Telushkin, Joseph 1948-
TELUSHKIN, Joseph 1948-
Born 1948, in New York, NY; son of Shlomo Telushkin (an accountant and rabbi); married Dvorah Menashe, 1988; children: Rebecca (from wife's first marriage), Naomi, Shira, Benjamin. Education: Yeshiva University, New York, NY, (ordained rabbi); Columbia University (graduate studies in Jewish history). Religion: Jewish.
Home—New York, NY. Office—c/o CLAL, 440 Park Avenue South, 4th floor, New York, NY 10016-8012. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Rabbi, author, lecturer. National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, New York, NY, associate; spiritual leader of the Synagogue for the Performing Arts, Los Angeles, CA.
(With Dennis Prager) Eight Questions People Ask about Judaism, Tze Ulmad Press (Whitestone, NY), 1975, revised edition published as The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Dennis Prager) Why the Jews?: The Reason for Anti-Semitism, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1983.
Uncommon Sense: The World's Fullest Compendium of Wisdom, Shapolsky Publishers (New York, NY), 1987.
Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say about the Jews, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living, Bell Tower (New York, NY), 2000.
The Golden Land: The Story of Jewish Immigration to America: An Interactive History with Removable Documents and Artifacts, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Ten Commandments of Character: Essential Advice for Living an Honorable, Ethical, Honest Life, Bell Tower (New York, NY), 2003.
"RABBI DANIEL WINTER" MYSTERY SERIES
The Unorthodox Murder of Rabbi Wahl, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
The Final Analysis of Dr. Stark, Collins (London, England), 1988.
An Eye for an Eye, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
Contributor of articles to magazines and journals; columnist for BeliefNet; cowriter of episodes for the ABC-TV series, The Practice, and writer of an episode for Touched by an Angel television series; cowriter and associate producer of the film, The Quarrel.
An Eye for an Eye was adapted for a four-part episode of The Practice, on ABC TV, 1997.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin "is the author of one of the most widely read books on Judaism," according to Lori Rotenberk, writing in Publishers Weekly. Rotenberk was referring to Telushkin's 1991 Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History, a book that "condenses 3,500 years of Jewish history and culture into 346 entries," according to Ilene Cooper, writing in American Libraries. Telushkin, a frequent lecturer and spiritual advisor to the Los Angeles Synagogue for the Performing Arts, has written a number of other books for Jews and non-Jews explicating the religion, including titles such as Jewish Wisdom, Why the Jews?, The Book of Jewish Values, and the 2002, The Golden Land: The Story of Jewish Immigration to America. Additionally, Telushkin has created a mystery series that has been adapted for television.
Ordained at New York's Yeshiva University, Telushkin began his writing career with the 1975 book written with Dennis Prager, The Eight Questions People Ask about Judaism. Revised in 1981 as The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism, the book takes a look at "serious challenges to belief" in an attempt to convince doubting young adults that Judaism "contains meaning and significance," according to Carol R. Glatt, writing in Library Journal. Writing in Commentary, Mona Charen called the book a "feisty and full-throated ovation to a Judaism without tears." Telushkin covers topics from the existence of God to Marxism in this survey. Working again with Prager, Telushkin ponders another serious question in Why the Jews?: The Reason for Anti-Semitism. Here the authors posit a nontraditional reason for anti-Semitism, eschewing the usual theories of scapegoating and racial prejudice. Judaism itself, the authors contend, is the reason for anti-Semitism. The religion, which also embodies a sense of nation, provokes such antagonism in others by its very high-mindedness. As Charen noted in Commentary, for the authors "anti-Semitism becomes a sinister form of flattery." The same reviewer felt, however, that such a monolithic theory "crumbles under the weight of the authors' superb research.… But their insights into the various outbreaks of anti-Semitism take us very far. The book is as valuable for the theories it explodes as for those it propounds." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book a "thoughtful and illuminating study."
Working solo, Telushkin has gone on to pen numerous other informational and self-help books. His Jewish Literacy is a compilation of several hundred short explanations of topics from Jewish holidays to the West Bank. Robert A. Silver, reviewing the book in Library Journal, praised its "lively popular style," and further observed that it would serve as a "useful introductory course" for both Jews and non-Jews. David Streitfeld, writing in the Washington Post Book World, also commented on Telushkin's style: "Who could dislike a … history that uses jokes … to explain the dispute among Israelis over what should be done with the West Bank?" And a contributor for the Christian Century praised the "vast" scope of the project.
More such compilations appear in Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say about the Jews, and Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers. A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted that Telushkin's Jewish Humor is not simply another collection of "ethnic gags." Instead, Telushkin "uses the funny stuff to instruct.… The exegesis of the jokes becomes a little primer on … religion." J. Boskin, writing in Choice, felt that Jewish Humor was a "succinct book, written with considerable clarity, and containing engaging insights." In Jewish Wisdom, Telushkin collects hundreds of quotations from sources as disparate as the Talmud and Emile Zola. Marcia Welsh, reviewing the work in Library Journal, felt the book "makes a valuable browsing item," and Booklist's George Cohen observed that there is "much wisdom" in the work, which would prove to be a "treasure" for all.
Verbal cruelties are explored in Telushkin's 1996 title, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called this an "ethical self-help book for all of us who belittle lies, slander, and gossip as 'only words.'" A contributor for Publishers Weekly also commended the same title as a "wise book," and further commented that "wit informs [Telushkin's] text." Telushkin's Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible provides an introduction to 613 traditional laws in the Torah. Booklist's Jeff Ahrens called this a "superb book." In The Best of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living, Telushkin serves up solutions to "thorny moral issues," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Drawing on advice from the Torah, from rabbinical law, and from religious thinkers, the author attempts to provide answers to ethical quandaries. Graham Christian, writing in Library Journal, called the 365 suggestions "nuggets of rabbinical advice."
