Resources

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Here’s a page with a bunch of resources; it will be updated occasionally.

Books, websites, podcasts, that kind of thing.

Mostly Judaism-related, since I am a rabbi after all. I have read most but not all of these books—the ones I have not read are recommended by trusted sources. And some I may have read long ago, possibly don’t remember as well as I think I do. If there is something actively harmful about one of these books, please let me know. (This is, of course, different from something not being your cup of tea!)

There are a bunch of categories; things are not listed in any particular order within a category. There are a lot of possibilities here--pursue the ones that seem intriguing to you. Go learn some things!

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A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY

FOR EXPLORING JUDAISM

BOOKS AND THE LIKE BY RABBI DANYA RUTTENBERG

OVERVIEWS

  • Judaisms: A Twenty-First-Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities, Aaron Hahn Tapper
  • Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life — In Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There), Sarah Hurwitz
  • A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

JEWISH LIFE AND PRACTICE

  • Living A Jewish Life, Anita Diamant
  • The First Jewish Catalog: A Do-It-Yourself Kit, Michael Strassfeld
  • The Jewish Holidays, Michael Strassfield
  • A Guide to Jewish Prayer, Adin Steinsaltz
  • Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration, Naomi Levy
  • The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • Chanah’s Voice: A Rabbi Wrestles with Gender, Commandment, and the Women’s Rituals of Baking, Bathing and Brightening, Haviva Ner-David
  • Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, Haviva Ner-David
  • The Rhythms of Jewish Living: A Sephardic Exploration of Judaism's Spirituality, Marc D. Angel
  • Choosing Judaism: 36 Stories, Bradley Caro Cook, Diana Phillips
  • The Sephardic Book of Why: A Guide to Sephardic Jewish Traditions and Customs, Rabbi Ilan Acoca
  • Seyder Tkhines: The Forgotten Book of Common Prayer for Jewish Women, Devra Kay

TEXT NERD STARTER KIT

  • Best book for learning Biblical Hebrew: this one.
  • One Stop Jewish Text Shopping: Sefaria. It's not perfect but dang, it's good. Can't believe they didn't have this back in the day and I had to actually learn, like, research skills in rabbinical school. Hmph.
  • Best Bible translation:
    • A good "default" is JPS, and they have a new gender-sensitive edition (everybody, all together: the pronoun for God is God, and "ancestors" is a good word, and etc.) that's free online here and can be purchased here.
    • The Fox translation wins for most literal/captures the rhythm of the Hebrew (free online here, buy here).
    • The Alter reaches more for the poetry of the thing; some of the choices are breathtaking, some choices I find perplexing.
      • I’ll note that when you click on a Bible verse with Sefaria (the free links, above), a sidebar comes up, and “Translations” is one of the options. You can (and probably should) always check a few of those to see the choices that different translators made about the same verse if you're trying to go deeper and don't have Hebrew.
  • The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary, Tamara Cohn Eskanazi – my favorite one-book Torah commentary for people of all genders
  • The Jewish Study Bible, JPS - one-book Bible commentary focusing more on Ancient Near Eastern history and context

JEWISH TEXT BACKGROUND

  • Who Wrote the Bible? Richard Elliott Friedman 

  • Why Abraham Murdered Isaac, Tzemah Yoreh

    • These two books, above, make a great cocktail to see two different approaches to biblical source criticism, aka a historical look at Torah authorship

  • The Orchard, Yochi Brandes

  • As Driven Leaf, Milton Steinberg (Fiction)

    • And these two are a weird pair as they’re both novelizations of the early Rabbinic era that use Talmudic stories as part of their story—same historical figures fictionalized, different ones serving as the main characters of the stories. Though I don’t love how Brandes handled a Christian sub-plot or some choices at the end of the book, it’s overall a far superior tome, in my opinion. 🤷 (I also think there could be a killer Jewish studies/Rabbinics course--read The Orchard throughout the semester, doing the history/context and the sugiyot as you go...)

