Someone posted that they’re having trouble coordinating learning with an Orthodox rabbi. That’s no surprise to me. I think the only reason my rabbi is so available when I need him is that he doesn’t sleep. Ever. It also helps that I was not entirely dependent on him for all my learning.
During my conversion process, I was surrounded by rabbinical students and other Jewish friends who played an integral part in teaching me about everything from prayer to holidays. And I read voraciously, too. I think I went quite broke buying Jewish books (Bless you, Half.com) for a while there.
Here are some of my favorite learning tools and perhaps, you have some suggestions, too! For the purposes of this compilation, I’m catering the resources to the beginner level.
Aish, Chabadand Simpletoremember.com are amazing online resources. They’re interactive and offer articles, blogs, video content and more resources catering to rich learning experiences on aspects of Jewish life. There are some incredible Ipod downloads on all the sites and Simpletoremember.com offers most for free. I’ve also found the OU site particularly helpful but not as user friendly as the aforementioned.
Naaleh promises classes, classes, classes on many levels with instructors from all over the world.
NJOP, the National Jewish Outreach Program, offers everything from a CD-ROM that walks you through Shabbat to helpful tips on following services, learning Hebrew and more.
“Book of Our Heritage” explores the holidays, Festivals and fast days of the Jewish calendar and explains their laws and customs. It’s a little dense but intensely helpful.
“Gateway to Judaism: The What, How, And Why of Jewish Life” goes through the Jewish life cycle, rituals and holidays in a user-friendly format that includes seeing one imaginary family through all of the integral parts of Jewish life. It was very fun to read!
All hail Shimon Aspidorf for creating books for people like me that don’t feel like Judaism for dummies. I’ve enjoyed “Kosher for the Clueless but Curious: A Fun, Fact-Filled, and Spiritual Guide to All Things Kosher,” the “Rosh Hashana Yom Kippur Survival Kit,” the “Passover Survival Kit,” and the “Survival Kit Family Haggadah.”
If you’re thinking about converting Orthodox, check out “Becoming a Jew” which is a comprehensive look at Judaism, the conversion process and stories from other converts. “Choosing to Be Jewish: The Orthodox Road to Conversion” is a little less dense, think of it as a bite size version of “Becoming a Jew” but no less useful.
Moshe I. Sorscher has prayer services covered. If you don’t have a beginners’ service in your area, you can crack open one of his Companion guides before, after or during services. Check out the “Companion Guide to the Shabbat Prayer Service,” the “Companion Guide to the Rosh Hashanah Prayer Service” and the “Companion Guide to the Yom Kippur Prayer Service.”
Books by Converts/Baalei Teshuva
Becoming a Jew “late in life” is no easy journey but you’re not the only one who has walked this path. Find comfort and learn from the experiences of other converts and baalei teshuva. Adopting an abandoned Chinese infant brings Avraham Schwartzbaum and his wife back to the Jewish faith in “The Bamboo Cradle”.
While “Migrant Soul” is the tale of a Native American convert who brings his Jewish wife and children closer to Judaism through his love of the Judaism.
With “Lovesong”, African-American Conservative convert Julius Lester chronicles his powerful journey to Judaism in beautiful, evocative prose.
What resources do you recommend to the “new” Jew?