Telushkin also provides a brief history of Jews in the United States with The Golden Land: The Story of Jewish Immigration to America, a book noted for its "simple text and trendy pullouts [that] may make [it] attractive to younger readers," according to a contributor for Publishers Weekly. And with his 2003 title, The Ten Commandments of Character: Essential Advice for Living an Honorable, Ethical, Honest Life, Telushkin collects his columns from the online journal, BeliefNet, in a "useful manual for distinguishing between right and wrong in contemporary society," according to another Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Additionally, Telushkin has turned his hand to fiction, creating three contemporary mysteries featuring the unlikely and accidental sleuth, Rabbi Daniel Winter. In the first of the series, The Unorthodox Murder of Rabbi Wahl, Winter investigates the death of a controversial lesbian rabbi in Los Angeles, a book with an "ingenious" conclusion, according to Booklist's Peter L. Robertson, and a "promising series start," as Marvin Lachman noted in the Armchair Detective. With The Final Analysis of Dr. Stark, Winter finds himself investigating the murder of his Jewish psychiatrist friend, Dr. Stark. Gerald Kaufman, writing for the Listener found this a "lively narrative that should increase the understanding of Jewish ritual." T. J. Binyon, reviewing the same title in the Times Literary Supplement, felt the book was "competently written, with an ingenious plot," but also noted that characterization was not far above "soap opera level." The third installment in the series, An Eye for an Eye, has Winter searching for the killer of a defense attorney who has gotten his client, Ron Martin, off easy for the murder of a his ex-lover. The physician father of this murdered girl in turn kills Martin, but is released on his own recognizance after Winter attests to his character. Then, when the defense attorney winds up dead, the physician is again in the spotlight, but swears he did not kill the man. Winter must find the real killer in this "well-written … intricately plotted … [and] thought-provoking novel." Savkar Altinel, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, similarly noted that the book was "well-written and full of Jewish lore." However, for Altinel, the subtext of the novel—a defense of the death penalty—was "a touch off-putting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Libraries, December, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of Jewish Literacy, p. 968.
Armchair Detective, summer, 1992, Marvin Lachman, review of The Unorthodox Murder of Rabbi Wahl, p. 307; winter, 1992, Jon L. Breen, review of An Eye for an Eye, p. 59.
Booklist, May 1, 1987, Peter L. Robertson, review of The Unorthodox Murder of Rabbi Wahl, p. 1335; August, 1994, George Cohen, review of Jewish Wisdom, pp. 1997-1998; October 1, 1997, Jeff Ahrens, review of Biblical Literacy, p. 290.
Choice, February, 1993, J. Boskin, review of Jewish Humor, p. 1008.
Christian Century, May 15, 1991, review of Jewish Literacy, pp. 567-568.
Christian Science Monitor, October 20, 1997, Judy Huenneke, review of Biblical Literacy, p. 12.
Commentary, October, 1983, Mona Charen, review of Why the Jews?, pp. 70-72.
Kirkus reviews, August 15, 1991, review of An Eye for an Eye, p. 1049; July 15, 1992, review of Jewish Literacy, p. 910; August 1, 1994, review of Jewish Wisdom, p. 1070; January 15, 1996, review of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, p. 125.
Library Journal, July 1981, Carol R. Glatt, review of The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism, p. 1432; February 15, 1991, Robert A. Silver, review of Jewish Literacy, p. 188; September 1, 1994, Marcia Welsh, review of Jewish Wisdom, p. 177; April 15, 1996, David R. Johnson, review of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, p. 108; July 1997, Andrew B. Wertheimer, review of Biblical Literacy, p. 89; March 1, 2000, Graham Christian, review of The Book of Jewish Values, p. 100.
Listener, February 9, 1989, Gerald Kaufman, review of The Final Analysis of Dr. Stark, p. 24.
National Review, August 5, 1983, Joseph Sobran, review of Why the Jews?, p. 946.
Observer (London, England), October 9, 1988, Christopher Wordsworth, review of The Final Analysis of Dr. Stark, p. 44; August 5, 1990, Christopher Wordsworth, review of An Eye for an Eye, p. 55.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 1983, review of Why the Jews?, p. 53; August 23, 1991, review of An Eye for an Eye, p. 47; March 25, 1996, review of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, p. 77; March 13, 2000, Charlotte Abbott, review of The Book of Jewish Values, p. 81; March 27, 2000, Lori Rotenberk, "Joseph Telushkin: Living Compassionately," p. S24; October 21, 2002, review of The Golden Land, p. 67; July 14, 2003, review of The Ten Commandments of Character, p. 72.
Times Literary Supplement, November 18, 1988, T. J. Binyon, review of The Final Analysis of Dr. Stark, p. 1283; August 24, 1990, Savkar Altinel, review of An Eye for an Eye, p. 903.
Washington Post Book world, June 23, 1991, David Streitfeld, review of Jewish Literacy, p. 15.
BeliefNet,http://www.beliefnet.com/ (July 11, 2003), "Joseph Telushkin."
Jewish Week Online,http://www.thejewishweek.com/ (November 13, 2002), review of The Golden Land.
Spirituality & Health,http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/ (July 11, 2003), Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, review of The Book of Jewish Values. *