We recently launched a new Friday edition of our e‑newsletter, in which our Executive Director Naomi Firestone-Teeter shares her weekly reading picks and invites subscribers to write back. It’s been a great way to connect on a more personal level, We’ve been thrilled to hear back from readers, whether with their own reading recommendations or their thoughts on a book we suggested. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up for our email list here.
When Richard Siegel, Jewish educator and co-editor of the “Jewish Catalog” (Jewish Publication Society) series of do-it-yourself guides to Judaism, passed away two weeks ago, Naomi asked readers to share their memories of the Jewish Catalog. Here are some of our favorite responses that demonstrate just how impactful these books were:
“I always felt comforted by and had been spiritually committed to Judaism but The Jewish Catalog infused it with the ‘cool’ factor, activism and a pluralistic observance. The book was a first step for the seriously engaged Jewish life I’ve lived. Those ‘60’s and ’70s Jewish communal movers and shakers no doubt made a huge contribution toward diversity within our community. I do hope, moving forward, we can continue this path without forgetting kindness, legitimacy of feeling and understanding all sub-groups in our Jewish world. There’s much lip-service but not much honesty and introspection.” —Susan
“I was a young woman when the Catalog was published. Its with-it way drew me to Judaism, and its challah recipe, now famously known as “Janet’s Challah” has become one of my dear friend’s own famous challah. Amusingly, I practiced baking this challah for our son’s bris. It was huge and barely fit in the oven. But delicious it was, and quite a stunner!” —Janet
“The Jewish Catalog was purchased for the reference collection in our local branch of the library. I know this because I was the reference librarian in charge of buying the books for that collection in 1986. I used it occasionally to answer obscure questions in the days before the internet. It was not easy to find answers in books at that time to cultural questions about Judaism, especially in Arizona with a fledgling Jewish community. It served the purpose of introducing many to Jewish practice in a way that was neither stodgy nor inaccessible.” —Sue
“It was 1974/75, I had fallen in love with a young man — not an observant Jew but very staunch in his traditions and desire to have Jewish children and a Jewish home. I am Italian and was raised in a strong Catholic family. I too knew a lot about traditions, family dinners, and the need to honor and respect one’s parents. In 1975 I was exploring the possibility of converting to Judaism. The Jewish Catalog allowed me to view Judaism from its unique perspective and opened my heart to a world and life I could not have imagined. We were married after my conversion in 1976, started a family in 1980 and I have had the privilege and joy of making a Jewish home and raising a Jewish family. The Jewish Catalogs accompanied me for all those years.” —Carol
“I found The Jewish Catalog to be life-changing. Though I grew up in a wonderful Conservative Jewish home, in a great shul in Pittsburgh, PA, I learned so much from the book. I especially learned what kind of questions to ask, and I shared this with my parents. It was also a great equalizer at college! I went to Clark in Worcester, MA, and when we would see someone had the book, it was an instant connection!” —Sandra