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A Field Guide to the Jewish People: Who They Are, Where They Come From, What to Feed Them...and Much More. Maybe Too Much More

Review

A Field Guide to the Jewish People: Who They Are, Where They Come From, What to Feed Them...and Much More. Maybe Too Much More

If the thought of laughing so hard every few minutes or so that you nearly wet your pants does not appeal to you, then by all means read no further. However, if experiencing the Jewish faith from every possible angle --- all with more than a little tint of humor thrown in --- then replicate Moses and prepare to walk out of Egypt towards a large body of water where the future is uncertain. But have faith that G-d and three extremely funny men will show you the way to the Promised Land.

For many years, I have gone out of my way to read everything I can from Dave Barry. I even have his daily desk calendar that features a quip from one of his hysterical syndicated newspaper articles. By becoming such a fan, I also learned that I have something in common with him. We both started our lives in New York and then migrated to Florida. The most ironic similarity is that we married Jewish women while being raised Catholic. My indoctrination into the Jewish way of life has opened me up to a vast history I never fully knew, beautiful ceremonies and traditions, and, most of all, some great Jewish humor.

"Their latest effort literally has a laugh-out-loud moment on every page, sometimes more than one.... [They] do an incredible job of covering a myriad of topics made that much more interesting when infused with very witty and, yes, sometimes vulgar humor."

Barry has written the hilarious A FIELD GUIDE TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE with former “Saturday Night Live” writer (from back in the golden age) Alan Zweibel and bestselling humorist Adam Mansbach, the youngest of the trio. Their previous collaboration is another book that digs deeper into Jewish customs, FOR THIS WE LEFT EGYPT?: A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them.

Their latest effort literally has a laugh-out-loud moment on every page, sometimes more than one. It is told in various sections that focus on everything from the history of the Jewish people to their traditions and a good look at modern Judaism. I tip my hat --- or, more accurately, my yarmulke --- to these gentlemen, who do an incredible job of covering a myriad of topics made that much more interesting when infused with very witty and, yes, sometimes vulgar humor.

Among the book’s highlights is the alleged Foreword by Lebron James. (No, the authors did not actually get Lebron to do this!) This is followed by the Preface that avers: “[W]elcome to the last book on Judaism you will ever buy.” They then see fit to include an Introduction after the Foreword and Preface. Here, they ask readers to heed the words of the Kotzker Rebbe: “Not all that is thought need be said, not all that is said need be written, not all that is written need be published, and not all that is published need be read.”

After a further Preamble and an additional “Word from the Authors,” Barry, Mansbach and Zweibel officially kick things off with an examination of Jewish life. They offer their own comical interpretation of many common names with their historical “definitions.” We are given a “cutting” look at the ceremony known as the bris. If you are not aware of this event, be prepared to cringe a bit, especially you fellas. The bar and bat mitzvah are analyzed, and a handy Q&A follows, which will have you rolling. If you happen to be the parent or close relative of a 13-year-old about to become an “adult” in the Jewish faith, then these chapters are required reading. You will even be educated on how to best throw hard candy at the end of the ceremony without actually killing anyone as they run for the buffet.

I loved the analysis of the Jewish home; the clever look at the creation story, as well as debunking the myths about it; and modern Jewish history, which provides the etymology of classic Yiddish terms like “oy” and “feh.” Even more educational are the quizzes at the end of the book, especially the one entitled “Are You An Anti-Semite?” Yes, Mel Gibson does take quite a roasting here.

I will stop right there because giving you any more information will take away from the reading pleasure that you are sure to experience when sitting down with this book. Now, as was discussed at length by the authors, I am going to lament about being a displaced New Yorker and living in Florida where I cannot find a decent bagel or Chinese restaurant. Oy vey!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 1, 2019

A Field Guide to the Jewish People: Who They Are, Where They Come From, What to Feed Them...and Much More. Maybe Too Much More
by Dave Barry, Adam Mansbach, and Alan Zweibel

  • Publication Date: September 24, 2019
  • Genres: Humor, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250191963
  • ISBN-13: 9781250191960