I believe that several other MJ bloggers will participate. My idea for cross-blog participation is that for each book, the participating bloggers would write a piece or two each and we would all link to each other and make this discussion a blog carnival type of thing.
I would mention now exactly which bloggers are participating, but having been on some whirlwind travels and insanely busy, I am a tad behind.
So, why am I blogging about J-BOM now if I don’t have all my ducks in a row? I am blogging about it now because the time to order books is approaching.
HOW J-BOM COULD WORK
J-BOM is about MJ’s and friends of MJ reading some great Jewish books together. I hope some Christians and Jews who are not part of MJ will join us in this adventure in learning as well.
The idea is a little community and mutual reinforcement to get us to do something we know we oughta do anyway. I’ve learned this lesson from being part of Weight Watchers. I tried to lose weight without success for years. A friend challenged me to join Weight Watchers and inspired a little mutual reinforcement and, voila, I am twenty pounds lighter.
So, let’s read one great Jewish book a month together. Let’s have some discussion and reaction on the various participating blogs (all linking gloriously to one another in a display of profound unity in community). Let’s see if we can’t raise the level of education together with a large group of people within MJ as well as without.
It would be great if eventually we had tons of participating blogs and hundreds of people reading. It could happen.
I’ve heard from at least one blogger that they have a group in their synagogue who will all be reading the J-BOM books together. Don’t think that just because you are one of the only ones in your synagogue that reads MJ blogs that this great project needs to be limited to you. Do you know people who could benefit from a cheap but effective Jewish education? Get them reading too, even if they never surf the blogs and read the discussion and reviews online.
THE MARCH J-BOM FANTASTIC READ
March is Passover month. It would be crazy for J-BOM not to be about Passover in March.
My selection for March is The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah, a great resource that is not long, not too difficult for a broad selection of readers, and easily available at amazon, judaism.com, jewishpub.com, and other places. On amazon it is only $26.40. That’s about the upper end of pricey-ness I would want to go for on a J-BOM selection (some months you will have cheap options).
I would have considered The Schocken Passover Haggadah since it is cheaper and perhaps simpler (though not necessarily). But on amazon, the Schocken says “temporarily out of stock.”
I would love for everyone eventually to read My People’s Passover Haggadah, a two-volume set, which is thorough, detailed, and broad in its scope. But it is not ideal for J-BOM due to its two volumes, price, and length. It is, nonetheless, a great book that serious Jewish learners ought to have in their collection at some point.
An honorable mention (or perhaps a second book for March) is Seder Stories by Nancy Rips, a devotional collection of brief stories people tell about things like their most memorable Seder and so on. The book is short, funny at times, inspirational at times, practical in terms of sharing ideas for creativity, and fascinating because the stories are real.
After Passover, it is traditional to study the Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers), a section from the Mishnah. I am considering The Metsudah Pirkei Avot or Twerski’s Visions of the Fathers. Neither is available on amazon. I’d love to hear thoughts or suggestions. There are 108 verses in Pirkei Avot, so if we leave out weekends for reading, we’d need to read 5 verses and their commentary a day to finish in April. But that seems very workable.
In May, perhaps we should read Elie Wiesel’s Night. I’d suggest a second book, not widely available, to be Emil Fackenheim’s God’s Presence in History. Some will object that they’ve already read Wiesel’s book. It will bear reading again and again and the discussion will be healing and helpful.
In June, July, and August, why not focus on summer fiction? I’d suggest either Potok’s The Chosen or The Promise. The first is more famous, but the second one, as I recall, involves summer in the Catskills (or do I have that backwards?). I’m pre-reading another summer fiction selection, The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart (it’s a harder read than Potok, but I think readers will see why I recommend it anyway — besides, it’s not a long book).
Well, that being only two selections for summer Jewish fiction, I’d love to hear ideas for a third.
Then, after summer, there are plenty more good books to turn to. Heschel’s The Sabbath is a no-brainer. If it’s widely available, I’d like to get a lot of people reading and talking about A Letter for the Ages, the letter Nahmanides wrote with ethical wisdom to his son and a good deal of mussar-style commentary to go with it. David Wolpe’s Faith Matters is also a no-brainer.
There are tons of other great Jewish books, and I love getting recommendations. We’ve got many years, taking twelve books a year together in community, to get through them all.
Order The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah now. You need to prepare for Passover anyway and time is short.