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Remember 'The Jewish Catalog'? The Book of DIY Judaism From the '70s Still Offers Perspective Today.

Oh, 1971what a grand-time for hand-lettered, oversized do-it-yourself catalogues! Eco-theorist Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog was first published in 1968 but reached the zenith of its influence in 1971, when a new edition, expanded to 452 pages, ran on its cover the great Apollo 4 photograph of the Earth as seen from space. In 1971 the Boston Women's Health Collective published the first edition of Our Bodies Ourselves, the pioneering gyno-manual that treated the female orgasm, masturbation, lesbianism, and zaftig body types as natural variations rather than oddities, sins, or imperfections. And three members of Havurat Shalom, the still-extant havurah-in-a-house in Somerville, Mass., began writing The Jewish Catalog, the first edition of which was published, in all its black-and-white, photo-and-illo-spotted glory two years later.

If you haven't seen The Jewish Catalog, do, now. The book that does it all, offering sensible peer-to-peer advice, just enough halakhic wisdom (you'll find no better synopsis of the kosher laws), and the best diagram for wrapping tefillin that was ever rendered by your friend in Hebrew school who was always sketching things under his desk. The best pictures look like Shel Silverstein's (I won't die from surprise if someone writes in to say they were Shel Silverstein's). It tells you how to build a sukkah, how to affix a mezuzah, which blessings to say over what, and how to get by when hitchhiking around Israel ("Get a haircut; Israelis are wary of foreign 'hippies'"). It offers instructions for sitting shiva, and it tells you where in all the major American cities you can rent Jewish movies. It's a panoramic view of a young idealist's idea American Judaism, circa Laugh-In and Portnoy and Nixon. And it's the kind of handbook that the internet was supposed to render useless, but which in fact the web has made more desirable than ever. (Jen Bleyer, founder of the late great Heeb, offered her own take on the catalog, for Tablet, 10 years ago.)

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Author:Oppenheimer, Mark
Publication:Tablet Magazine
Date:Feb 27, 2017
Words:344
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