customs, Culture & Practice of the Chosen People is an eye-catching book of humor for the millennial generation.
The book is well designed overall, with charming visuals and attractive blurb boxes for the facts and non-sequiturs that pepper its 176 pages. Pun enthusiasts will revel in Stone’s clever diction, and readers will be unable to resist challenging those around them to the succinct and intriguing quizzes concluding assorted sections. But as much as Did Jew Know drives toward amusement, its content is clearly thoughtfully prepared. Stone is generally careful to note distinctions between different Jewish communities, as well as where and how those lines blur. She delivers information in simple, digestible generalizations and then introduces the subjects’ complexities, acknowledging exceptions, variations, and grey areas. Through the self-deprecating selections and remarks, Did Jew Know? boasts pride in the heritage and achievements of Members of the Tribe — even before the Tribe came to be.
While Stone manages impressively to avoid offense, more serious readers may find Did Jew Know a bit too irreverent in its explanations of traditional customs and retelling of Jewish and Biblical history. For the casual peekers and the uninformed, however, the book is deceptively comprehensive, covering a wide breadth of practices and trivia with enough cheek to keep the content interesting. The author demonstrates a good grasp of what vocabulary and knowledge is crucial in different situations — what terms and traditions one might encounter at a Jewish funeral or mourner’s home, for example — as well as which topics hold the most curiosity among her audience. For those without a rabbi to question as she did with her sources to create this publication, Did Jew Know? holds many of the answers just such a readership might seek. This quirky, content-packed miniature volume is well worth having around as both a resource and a source of impromptu entertainment for all who chance upon it.
Read Emily Stone’s Posts for the Visiting Scribe
Nat Bernstein is the former Manager of Digital Content & Media, JBC Network Coordinator, and Contributing Editor at the Jewish Book Council and a graduate of Hampshire College.