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A basic guide to academic research in Jewish studies.
Last Updated: Feb 25, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Introduction Print Page

About this Guide

This guide will help anyone who is interested in the academic study of Judaism. It includes topics such as:

  • How to find books in the library.
  • How to find articles on Judaism.
  • How to find authoritative web sites.
  • The top reference works on Jewish life and religion.
  • A guide to some basic Jewish terms.
  • Basic books in Jewish studies.

Basic Introductions

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Judaism: A Very Short Introduction - Norman Solomon
Call Number: General Libraries STACKS BM45 .S666 1996
A good introduction to the many aspects of Judaism. As the title says, short and sweet. Also available online.

Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism - Stephen M. Wylen
Call Number: BM155.2 .W95 1989
Good introduction to the faith, practices, and history of Judaism, from a Reform rabbi. Updated edition published in 2000.

What Is a Jew? - Morris Norman Kertzer
Call Number: BM650 .K45
Classic treatment of the traditions, beliefs, and practices of Judaism, in a question-and-answer format. Intended in part as a guide for non-Jews. Evenhanded Reform perspective. Updated in 1996.

Basic Judaism - Milton Steinberg
Call Number: BM560 .ST34
Concise treatment from a Reconstructionist viewpoint.

To Be a Jew: a Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life - Hayim Donin
Call Number: General Libraries STACKS BM700 .D58
Classic Orthodox guide to Jewish philosophy, daily life, and calendar.

Living a Jewish Life: Jewish Traditions, Customs, and Values for Today's Families - Anita Diamant
Call Number: General Libraries STACKS BM700 .D48 1996
Approaches Jewish thought not through theology but practice. Updated 2007.

A Dictionary of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue - ed. Leon Klenicki and Geoffrey Wigoder
Call Number: REFERENCE BM50 .D53 1984
Not a dictionary so much as a collection of thirty-nine topics, with each explained by two scholars, one Jewish and one Christian, showing how the ideas are related but differ at certain points. An excellent starting point for Christians, who all too often assume that all there is to know about Judaism can be found in the Old Testament. For a more conventional dictionary on the subject, see A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations (General Libraries STACKS BM535 .D487 2005, also available online).

The New Rabbi: A Congregation Searches for Its Leader - Stephen Fried
This witty, observant journalistic account follows the ups and downs of a Conservative congregation's search for a new rabbi (which proves to have similar dynamics to Christian clergy search processes). It also provides an entertaining way to learn more about Judaism. Get the paperback edition, which has an afterward on how it all turned out.


Top Reference Books

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The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion - ed. R. J. Zwi Werblowsky and Geoffrey Wigoder
Call Number: REFERENCE BM50 .O94 1997
ISBN: 0195086058
A revision of the older Encyclopedia of Judaism, perhaps the best one-volume reference on Jewish religion. Concise articles by outstanding scholars. Cross-references to alternate spellings and related articles. Great bibliographies. A good entry-level choice.

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The New Encyclopedia of Judaism - ed. Geoffrey Wigoder et al.
Call Number: REFERENCE BM50 .E63 2002
ISBN: 0814793886
Another good one-volume reference, more accessible and less scholarly than Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion. Short articles; glossary; maps; charts; excerpts; illustrations. No individual bibliographies, but a nice annotated bibliography at the end.

Cover Art
Encyclopaedia Judaica
Call Number: REFERENCE DS102.8 .E52
Monumental, exhaustive multivolume overview of Jewish life and knowledge. The 2nd edition, which often appends new information to the old articles rather than rewriting them, is available online. Maps, tables, illustrations, color photos, bibliographies, archaeological plans, chronologies, the works. Also thematic outline and index. Superb.

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The Encyclopedia of Judaism - ed. Jacob Neusner et al.
Call Number: REFERENCE BM50 .E63 1999
Highly authoritative reference on the Jewish religion in all its diversity from ancient times to the present, with a particular concentration on the rabbinic period. Indexes, bibliographies, and cross-references leave something to be desired, but this is a major work.

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The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions - Ronald L. Eisenberg
Call Number: GENERAL STACKS BM50 .E49 2004
Guide to Jewish life and ritual covers the various stages of life, Sabbath observance, festivals, synagogue traditions, daily observances (mitzvot), symbols, superstitions, and conversion. Includes list of weekly and holiday Torah readings, bibliography, index.

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The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words - Joyce Eisenberg
Call Number: REFERENCE BM50 .E47 2001
Most commonly used Jewish words and terms, derived from Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, and English, covering Jewish holidays and events, culture, history, worship, the Bible, and other sacred texts. Pronunciation guides, cross-references, index. Handy and accessible. See also the more extensive Dictionary of Jewish Terms (REFERENCE BM50 .E485 2008).

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The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols - Ellen Frankel and Betsy Platkin Teutsch
Call Number: REFERENCE BM50 .F74 1992
Definitions and descriptions for ceremonial objects, images, personalities, places, concepts, motifs, and events in Jewish life. Arranged alphabetically, with B&W illustrations. Includes glossary, listing of symbols by category and concept, time line of Jewish history, and index.

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Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts - ed. Barry W. Holtz
Call Number: REFERENCE BM496.5 .B33 1984
Outstanding introduction to classic Jewish texts: Tanakh, Talmud, Prayer Book, medieval Biblical commentaries, legal codes, philosophical works. What they are and how to read them. Includes detailed examples, plus extensive bibliographic essays. This is the place to start getting hands-on experience. From the same editor: The Schocken Guide to Jewish Books (General STACKS DS102.95 .S36 1992), which covers a broader selection of Jewish literature, but in lesser depth.

Historical Atlas of the Jewish People - Yohanan Aharoni and Shmuel Aḥituv
Call Number: REFERENCE DS116 .A54 2003
Atlas of the Jewish people, history, and culture from antiquity to the present. Text, maps, photographs, diagrams and other artwork, arranged chronologically and systematically. Glossary, index.

Jewish Year Book
Call Number: REFERENCE DS135 .EN3 A3 1975
Annual publication for over a hundred years; an authoritative record of events and trends in Jewish life in the United States. Covers major themes, anniversaries, Jewish life (especially in U.S. and Israel). Lists of national Jewish organizations, federations, and periodicals; obituaries; Jewish calendars. American and British editions. Archives available online.


Brief Glossary of Jewish Terms

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