Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore

Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore

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Humanist Readings in Jewish Folkore features more than 120 works of Jewish folklore that will appeal to those who are looking to Jewish culture and literature to teach ethics and values. These Jewish folklore stories value freedom of thought, social justice, egalitarianism, and respect for the "other." This collection of Jewish folklore explores the pre-modern roots of Jewish humanism, which stresses that you don't have to be religious to connect with Jewish culture.

Author Bennett Muraskin is a union representative for New Jersey college faculty, speaks nationally on Jewish topics and is a frequent contributor to Jewish publications, including Jewish Currents, Humanistic Judaism, and Outlook (Canada). He is the author of A Yiddish Short Story Sampler, Let Justice Well Up Like Water: Progressive Jews from Hillel to Helen Suzman and The Association of Jewish Libraries Guide to Yiddish Short Stories.

Read the foreword by Rabbi Adam Chalom.

Check out our new Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore study guide.

Yaakov Malkin on "The Significance of Jewish Mythology"




I. Talking Back to God

  • Rachel teaches God a Lesson in Compassion
  • Moses Reasons with God in Defense of the Jewish People
  • . . . and Demands his Due
  • Questioning God’s Justice
  • Resisting God’s Will
  • The Angels Resist God, Too
  • Questioning God’s Handiwork
  • The Rabbis Overrule God
  • The Light Side: Suing God

II. Confronting Injustice

  • Non-Cooperation
  • Outwitting the Oppressor
  • The Courage to Criticize
  • Korah: Demagogue or Dissident?
  • Defying Illegitimate Authority
  • How to Administer Justice
  • Is there a Right Choice?
  • The Story of the Golem: the Defender of the Jews.

III. Mentshlekhkayt (Human Decency)

  • The Primacy of Ethical Behavior
  • Gaining Entrance to Heaven
  • The Difference Between Heaven and Hell
  • In this world too, it's ethical behavior, not piety, that makes a mentsh:
  • Standing Up for Your Rights
  • A Hasidic Folktale
  • Respecting Other Opinions
  • Patience
  • Rabbi Meir Learns from a Heretic, a.k.a., an Apikoros

IV. The Rich and the Poor

  • Why Sodom was Destroyed
  • What Causes Plagues to Strike
  • Homeless in Imperial Rome
  • Justice for the Worker and the Poor
  • Respect for the Dignity of the Worker and the Poor
  • Maimonides’ Eight Degrees of Charity
  • Helping Those in Need
  • What’s Worse than Not Helping
  • How to Deal with Skinflints
  • … and with a “Welfare Cheat”
  • The Light Side: The Miracle of the Broken Leg

V. The Dangers of Fanaticism

  • The Destruction of the Temple
  • Life Must Go On
  • Wrong Priorities

VI. Jewish Humor

  • Poking Fun at the Pious
  • The Witty vs. the Wealthy
  • The Disputation
  • Dying to Get In
  • Gratitude for Small Favors (or He Got Off Easy)
  • A Lesson in Hospitality
  • Chutzpa

VII. Women

  • Lilith, the First Feminist
  • Leah Turns the Tables on Jacob
  • A Rabbinical Sage Learns the Law from His Wife
  • Take your Choice: Wealth, Learning, or a Virtuous Woman?
  • Heroism and sacrifice
  • The Story of Susanna
  • Wisdom Before Beauty
  • You’ve Come a Long Way, Skotsl
  • The Light Side: The Rabbi and the Rebbitzen

VIII. Jewish-Gentile Relations

  • Abraham and the Heathen
  • Ishmael, the Disfavored Son, Is Judged to Be Righteous
  • A Midrash on Racism
  • A Jew Comes to the Aid of a Roman
  • A Roman Comes to the Aid of a Jew
  • The Rabbi and the Emperor
  • A Pagan Fulfills the Fifth Commandment ... and More
  • Dealing Honestly with All People
  • Good Neighbors
  • The Gentiles Were Angels

IX. The Value of Education

  • Respect for Learning
  • … and Teachers
  • Scholarship is the Most Valuable Merchandise
  • But There are Alternatives to Bible and Talmud Study
  • How to Teach an Unwilling Student

X. Parents and Children

  • Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
  • A Parents' Responsibility
  • Respect for the Elderly (or Teach Your Children Well)

XI. Friendship XII. The Sanctity of Human Life XIII. The Evil of Slander

  • … and a Humane Cure

XIV. Some Humanistic Principles to Live By from Pirke Avot

  • And Finally

XV. Why Remain Jewish?

Rabbi Sherwin Wine discusses "The Jewish Underground," important basis for Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore.

Price: $19.95

Call 847-383-6330  or email to order, or purchase directly from