Typically Jewish

About the Book

Is laughter essential to Jewish identity?  Do Jews possess special radar for recognizing members of the tribe? Since Jews live longer and make love more often, why don’t more people join the tribe?

“More deli than deity” writer Nancy Kalikow Maxwell poses many such questions in eight chapters—Worrying, Kvelling, Dying, Noshing, Laughing, Detecting, Dwelling, and Joining—exploring what it means to be “typically Jewish.” While unearthing answers from rabbis, researchers, and her assembled “Jury on Jewishness” (Jewish friends she roped into conversation), she—and we—make multitudes of discoveries, e.g.

  • Jews worry about continuity, even though Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitz prohibited even that: “All worrying is forbidden, except to worry that one is worried.”
  • Kvell on this: About 75% of American Jews give to charity vs. 63% of Americans as a whole.
  • Since reciting Kaddish brought secular Jews to synagogue, the rabbis, aware of their captive audience, moved the prayer to the end of the service.
  • Who’s Jewish? About a quarter of Nobel Prize winners, some 80% of America’s comedians and writers, and the winner of Nazi Germany’s “Most Perfect Aryan Child Contest.”

Readers will enjoy learning about how Jews feel, think, act, love, and live. They’ll also schmooze as they use the book’s Typically Jewish, Atypically Fun discussion/activity guide.

“As Maxwell takes readers on a humorous safari to observe Jews in their natural habitat, even Jews who have never set foot in a synagogue or JCC will recognize themselves with wondrous insight. And all Jews who love learning will delight in learning a lot. I definitely did.”

– Maggie Anton, author of Rashi’s Daughters and Fifty Shades of Talmud.

“As a pulpit rabbi I’m often asked, “‘What does it mean to be Jewish?’ Is it a religion? A ‘race’? A nationality?  Speaking a certain language? A faith? A way of life? Typically Jewish answers the question— and, like any other great Jewish book, raises many others.  Complete with a superb extremely user friendly study guide, it’s a fantastic source for adult education study sessions. I also plan to make it required reading for my Introduction to Judaism students.”

– Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, Temple Israel of Greater Kansas City

“I loved this book and look forward to sharing it with my book groups. There are many ‘aha’ moments where you’ll find yourself shaking your head in agreement and laughing.”

– Sharon Curtis, Coordinator, Lunch `N’ Lit and Ladies of the Night, Hadassah Book Groups


Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

Visit Nancy Kalikow Maxwell's website

Nancy Kalikow Maxwell  is a librarian, an award-winning writer, and a frequent contributor to Jewish media. She is the author of six books and creator of funny cards for Hallmark’s Tree of Life Jewish card line.

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Study Guide - 'Typically Jewish'

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