The best books that introduce Jewish ideas to others

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a rabbi, educator, scholar and author who has led congregations, organizations and taught in rabbinical seminaries. As a result, I have always straddled the world of the practitioner and the academician. These books have informed my personal religious practice and outlook, as well as my academic approach to Judaism.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Sisters Z

What is my book about?

Meet the spunkiest five sisters of the Bible: Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. The Sisters Z.  Orphaned, the Sisters Z have learned to stick together and stand up for their rights as a family. The Sisters Z is a refreshing retelling of the story of the daughters of Zelphehad. The Sisters Z don’t know they’re arguing the first case in history to allow women to inherit land. They just know it’s not fair.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did I love this book?

In the current search for spirituality, many people inside and outside of the Jewish community are looking for the Jewish path to spirituality.

This is a powerful introduction to the various practices in Judaism that offer such a spiritual path for the seeker. The book contains a vehicle to enhancing one’s connection to the Divine or finding it for the first time. I found it helpful on a personal level. 

By Daniel Gordis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God Was Not in the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Simon & Schuster, God Was Not in the Fire is Daniel Gordis' fascinating and exhilarating search for a spiritual judaism.

Contemporary Jews seeking a path toward spirituality and a renewal of faith will find it in this fresh look at the traditional rituals, prayers, celebrations, and ethical teachings of Judaism.


Book cover of Judaism Disrupted: A Spiritual Manifesto for the 21st Century

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did I love this book?

By the author of the most well-known and useful DIY book (The Jewish Catalogue), this is one of the most important books of the current generation.

The author gives us a blueprint for navigating a positive and productive Jewish future and the steps for getting there. I found the book intriguing. Since I consider myself a Jewish futurist, this book projects a possible trend in the future—which I find to be quite provocative and potentially “prophetic.”

By Michael Strassfeld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Judaism Disrupted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"I can't remember the last time I felt pulled to underline a book constantly as I was reading it, but Judaism Disrupted is exactly that intellectual, spiritual and personal adventure. You will find yourself nodding, wrestling, and hoping to hold on to so many of its ideas and challenges. Rabbi Strassfeld reframes a Torah that demands breakage, reimagination, and ownership. Not only did I learn so much from Strassfeld's 11 principles; I was changed by them."

-Abigail Pogrebin, author, My Jewish Year; 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew


How do you hold on to faith in a modern world? Rabbi Michael…


Book cover of The New Jewish Canon

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did I love this book?

As a result of vast outpouring of important Jewish writing over the last century, it is difficult to navigate what is important and what should be included in the mainstream of Jewish life.

This is a curated collection of some of the most important writing and documentation of the period. I found it personally helpful to know what I should be reading and what I should be aware of. It also provides a helpful blueprint for those of us who are educators—what should be teaching in the years ahead to raise literate Jews of this generation, as well as those of other faith communities who may be interested in the trajectory of Jewish intellectual and religious life of this period.

By Yehuda Kurtzer (editor), Claire E. Sufrin (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Jewish Canon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been a period of mass production and proliferation of Jewish ideas, and have witnessed major changes in Jewish life and stimulated major debates. The New Jewish Canon offers a conceptual roadmap to make sense of such rapid change. With over eighty excerpts from key primary source texts and insightful corresponding essays by leading scholars, on topics of history and memory, Jewish politics and the public square, religion and religiosity, and identities and communities, The New Jewish Canon promises to start conversations from the seminar room to the dinner table. The New Jewish…


Book cover of Renewing the Covenant: A Theology for the Postmodern Jew

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did I love this book?

Eugene Borowitz was the leading liberal Jewish theologian of the 20th and early 21st century. Although this book may be challenging for those disinclined to read dense theology, it is presented in a more popular way and contains a theology that has informed the lives of many Jews, including myself. 

By Eugene B. Borowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Renewing the Covenant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Borowitz creatively explores his theory of Covenant, linking self to folk and God through the contemporary idiom of relationship.


Book cover of As a Driven Leaf

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did I love this book?

A well-loved classic, to be sure, this book introduces readers to the theological searches and struggles of the individual.

The book is well-written as a novel, cleverly informed implicitly by the stories of the Talmud and its rabbis. I like to say that I was raised on this novel. It took me to places that I didn’t know existed until I later entered those worlds. The main character of this book is a bit of an antihero, an outlier, someone to whom I always related.

By Milton Steinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked As a Driven Leaf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The age of the Talmud is brought to life in a breathtaking saga. First published in 1939, this masterpiece of modern fiction tells the gripping tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah's struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Set in Roman Palestine, As a Driven Leaf draws readers into the dramatic era of Rabbinic Judaism. Watch the great Talmudic sages at work in the Sanhedrin, eavesdrop on their arguments about theology and Torah, and agonize with them as they contemplate rebellion against an oppressive Roman rule.

Steinberg's classic novel also transcends its historical setting…


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A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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