  • How to Read the Jewish Bible by Marc Zvi Brettler 

  • From the Macabees to the Mishnah, Shaye Cohen

  • A Bride for One Night: Talmud Tales, Ruth Calderon

  • The Essential Talmud, Adin Steinsaltz

  • Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality, Dianne Ashton, Ellen M. Umansky

  • The Talmud: A Biography, Barry Wimpfheimer 

  • Trans Talmud: Androgynes and Eunuchs in Rabbinic Literature, Max K. Strassfeld

  • Rabbinic Creativity in the Modern Middle East, Zvi Zohar

  • A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969, Noam Sienna 

TORAH AND TALMUD COMMENTARY

  • Dirshuni ed. Tamar Biala
  • The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, Joy Ladin
  • Subversive Sequels in the Bible, Judy Klitsner
  • Reading the Women of the Bible, Tikva Frymer-Kensky
  • Torah Journeys: An Inner Path to the Promised Land, Shefa Gold
  • The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman’s Commentary on the Torah, by Ellen Frankel
  • If All The Seas Were Ink, Ilana Kurshan
  • Torah Queeries, Gregg Drinkwater and David Shneer
  • Life Lessons of Recently Dead Rabbis: Hassidut for the People, Mark Asher Goodman
  • Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture, Daniel Boyarin
  • Girls in Trouble (Music by Alicia Jo Rabins)

THEOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY

  • God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism , Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, Judith Plaskow
  • Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, Rachel Adler
  • God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science and Spirituality, Daniel Matt
  • God Is Here: Reimagining the Divine, Toba Spitzer
  • Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life, Alan Lew
  • This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as Journey of Transformation, Alan Lew
  • Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter, S. Bear Bergman (essays/memoir)
  • Beginning Anew: A Woman's Companion to the High. Holy Days, Judith Kates
  • Inventing Jewish Ritual, Vanessa Ochs
  • The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World, Sharon Brous
  • Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People, Harold Kushner
  • Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew, Neil Gillman

JUSTICE AND ADDING MORE BENCHES

  • The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage, Loolwa Khazzoom
  • Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew, Michael Twitty
  • Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi, Manishata (Fiction)
  • Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole, Julia Watts Belser
  • The Soul of Judaism:Jews of African Descent in America, Bruce Haynes
  • Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman, Abby Stein
  • So Compassionate it Hurts: My Life as a Rabbi on the Spectrum, Tzemah Yoreh
  • The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl, Marra B. Gad
  • What Jewish Looks Like, Liz Kleinrock, Caroline Kusin Pritchard
  • Queer Jews, David Schneer and Caryn Aviv
  • Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, Noach Dzmura
  • There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition, Jill Jacobs
  • Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community, Jill Jacobs

HISTORY

  • My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Family's Past in Jewish Iraq, Ariel Sabar
  • Out of Egypt: A Memoir, André Aciman
  • Mordecai: An Early American Family, Emily Bingham
  • The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, Maria Rosa Menocal
  • After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry, Jonathan Ray
  • With Freedom in Our Ears: Histories of Jewish Anarchism, Anna Elena Torres and Kenyon Zimmer, eds.
  • Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700–1950, Julia Philips Cohen and Sarah Abrevaya Stein
  • The Septembers of Shiraz, Dalia Sofer (Fiction)

There’s even more to explore in this incredible list of books by nonbinary and women teachers of Torah.

PODCASTS

  • Rabbi Deborah Waxman and Rabbi Sandra Lawson, doing Jewish teachings on personal and collective resilience, with an eye towards both healing and justice work (and intersections therein).
  • Chutzpod!, with Rabbi Shira Stutman and the actor Josh Malina “bring[s] a Jewish lens to life's toughest questions: Who do I want to be in this one life? How do we work to heal this broken world? And how, dear G-d, did gefilte fish become a thing?” They also have a Substack:
  • The Jewish Women’s Archive has a podcast about "Jewish women and the issues that shape our public and private lives."
  • Judaism Unbound is a "project that catalyzes and supports grassroots efforts by “disaffected but hopeful” American Jews to re-imagine and re-design Jewish life in America for the 21st Century."
  • The Union for Reform Judaism (the Reform movement, basically) has a bunch of podcasts, incl one on Jews of intersectional identities (season one was Jews of Color, season two is LGBTQIA+ Jews), one that’s about Jewish stories, and more.
  • Jew Too?, with Rabbi Emily Cohen and Rabbi Felicia Sol, is about "celebrating the growing diversity of the American Jewish family."
  • The Jewcurious Show is a podcast for people who are curious about Judaism and the Jewish people, whether you are Jewish, converting to Judaism, seeking the Jewish roots of a different faith, or just plain curious."
  • And, of course, Throwing Sheyd is your favorite Jewish demonology podcast.

A FEW KEY WEBSITES

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  2. This is a reference to a story in the Talmud (Brachot 27b-28a) in which Rabban Gamliel, who was quite the elitist, gets deposed as head of the Sanhedrin and they bring in a new guy (Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah) who then removes the entrance guard to the House of Study and suddenly people pour in to to learn— so the people running things have to add many more benches for people to come hear the lectures. Turns out when you take away the BARRIERS and stop with the GATEKEEPING people want to be part of their sacred traditions, who knew?