New Book: A fun way to be shomer shabbos?

Here is a new book in the genre of Judaism is fun if you don't take it too seriously. The reviewer wonders about the target audience for such a book. Could Gentiles be interested? The publisher does not think so.

Suburban Mom Offers Fun Way into Sabbath Observance

by David Klinghoffer, Religion BookLine -- Publishers Weekly, 2/21/2007

For most American Jews, Sabbath observance--including the once-cherished Friday night Sabbath meal--largely went out the window in the 20th century. Meredith L. Jacobs would like to help restore the lost institution with a sprightly new book, The Modern Jewish Mom's Guide to Shabbat: Connect and Celebrate—Bring Your Family Together with the Friday Night Meal (HarperCollins, Feb.).

A suburban Maryland wife and mother, Jacobs grew up without traditional Sabbath observances, and says of herself even now, "I'm not shomer Shabbos"–meaning Sabbath-observant–"but in the book I talk about how the more I learn, the more I want to do" in embracing other Jewish traditions.

Jacobs finds meaning in the link the Sabbath gives her with the Jewish people, past and future. When she lights Sabbath candles on Friday night, "I feel connected to every Jewish woman who has ever been and will ever be," she said.

The book includes chapters on creating the right Sabbath mood, another on recipes, along with a selection of discussion topics for the family based on the weekly Torah reading.

That may sound like serious stuff, but neither Jacobs nor her publisher wanted to create another somber Judaica title. "It's really fun. It's really cute," said Jacobs of the book's cheerful, colorful packaging. "I can't wait to see it on the Judaism shelf with all those brown and black covers. It's hot pink!"

And a book, perhaps, with an appeal even outside the Jewish community? "In our first meeting with her, I remember thinking, 'I wish I was Jewish because this sounds terrific,'" recalled Jennifer Hart, v-p and associate publisher for Harper Paperbacks. She said the book will publish initially with a 12,500-copy printing, bolstered with targeted advertising to Jewish publications and trifold author business cards including a Jewish Sabbath prayer.

It's not unthinkable that the book could interest Christian readers looking for ways to incorporate Jewish customs into their spiritual lives–a significant phenomenon in some Christian circles.

But Hart isn't depending on that: "To get the book established we need to reach the target Jewish audience. To go much wider would be difficult."

This article originally appeared in the February 21, 2007 issue of Religion BookLine.


Reb Yudel said...

Once upon a time, "kiruv" was exactly about having people appreciate the practices of Judaism, rather than buying in to the theological stuff.

Anonymous said...

I am not Jewish, but my husband is.
I woud find this book very interesting as a "non- Jew"!
Blessings of HaShem to you-
Ahava Katz