Recommended Reading

For Parents

  • On Being a Parent
    • Our Share of Night, Our Share of Morning: Parenting As a Spiritual Journey by Nancy Fuchs
      • Written by a Reconstructionist rabbi, this is a favorite book, which gets at the important big questions about parenting: What are our goals as parents? What do we learn? Who do we become? Based on interviews with parents of all aged kids and from various religious and secular orientations, this book is especially good for new parents overwhelmed by the tachlis (everyday details) of babyhood and child-rearing books. Short, accessible sections on topics such as Character, Wonder, separation, Trust, Being versus Doing, and Bodies. Practical ideas and suggestions are tucked into this book, as well.
    • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon Kabat-Zinn
      • Focusing on the practice of mindfulness as an antidote to the stress of parenthood and as a way to enhance and enrich parenting, this book explores the inner experience of parenting. There are exercises and intentions that guide one toward conscious parenting – by learning how to stay more present in each moment. Can be wordy, but especially helpful for folks interested in meditation or mindfulness. Beautiful stories and quotes, some practical suggestions for everyday life, also.
    • Becoming a Jewish Parent: How to Explore Spirituality and Tradition with Your Children by Daniel Gordis
      • Raising Jewish children in today’s secular culture poses unique and serious challenges. How do you instill a positive, vital sense of identity, religion, and heritage without turning off your kids or overwhelming them? How do you explain what it means to be Jewish if you are ambivalent about it yourself? And how do parents who have little or no formal religious training themselves pass on rich, multi-layered traditions that may have been missing from their own childhood experiences?
    • Becoming a Jewish Parent: How to Explore Spirituality and Tradition with Your Children by Daniel Gordis
      • This book addresses questions such as: How do you instill a positive, vital sense of identity, religion, and heritage without turning off your kids or overwhelming them? How do you explain what it means to be Jewish if you are ambivalent about it yourself? How do parents who have little to no formal religious training themselves pass on rich multilayered traditions that may have been missing from their own childhood experiences? It is filled with anecdotes, thoughtful information about the history, holidays, and traditions that shape Judaism, as well as a useful glossary and thorough reference section.
  • Striving to Create a Jewish Family and Home
    • The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel
      • This book more deftly blends Jewish teachings and parenting concerns than most Jewish parenting books. Rather than throwing in tidbits of Jewish culture and text, Mogel, a clinical psychologist and educator, strives to take essential values of Judaism and apply them to parenting. Her message is most appropriate for children being raised in middle and upper-middle class, liberal communities. However, the thought-provoking and sometimes very pragmatic suggestions can be applied universally.
    • The Jewish Parents’ Almanac by Julie Hilton Danan
      • Meant as a handbook for parents to rediscover or discover Judaism for themselves as they teach their children, this book is chock full of creative ideas, resources, and guidance for Jewish observance and celebration. It goes far beyond holidays and Jewish home-making to look at values, mitzvot, Israel, God, prayer, and Jewish cultural literacy for children and adults. There are many resources from all denominations suggested and the important questions of “why be Jewish” are covered in addition to all the “how-to” guidance.
    • How to Be a Jewish Parent: A Practical Handbook for Family Life by Anita Diamant
      • Like all of Anita Diamant’s how-to books, this is an accessible, nono-judgemental, affirming book, which is a perfect starting place for many families. It suggests ways to create Jewish space, community, and time with children, from a primarily liberal Jewish orientation. There are topics that modern families address (ex. special needs, adoptions, etc.) and many helpful resources.
    • What Does Being Jewish Mean? Read-Aloud Responses to Questions Jewish Children Ask about History, Culture, and Religion by E.B. Freedman, Jan Greenberg, and Karen Katz
      • The “answers” given in this book are fairly pedantic but they do give parents food for thought as they anticipate or think about how to answer real questions their children will/have raised.
    • Jewish Family Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today’s Parents and Children by Ysef I. Abramowitz & Susan Silverman
      • A user-friendly parent’s guide which discusses various aspects of Jewish life and culture in order to help parents make Judaism relevant in their lives. The section on values emphasizes Jewish values in deeds of loving-kindness and acts of justice, respecting the human body, earth and nature and relationships to money and sexuality. First person narratives illustrate the values that are described.
    • It’s a Mitzvah: Step-by-Step to Jewish Living by Bradley shavit Artson
      • Jewish rituals and values come alive in this engaging guide to Jewish practice. Each of the eighteen chapters represents a mitzvah, explains its significance and then lists concrete ways of putting the mitzvah into practice
    • To Raise a Jewish Child: a Guide for Parents by Hayim Halevy Donin
      • A classic text for dealing with Jewish parenting issues from a modern Orthodox perspective. Includes a chapter entitled The Basic Values of Judaism: What Kind of People Do We Want Our Children to Be? with sections entitled To Love and Revere God, To Love Our Neighbor, To Respect Human Dignity, etc.
