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Who are the Jews? What do they believe? Why is Israel so important to them? What’s all this about self-hating Jews? These are just some of the questions that engage a Reform rabbi and a Humanist philosopher in their lively and intriguing conversations. From Antisemitism to Zionism, from animal slaughter kosher-style to the Zeitgeist of Jewish disparaging humour, rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok gives us the flavours, traditions and ‘feel’ of Jewish life and identity enmeshed in the importance of the Holy Land, while philosopher Peter Cave gets him to dig deeper, revealing philosophical perplexities, unsettling questions — and even Wittgenstein. The book is unique for it challenges unconscious assumptions such as the Jewish conviction that Judaism must survive and that Hitler must not secure a posthumous victory — as well as widening eyes to searching questions concerning a nation’s identity and what justifies territorial rights. Because Jewish humour plays a crucial role in Jewish life, this wide-ranging and thought-provoking exploration includes Jewish jokes and Dan’s Jewish cartoons, all designed to add some spice to the dish of what it is like to be a Jew in these modern times. The dialogues introduce the non-Jewish to the Jewish world of argument, anguish and identity — and will lead Jews to discover some fresh approaches and challenges to their interests and worries. For both Jews and non-Jews, this book casts lights — with an engaging and accessible tone — for, clearly, this rabbi and philosopher enjoy the cut and the thrust.

Published: Nov 30, 2018

Section Chapter Authors
Prologue Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Part One: Jews, Judaism and Jerusalem
1. Who is a Jew? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
2. What is Judaism? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
3. What is Jewish Morality? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
4. Do Jews Not Care about Animal Welfare? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
5. Zionism: 'Next Year, in Jerusalem' - but Whose Jerusalem? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
6. Does the Holocaust Make Israel's Existence a Special Case? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
7. Why are Jews so Hated? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Part Two: Israel: 'This Land is Our Land'
8. Is there a Future for Jews and Judaism Outside of Israel? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
9. What Determines a Nation's Territorial Rights? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
10. Are Jews Collectively Responsible for Israeli military actions? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
11. One State, Two States or No-State-at-All Solution - and Where? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
12. Are not Muslims Better Off in Israel than in Islamic States? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
13. Does Israel Deserve to Lose the Sympathy Vote to the Palestinians? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
14. Boycotts: Should We Stop Buying Israel's Avacados, Dates and Pomegranites? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Part Three: Israel, Integrity and Reasons to Wail
15. Can Israel be a Jewish State - and, if so, for How Long? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
16. Can a Jewish State be a Liberal Democracy, Avoiding Apartheid? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
17. 'Scratch an Anti-Zionist and You'll Find an Anti-Semite.' Really? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
18. Are Anti-Zionist Jews Nothing but Self-Hating Jews? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
19. Does Jewish Humour Show Jews to be Unfit for a State of Their Own? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
20. What has Israel Done for the Jews? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
21. What has Israel Done for the World? Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
End Matter
Epilogue Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Bibliography Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Further Reading Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Index Peter Cave, Dan Cohn-Sherbok


Wonderfully entertaining, eminently readable, and mind-blowingly informative! Cave and Cohn-Sherbok are not afraid to ask the difficult and sensitive questions about Jews, Judaism and Israel. The format of light-hearted banter and the inclusion of witty, amusing cartoons ensure that readers are swept along from one controversial topic to another, learning much but, at the same time, left to form their own opinions on a vast array of pertinent, if often perplexing and seemingly unsolvable, issues. A book of beguiling subtleties that demonstrates the authors’ comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of their subject!
Professor Martin O'Kane, University of Wales Trinity St David

Lively and light approach to some very protracted issues...attractive format, with a dialogical text interspersed with illustrations and humor ...thoughtful introduction to a complex issue, nicely broken down into some of the most central arguments.
Professor Oliver Leaman, Professor of Philosophy and Zantker Professor of Judaic Studies at University of Kentucky

Any book which poses difficult questions on Jews and Judaism is bound to be controversial. This challenging debate between a rabbi and a philosopher, including some intriguing role reversals, does not disappoint.
Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet, Formerly Principal of Leo Baeck College, London

We can all learn more about Judaism and there is nowhere better than here: the book approaches serious subjects such as why Jews are hated, what significance Israel has for Judaism and a two-state solution, yet all accompanied by a light touch, sensitive disagreement and (crucial to Judaism) Jewish jokes.
The Very Christopher Lewis, Formerly Dean of Christ Church, Oxford

Take two smart fellows educated in philosophy and theology, give them a seemingly simple question--'What is a Jew'--and then sit back and watch them spin web upon web of complexity. It is to laugh. Not to mention, to learn a great deal in the process.
Daniel M Klein, bestselling author of fiction, non-fiction and humour

Thought provoking and evocative, and may even offend some. Nonetheless, it offers space for readers to question and to quarrel, and to criticize and commiserate with people on both side of the Palestinian-Israeli dividing line.
Reading Religion