My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew

by Abigail Pogrebin

Other authorsA. J. Jacobs (Author.)
Book, 2017



Call number

236 POG


Bedford, New York : Fig Tree Books, 2017


The author describes her research on the holidays of the Jewish calendar and how she came to understand how these celebrations have lasted for thousands of years.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Judiex
Abigail Pogrebin grew up in a Jewish home. Her family celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, two Passover Seders, and occasional Friday Shabbats. In 2014, she decided she wanted to learn more about her religion and began a one-year mission to learn about the eighteen annual Jewish holidays
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(including six fast days), when and how they originated, what they are about, and how they are celebrated. During that period, she visited a synagogue (sometime more than one) on every religious holiday and provides a brief history of each, comparing ideas and practices from many different people (mostly rabbis) and sources, primarily in New York City where she lived. She spoke to Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist rabbis and read about their interpretations of the holidays. The result is MY JEWISH YEAR
Among her many observations, she tells of the relationship between Hanukkah and Passover, each is celebrated for eight days. She quotes a few rabbis about the sexiness of Sukkot. She tells the reasons for the six fast days during the year. She does not delve deeply into Jewish history or discuss the topic of the sections of the Torah read each Shabbat.
On the whole, the book is not judgmental; it is more of a journal of what she saw and learned as well as how her journey affected her, her husband, and her children as well as other relatives and friends.
I attended an afterschool/weekend religious school for twelve years. I went to services almost every Shabbath and for New Year, Yom Kippur, the three festivals (Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot), Simchat Torah, Hanukkah, and Shavuot. I also served on the board of my Conservative synagogue and as president of the sisterhood. I thought I knew almost everything about my religion. After my mother died, I attended the daily minyan twice a day for eleven months. I learned a lot more, especially about the services themselves. By reading MY JEWISH YEAR, I learned even more.
Some interesting insights: At Yom Kippur, we think about how, on that day, G-d seals our fate for the coming year, naming very specific ways that cause a person’s death. During that year, she thought of how people she knew had died. Commenting on one of her sources for this book, she says how a little anxiety about what will happen to us during the year can have the positive result of encouraging us to act more thoughtfully throughout the entire year.
A person has to be deepened by the Torah; not blinded by it. One cannot hide in a cave and practice the religion. One has to live with other people and engage with them. Rashi became very judgmental after living in a cave for twelve years and had to go back for another year.
We are commanded to pursue justice. She asks each of us to consider what we have done to honor that commandment.
I received a review copy of from Goodreads First Reads two weeks before Passover and immediately turned to that section of the book. In it I found some suggestions to update our Seders as well as two items that can be used for devarim (readings) at shul during the holiday.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
This was interesting, but not well edited. Her perspective on the holidays was somewhat unusual and very personal. I doubt a non Jew would like this book, and I also doubt it would motivate anyone to observe the holidays more fervently than they already do.

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