There is a great art to teaching lightly. And Rabbi Sidney Brichto has undertaken a general introduction to Jewish culture, religious practice, stereotypes, humour and nuance on precisely this accessible, pleasant plane. The title, Funny... You Don’t Look Jewish, is slightly misleading in its promotional levity. This is, at its core and despite some good jokes, a quietly serious, not to say improving, little book and thoroughly helpful to the intelligent interested reader.
I feel competent to review it, not through any expertise in Jewish matters, but because after four years of The Moral Maze, I know a thing or two about rabbis. Indeed, we have run the programme on the assumption that our rabbi has the last word. That word should be succinct, uplifting in discreet moderation, though just occasionally passionate, and, where possible, amusing.
Rabbi Brichto’s thirty-six little chapters on inter alia Jewish solidarity, success, materialism, paranoia, prejudice, vengeance, ethics, pluralism and sex, largely achieve these requirements. He also gives accounts (clear and coherent to my outsider’s eye) of dietary practice, festivals, worship, messianism, and the Sabbath. But many readers will be most aroused