My Jewish Year

Title: My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew
Published by: Fig Tree Books LLC
Release Date: March 14, 2017
ISBN13: 978-1941493205
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A spirited chronicle of the author’s deep dive into the heart of Judaism.

The much-dissected Pew Research Center study of 2013, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” revealed that most U.S. Jews locate their Jewishness in their ancestry and culture—not in religion. Abigail Pogrebin wondered if perhaps that’s because we haven’t all looked at religion closely enough.

Although she grew up following some holiday rituals, Pogrebin realized how little she knew about their foundational purpose and current relevance. She wanted to understand what had kept these holidays alive and vibrant, in some cases for thousands of years. Her curiosity led her to embark on an entire year of intensive research, observation, and writing about the milestones on the Jewish calendar.

My Jewish Year travels through this calendar’s signposts with candor, humor, and a trove of information, capturing the arc of Jewish observance through the eyes of a relatable, wandering—and wondering—Jew. The chapters are interspersed with brief reflections from prominent rabbis and Jewish thinkers.

Maybe you’re seeking an accessible, digestible roadmap for Jewish life. Maybe you’d appreciate a fresh exploration of what you’ve mastered. Whatever your motivation, you’ll be educated, entertained, and inspired by Pogrebin’s unusual journey—and by My Jewish Year.


“lively, funny and honest… a relatable, immersive experience”
The New York Times

“Pogrebin is a luminous guide through the the Jewish holy days”
The Chicago Tribune

“standout addition to books about the Jewish calendar … witty conversational … reads like a novel … Highly recommended.”
Dayton Jewish Observer

“an amusing, intelligent, and often incandescent approach to modern religious practice”
Foreword Reviews

“honest, illuminating, entertaining, and incredibly brave”
Jane Eisner

“A superb point-of-entry volume for anyone who wants to bring Jewish holidays into their lives, and a great refresher course for veterans who need their holidays re-energized. Pogrebin’s style is engaging, and her insights are deep.”
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

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[Pogrebin] calls herself a “wondering” Jew, and her exploration is lively, funny and honest. It is a relatable, immersive experience that pays homage to “The Year of Living Biblically,” by A. J. Jacobs, who writes the foreword. She is a holiday pilgrim uninterested in journeying into Orthodoxy (she attends a Reform synagogue) but intent on reaching others like her, indeed like so many secular American Jews, who “do not connect their Jewish identity to Judaism.”
—David Gregory, The New York Times (read the full review)

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It’s a sure conversation-stopper when I tell friends, “This year I’ll be observing and trying to understand every single Jewish holiday.”

Non-Jews nod politely: “That sounds interesting….”

Non-observant Jews look puzzled: “Aren’t there, like, a thousand of those…? I guess you won’t be doing much else this year.”

Observant Jews shrug, as if to say, “Welcome to our world; want a trophy?”

I’m exaggerating.

But what the reactions share in common is the question, “Why now?”

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For Book Clubs

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In the News

The New York Times: "You Shall Tell Your Child: In Time for Passover, a Journalist Celebrates a Year of Jewish Holidays" Read the review

Jewish Journal: "‘A Festival of Delights’ Kindles Hanukkah Memories" - Abigail Pogrebin is interviewed about Hanukkah, My Jewish Year, and her contribution to this Hanukkah documentary Read the article

Forward: "‘Hanukkah: A Festival Of deLights’ Reveals The Rise Of A Family Holiday In America" - Abigail Pogrebin is interviewed about Hanukkah, My Jewish Year, and her contribution to this Hanukkah documentary Read the interview

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Face the Nation:

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Prepping Rosh Hashanah: Self-Flagellation in Summer


The instruction manual from the Israeli company that shipped my shofar (the trumpet made from a ram’s horn, blasted during the Jewish New Year) says the blowing technique can be learned by “filling your mouth with water. You then make a small opening at the right side of your mouth, and blow out the water with a strong pressure. You must practice this again and again until you can blow the water about four feet away.”

Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year”) marks the Jewish new year, the anniversary of Creation, and requires the shofar blast to alert the world to the new beginning—the moment we’re supposed to “wake up” to who we’ve been in the last year and who we aim to become in the next one. The horn is notoriously impossible to blow, especially with its prescribed cadence and strength. Try it some time: it’s really hard. Synagogues troll for the brave souls who can actually pull it off without making the congregation cringe at the sad attempts that emit tense toots or dying wails.

Read the full excerpt