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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith » User review

An Amazing Read

  • Nov 11, 2009
A Jewish friend loaned me this book, and I promptly fell in love with it. It's compiled from letters that Martin Gilbert sent to an elderly Indian citizen who'd just learned she was born Jewish in Hungary. I wanted to catch up on Bible history and culture, but I ended up learning so much more.

The letters are short, fascinating, easily readable, and together create a wonderful tapestry of Jewish history and culture, and indeed world history too. Starting with Genesis and creation, Gilbert traces the people of the Bible through fascinating retellings of familiar tales with a wealth of invaluable and fascinating context. As the Jewish people move out beyond their homeland, the letters follow, tracing paths through world history that shed light on life past and present. Jewish culture, and Jewish ties to their homeland, come vividly to life. Historical trials, spiritual study, scientific research, and the response of a people set apart to the changing world around them are all beautifully told, and all in bite-sized, letter-sized, easily digested and truly satisfying pieces.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to see their faith, whatever faith, through opened eyes, and to anyone curious and willing to learn, as I was, about Jewish interpretation of the Bible I love so well.

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Sheila Deeth ()
Ranked #42
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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About this book


Martin Gilbert'sLetters to Auntie Foriis a proud, 140-part epistolary history of the Jews as well as a parsing of the basic tenets of the faith and the meaning and form of its holy days and ritual observances. Beginning with the first chapter of Genesis, Gilbert follows his people through five millennia, concluding with the founding of Israel and, briefly, the political and religious Middle-Eastern turmoil of the present day. Especially interesting are his chapters on the Diaspora, as well as brief summaries of Jewish heroes in World War I, the dark horrors of World War II, and short recitals of Jewish luminaries in industry, politics, sports, and the arts and sciences. Though Gilbert is hardly a disinterested narrator, his erudite informality (the recipient of his letter-chapters is a well-educated and elderly friend effectively innocent of any knowledge of Judaism) serves his complex subject admirably.--H. O'Billovitch
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ISBN-10: 0805241884
ISBN-13: 978-0805241884
Author: Martin Gilbert
Publisher: Schocken

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