cover image Let’s Eat: Jewish Food and Faith

Let’s Eat: Jewish Food and Faith

Lori Stein and Ronald H. Isaacs. Rowman & Littlefield, $36 (270p) ISBN 978-1-4422-7103-6

Given the abundance of books on the history of Jewish food and recipes for preparing Jewish cuisine, Stein and Isaacs’s uninspired volume, which surveys traditions from different Jewish cultures for holidays and other celebrations in the Jewish calendar, fails to find a place in the field. The tone is uneven, with serious reflections by Isaacs, a rabbi, on a holiday’s meaning undercut by Stein’s more irreverent approach—she proclaims that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur partially validate the stereotype that Jews are “neurotic worrywarts,” and trivializes the theme of repentance that is at the heart of both holidays (“We’re called upon to literally beat our breasts as we confess to a pre-written list of sins that we barely understand and have probably not committed”). There are inconsistencies (Sukkot is described as a “rather vague festival” on one page and “one of the most experiential of all the Jewish holidays” on the next), distracting errors (Orthodox Jews are not the only denomination to keep kosher and observe Sabbath prohibitions), and dated references (New York’s Lower East Side is no longer a focal point for Jewish food). Readers interested in the subject will be better-served by Carol Ungar’s Jewish Soul Food or Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. (Nov.)