October 24th, 2006


Jewish History Advice, Please!

I've got some questions that I'm hoping some of you here will be able to help me answer. The next chapter in Connor's history book ("Story of the World, Part 1," by Susan Bauer) is "The Jewish People," which is not meant to be as inclusive as the title suggests, but just covers the very beginning of Jewish history. Trouble is, I'm not too sure about the information presented, so I wanted to try and find some outside resources.

The chapter tells the story of Abraham (Abram), who leaves Haran and goes to Canaan. In the online research I've done, it does appear to me that this is considered to be the start of Jewish history, as told in the Bible. The story of Joseph (of the coat of many colors) is also told. The "stumbling block" here for me is using the Bible as a sole historical source. I do realize that in some cases, the Bible is the only source for certain things, but, in general, I would prefer to teach history from other, more "secular" sources, if there are any. I know that the author of this text is Christian, and is writing the books from that perspective, so I'm not entirely sure that much of what she chooses to present (out of the vast range of historical options) isn't primarily meant as building blocks for the history of Christianity she intends to focus on further down the road. She does include other civilizations and faiths, but I do feel I need to be on the lookout to make sure Connor will be getting a well-rounded view of history. (Without going into a long discussion about the books themselves, I'll just say that I like what's she's done here well enough to tolerate the small degree of religious bias I've found them to contain). So far, any time that I've had a quibble or question with something she's presented in the text, I've had no trouble locating alternate sources on my own, but Jewish history is something about which I know almost nothing, so I thought it would be a good idea to ask the experts here on my f-list. Also, even if it turns out that the Bible is the only source, I'd love to hear opinions about this period of history from a Jewish, rather than the author's Christian, perspective - not so much that I doubt the content, but perhaps there are different opinions about its importance, if that makes any sense.

So, my questions: Are there any additional sources, or is the Bible really the only way to approach early Jewish history? Also, would you consider these two stories to offer a good introduction to Jewish history, or are there things you would also like to see included (or presented instead of either of these stories)? Is it true that Jewish history is universally considered to begin with Abraham? And finally, do you have any recommendations for good books on the subject for children?

Thanks in advance!