The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions fills the requirements of a desk reference, a single volume that covers material usually found in several different books. Dr. Ronald L. Eisenberg, the author, is a radiologist and lawyer who has written extensively on medical and legal subjects. He is currently completing a Master’s degree in Jewish Studies at Spertus College and wrote this book to answer his own questions on Jewish issues.
The guide is organized into eight sections: “Life-Cycle Events,” “Sabbath and Festivals,” “Synagogue and Prayer,” “Jewish Literature (classic texts),” “Mitzvot,” “Miscellany,” “Food,” and “Plants and Animals.” The table of contents lists the hundreds of entries covered under these broad topics and the book is fully indexed, so finding a given subject is easy.
The entries are well researched, concise, and balanced, with historical overviews from the biblical period through the present. They cover the entire range of Jewish practice, from the halakhic to liberal Judaism, and deal with such controversial issues as who is a Jew, euthanasia, agunot, autopsies, and intermarriage.
Two of the most attractive features of the book are its coverage of homely folk traditions— there is an entry on magic and superstition — and, at the other extreme, its thorough use of talmudic and other classic sources. Because of this wide range, The JPS Guide is enjoyable to browse as well as to consult on specific topics and can sit usefully on the shelves of both home and institutional libraries. Appen., biblio., index , notes.
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.