Jew­ish Fes­ti­vals Through­out the Year

Ani­ta Ganeri
  • Review
By – August 20, 2012

Jew­ish Fes­ti­vals Through­out the Year is part of a six-book series includ­ing Bud­dhist, Chris­t­ian, Hin­du, Mus­lim and Sikh fes­ti­vals, all by author Ani­ta Ganeri. Designed in col­or, with large type, infor­ma­tion­al side­bars and mul­ti­ple images on each page, the book is invit­ing for young stu­dents of reli­gion. The series was first pub­lished in the U.K. and Aus­tralia by Franklin Watts, a pub­lish­er of non­fic­tion for chil­dren that has a line of about ten series of Reli­gious Edu­ca­tion books. These ori­gins are appar­ent in the resources list­ed at the back of the book, which include two Amer­i­can web­sites, two British, and two Australian. 

The book opens with a two-page intro­duc­tion to Judaism, defin­ing a Jew as any­one born of a Jew­ish mother…even if he or she does not active­ly fol­low any reli­gious prac­tices,” and giv­ing a brief overview of Jew­ish his­to­ry. In clear and gen­er­al­ly pre­cise prose, the book goes on to describe ten Jew­ish fes­ti­vals, begin­ning with Shab­bat and Rosh Hashanah. There are also a few sug­gest­ed activ­i­ties, like mak­ing a Rosh Hashanah card and a Purim grog­gor. While the book doesn’t direct­ly men­tion the range of Jew­ish prac­tices, the pho­tographs show obser­vant Jews from a vari­ety of backgrounds. 

Hol­i­days are a tan­gi­ble aspect of reli­gion, and usu­al­ly fun as well — so the fes­ti­vals con­cept is a love­ly way to teach a mul­ti­cul­tur­al group of chil­dren about dif­fer­ent reli­gions. The Year of Fes­ti­vals books could fit nice­ly into a Reli­gious Edu­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum at a British school. In the U.S., where reli­gion is usu­al­ly not taught in pub­lic schools, it’s a lit­tle hard­er to see where the series would find its place. Jew­ish Fes­ti­vals Through­out the Year doesn’t seem suit­ed to teach­ing Jew­ish chil­dren, since it refers to Jews in the third per­son (e.g., They believe…”). But the book does offer an accu­rate, coher­ent tool for edu­cat­ing chil­dren about the Jew­ish reli­gion. Ages 6 – 9 

Phoebe Sorkin, who grad­u­at­ed from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, works in the edi­to­r­i­al depart­ment of Lit­tle, Brown and Com­pa­ny Books for Young Readers.

Discussion Questions