    • Torah with Love: A Guide for Strengthening Jewish Values Within the Family by David Epstien & Suzanne Stutman
      • An exciting and practical guide to family Torah study with emphasis on using the Torah text for teaching Jewish values. It includes suggestions for discussions at the family table, teaching and drama techniques and insights into analyzing the Biblical text. Useful for both the beginner and experienced parent teacher. A teaching, not preaching approach to parenting is presented
    • Raising Jewish Children in a Contemporary World: The Modern Parent’s Guide to Creating a Jewish Home by Seven Carr Reuben
      • Written by a Reconstructionist rabbi, this is a guide for modern families who wish to raise their children with a positive Jewish self-image. It includes a chapter, How to Raise Ethical Jewish Children, which stresses these three basic Jewish ideas: 1. What Judaism really means by holy, 2. Charity versus tzedakah (righteousness) and 3. Love your neighbor as yourself
  • Raising Children
    • Practical Parenting: A Jewish Perspective by Gail Josephson Lipsitz
      • This is a practical guide to parenting, which sets out important issues and then gives some pragmatic suggestions (ex. body image, diversity, when your child is “different”, money, generational issues). It is sprinkled with Jewish cultural or textual sources and directly addresses some issues such as dealing with anti-semitism and holidays
    • Jewish Parenting: Rabbinic Insights by Judith Z and Steven Abrams
      • This book is an interesting collection of rabbinic texts (Talmud, classical Midrash), put into context by scholar/rabbi Judith Abrams and pediatrician Steven Abrams. Topics include: importance of children in rabbinic tradition, child development, birth defects, parent-child relationship, adolescence, history of pediatrics and rabbinic medicine. Especially helpful as a sourcebook of rabbinic quotes.
    • An Allowance Is Not a Bribe: And Other Helpful Hints for Raising Responsible Jewish Children by Allan Gonsher and Jacob Aronson
      • From a family and children’s therapist, this book interweaves general concerns about child rearing with Jewish values, culture, traditional perspectives.
    • Raising Children to Care: A Jewish Guide to Childrearing by Miriam Adaham
      • The goal of this text is to help train parents and their children to become loving, self-disciplined and responsible. Using sources from the Bible and Talmud, the author weaves Jewish ethical teachings into the text as a guide for ethical behavior in modern family life. While addressed primarily to mothers, a short chapter to fathers touches briefly but forcefully on the marital relationship
    • Bedtime Stories of Jewish Values by Shmuel Blitz
      • This book has a number of short stories, each with a moral taken from Jewish virtues. There are several here that apply: honesty, loyalty, judging others and forgiveness.
    • “Always Wear Clean Underwear!” and Other Ways Parents Say “I Love You” by Marc Gellman
      • Parents are their children’s primary role models and guides in life. In this book, the big and little meanings of the universal do’s and don’t’s parents tell their children are presented with humor and great insight
    • 10 Things Which Tend to Turn Kids into Menches by Joel Lurle Grishaver
      • A short pamphlet which includes a practical how-to model to help one live a life guided by Jewish values as expressed by the midot tovot (good qualities) of the Musar (Ethics) Movement. A list of the midot tovot is provided.
    • Raising Your Child to be a Mensch by Neil Kurshan
      • How to raise children to practice decency, generosity, kindness, and integrity in an age of the success ethic. As a parent, the author shares his perspectivea bout the priorities in Jewish family life.
    • We Can Get Along: A Child’s Book of Choices by Lauren Murphy Payne
      • Focusing on how children have the power to make choices, this book guides young people in their relationships with friends. It stressed kindness, respect tolerance and responsibility
    • Raising a Mensch: How to Bring Up Ethical Children in Today’s World by Shelley Kapnek Rosenberg
      • A useful book for parents, imparting knowledge of middot and mitzvot in practical situations and through traditional tales
    • Teaching Your Children About God: A Modern Jewish Approach by David J. Wolpe
      • Rabbi David Wolpe shows Jewish parents how to openly explore the ideas of God with their children. Through poignant anecdotes and practical exercises, Wolpe teaches how parents can guide children in the practice of prayer and create an atmosphere in which children feel comfortable questioning and wondering about God, life, and death. It asserts that parents who may feel something missing in their own spiritual lives can nourish their own souls even as they nurture their children’s
  • Other Resources
    • Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibilityby Thomas Lickona
      • The author’s twelve-point program offers practical suggestions and strategies designed to teach children respect, responsibility, hard work, compassion and other values needed in today’s society.
