Despite the fact that Jews comprise 0.02 percent of the world's population, Judaism has made an indelible impact on world history over the past several thousand years. Judaism introduced the concept of monotheism, the belief in one God, and served as the foundation for Christianity and Islam. Given its long history, its endurance, and its amazing ability to survive while remaining true to its essence, Judaism merits study.
Regardless of whether you are Jewish, you will find something of interest in Judaism. Perhaps you are a Gentile (a non-Jew) who has fallen in love with someone who is Jewish. Maybe your son or daughter has married a Jew and you would like to know more about Judaism. Maybe you are a Christian or Muslim who is interested in learning more about the origins of your own religion.
Then again, perhaps you consider yourself a Jew but know next to nothing about Judaism. If this is the case, you have no reason to be embarrassed. Today, many of those who identify themselves as Jews are unaffiliated with any Jewish institution. Possibly, you grew up in a household where being Jewish was defined in terms of what you didn't do, like not celebrating Christmas or not going to church. Conceivably, you may not have attended Hebrew school or participated in the rites of passage like bar or bat mitzvah.
Or you may have had a Jewish education when you were young but would like to revisit your studies with a mature mind. Another possibility is that you may be active in Jewish communal life but do not know much about the “religious” aspects of Judaism. Finally, you may be concerned about your children or grandchildren who are growing up uninterested in Judaism, and you want to be in a position to speak intelligently to them about it. If any of the above rings true (and, clearly, the list is not exhaustive), The Everything® Judaism Book is a great place to start.
This book is a guidebook for anyone interested in learning about Judaism, including Jews and Gentiles alike. It will not attempt to define Jewishness, a subject of much debate and controversy, but it will define “Judaism” and its relationship to “Jew.” Think of it this way: Everyone professing “Judaism” is “Jewish,” but not all Jews practice “Judaism.” While there are those who might disagree and argue that every Jew embraces Judaism to at least some extent because it is more than a religion or system of belief — because it also encompasses a people's language, culture, history, and traditions — there are those who proudly call themselves Jews but just as adamantly eschew any identification with Judaism. Better to err on the side of inclusiveness by acknowledging that one need not embrace Judaism to be a Jew.
Judaism is a religion, but one that touches upon the daily lives of its adherents. Hence, this book addresses the more “religious” aspects of Judaism as well as the holidays, traditions, and a bit of Jewish culture. As you continue to read through the rest of the book, keep in mind that there is more than one way to practice Judaism, and there is always room for inquiry and independent thought in the Jewish tradition.