One of the strengths of What You Will See Inside a Synagogue is also one of its weaknesses. The book tries to do too much, so it is over-stimulating and confusing in its presentation of material. At its best, the book overflows with full color photographs depicting various aspects of ritual and Judaica from vibrant American synagogues. Conversely, many pages overflow with small photos and explanations of items used in synagogues, such as a yad, set aside from the main text by boxes. Therefore, many pages are simply too busy with photos and information to be easily digestible. Some readers might find the pronunciation guides of transliterated Hebrew words relating to Jewish holidays or items of Judaica at the bottom of most pages helpful. The guides add more text to pages already crowded by photos and information, so for some, they might inject more confusion than necessary. In addition to educating the reader about synagogues, the book devotes several pages to the observance of Jewish holidays, both in houses of prayer and private homes. The inclusion, for example, of a full page, color photo of a young boy playing dreidel at home contradicts not only the premise of the book but the title, as well. The book closes with two pages of beautiful photographs of temples and synagogues throughout the U.S. However, in light of the book’s title, it would have made more sense to have also included photographs of the interiors of those houses of prayer.
The authors recommend the book for ages 6 and up. While the book contains nothing inappropriate for young children, its presentation is simply too overwhelming for youngsters. The younger child might benefit from viewing the page-size color photographs scattered throughout the work, or perhaps by the reading of one or two pages at one sitting, but as a single body of work, this book is simply too much. For ages 8 – 11.