    • Good People by Danny Siegel
      • A book of stories about ordinary people who are performing exceptionally compassionate deeds. In doing so, they not only repair the world and bring it closer to perfection, but also provide readers with accessible, modern role models

For Children

  • Pre-K and Kindergarten
    • Goodnight Sh’ma by Jacqueline Jules
      • Ages 2+
      • Board Book
      • A Jewish child gets ready for bed and says the traditional “Sh’ma” prayer in this beautiful board book with rhyming text and charming illustrations.
    • Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco
      • Ages 3-5
      • Emma Kate has an imaginary friend, but there’s more to this imaginary friend than meets the eye.
    • The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story by Jacqueline Jules
      • Ages 4+
      • The Ziz, a clumsy but goodhearted bird of folklore, accidentally destroys a vegetable garden, and when he asks God for advice, eh learns the importance of apologizing.
  • 1st Grade
    • My Grandmother’s Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folk Tales by Adele Geras
      • Ages 6-12
      • Like all good stories in the Yiddish tradition, the pleasure of Geras’ collection comes as much from the telling as from what happens. The customs, idioms traditions, and even recipes that the Jews brought with them from Eastern Europe are an unobtrusive part of the story-telling.
    • The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz
      • Ages 6-9
      • Three times a voice comes to Isaac in his dreams and tells him to go to the capital city and look for a treasure under the bridge by the royal palace.
  • 2nd Grade
    • The Carp in the Bathtub by Barbara Cohen
      • Ages 7+
      • Leah and her brother hatch a plan to save the Passover carp from the cooking pot.
    • Star of Fear, Star of Hope by Jo Hoestlandt
      • Ages 7-10
      • 9-year-old Helen is confused by the disappearance of her Jewish friend during the German occupation of Paris.
    • Uncle Misha’s Partisans by Yuri Suhl
      • Ages 7-15
      • The story of young freedom fighters in Nazi-occupied Europe.
  • 3rd Grade
    • About the B’nai Bagels by E.L. Konigsburg
      • Ages 8-12
      • Mark Setzer is worried about his upcoming bar mitzvah and he misses his best friend who moved to the rich side fo town and started hanging out with the obnoxious kid they used to make fun of. Then his mother signs on to manage his Little League team.
    • The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky
      • Ages 8-12
      • 13-year-old Rachel dreads the afternoons she has to spend with her great-grandmother, Nana Sashie until Sashie begins to reminisce about her childhood in Russia and Rachel finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of memories.
    • Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat? by Nancy Patz
      • Ages 8-13
      • This book, a meditation on a woman’s hat on display in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, combines a pensive prose poem with arresting collage artwork.
    • The Diamond Tree: Jewish Tales from Around the World selected and retold by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush
      • Ages 8-12
      • 15 Jewish folk tales from places as distant as Yemen and Eastern Europe, Morocco and Germany, and ranging over 15 centuries.
    • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
      • Ages 8-12
      • Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in Children’s Jewish Fiction Books
      • Meet the all-of-a-kind family – Ella, Henry, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie – who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.
      • See also More All-Of-A-Kind Family, All-Of-A-Kind Family Uptown and All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown
  • 4th Grade
    • Exit from Home by Anita Heyman
      • Ages 9-12
      • A Jewish youth, training to become a rabbi in oppressive turn-of-the-century Russia, becomes exposed to “worldly” ideas which change his attitude towards his religion and his country.
    • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
      • Ages 9-12
      • Newbery Award-winning classic
      • As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
    • Call Me Ruth by Marilyn Sachs
      • Ages 9+
      • Immigrant Ruth loves America but she is embarrassed by her mother, who speaks only Yiddish and dresses like a greenhorn. Then, Mama is arrested for union activities and Ruth discovers what truly matters.
  • 5th Grade
    • Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse
      • Ages 10-14
      • Rifka knows nothing about America when she flees from Russia with her family in 1919, but she dreams she will at last be safe from the Russian soldiers and their harsh treatment of the Jews in the new country.
    • The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
      • Ages 10+
      • Hannah thinks tonight’s Passover Seder will be the same as always, but she is mysteriously transported into the past where only she knows the horrors that await.
  • 6th Grade
    • The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman
      • Ages 11-14
      • One night the Great Freddie, a young ventriloquist, is possessed by a dybbuk, a Jewish spirit.
    • Maus by Art Spiegelman
      • Pulitzer prize-winning Holocaust survivor story
      • The story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story approaches the unspeakable through its cartoon form.
  • 7th Grade and Up
    • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
      • Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic – a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
    • Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson
      • Sid Jacobson’s moving and sympathetic text, combined with Ernie Colon’s realistic artwork and interspersed with actual photographs brings Anne Frank’s story to life. The narrative begins with her parents meeting and continues to the publication of Anne’s diary.
    • Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania by Hava Leah Molnar
      • Eva Zimmerman is 8 years old, and she has just discovered she is Jewish in postwar Bucharest. Eva’s family will do absolutely anything to keep her safe, even if it means hiding her identity from her.
    • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
      • The now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each.
    • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
      • #1 New York Times bestseller
      • A World War II book told from the point of view of Death. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing books. With the help of her foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in their basement.
  • Young Adult Fiction (Possible Inappropriate Content)
    • Yossel by Joe Kubert
      • Famed comic creator Joe Kubert’s family came to America from Poland in the 1920s, but the family almost was not allowed into the country. Yossel asks the question, “What if my family had still been in Poland when the Warsaw Ghetto was founded?”
    • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
      • An American Library Association “100 Best Books for Teens” and “Best Books for Young Adults”
      • A powerful retelling of Sleeping Beauty which finds Briar Rose living in forests patrolled by the German army during World War I

Books About God

  • Becoming Me: A Story of Creation by Martin Boroson and Christopher Gilvan-Cartwright
    • Have you ever imagined how you came to be? Do you stop and wonder what your place is in creation? Becoming Me presents a way of looking at life and the meaning of our existence, based on timeless spiritual insights. The simple words and beautiful illustrations touch something deep within us. With each page turn, we begin to see our place in the world and realize the potential of our lives. We discover that we are part of something greater and experience our connection to all things and to one another. Becoming Me speaks from the heart, with a voice heard in every language and tradition – a little voice that tells a very big story.
    • Age Range: 6-9 years; Kindergarten-4th Grade
  • And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope by Marc Gellman
    • Filled with easily readable stories that address some of the hard questions about loss, bad things in the world, comforting friends, etc., this book can be read aloud to 4-8 year olds or read by 3rd-6th graders. Good for starting family conversations.
  • Talking to Your Child about God: A Book for Families of All Faiths by David Heller
    • By a scholar/psychologist, this book generically explores children’s spiritual development and their emotional, spiritual, psychological growth in ages 4-12, as it relates to their perceptions of God. It offers activities and exercises to initiate conversations about God with children so parents are not caught off guard. It discusses how parents’ feelings about God as well as media and culture impact children’s perceptions.
  • Because Nothing Looks Like God by Lawrence and Karen Kushner
    • With little hands, and big hands. With young hands and old hands, With your hands.” Mixing sparks of curiosity and spiritual imagination, this wondrous book lights children’s creativity and shows how God is with us every day, in every way. It is a vibrant invitation to children and their adults to explore—together—what, where, and how God is in our lives. Multicultural, Nondenominational, Nonsectarian; Endorsed by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Religious Leaders
    • Age Range: 4-8 years; Preschool and up
  • God In Between by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
    • With the biblical verse 1 Kings 11-12 as a jumping-off point, Sasso presents a parable about a small town’s search for God. There are no roads and none of the houses have windows so the inhabitants decide to look for God to solve their problems. At the edge of town are two homes, each with one window, and the people who live inside are called the Ones Who Could See Out Windows. This man and woman are each sent in search of God. Their journeys to a mountaintop, the deepest ocean, the driest desert, and the darkest cave are unsuccessful. Sadly, the two meet up, tell each other about their futile travels, and return home. Then they begin to help one another put in more windows and clear a road between their two houses. When the confused townspeople point out that they had never been able to do these things before, the Ones Who Could See Out Windows explain that God is “wherever we are…in the between. In between us.” Parents in search of a totally nondenominational explanation of God that stresses that people should lend a helping hand to their neighbors will find this useful. The full-page pastel paintings present a multicultural community and a glowing vision of the discovery.
    • Age Range: 5-10; Kindergarten-3rd Grade
  • The Shema in the Mezuzah: Listening to Each Other by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
    • In a divided world, where the one who shouts the loudest often gets the most attention, a story about compromise and listening. “Standing UP!” “Lying DOWN!” What were the people to do? They decided to ask the rabbi of the town. “What are we to do?” they asked. “Shall we put the mezuzah standing up or lying down?” The townspeople have mezuzahs but cannot agree on how to put them up on their doorways. Should they place them horizontally or vertically, standing up or lying down? To end their arguing, they consult the wise rabbi of the town, who advises them to carefully read the Shema in the mezuzah to find the answer. With this lively tale, based on a twelfth-century rabbinic debate, best-selling, award-winning children’s author Sandy Eisenberg Sasso helps young people discover that there is often more than one solution to a problem, and that living together and creating “home” requires cooperation and listening to one another.
    • Age Range: 2-6 years
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
    • Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor.
    • Age Range: 2-6 years; Preschool-1st Grade
  • Old Turtle by Doublas Wood
    • Long ago, the animals, rocks, waters, and trees of the earth began an argument about God. Is He a wind who is never still? Is He a rock that never moves? Is He high above or here among us?
    • Ages 6 and up; 1st Grade and up