Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul
Browsing the self-help section of my local bookstore this past week,
I couldn't help noticing an entire wall devoted to the inspirational
juggernaut that is "Chicken Soup For the Soul." To the heartwarming
original, the series' editor, Jack Canfield, has since added "A
Second Helping," "A Third Serving," "A Fourth Course," "A Fifth
Portion" and "A Sixth Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul," not to
mention "Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul," the "Couple's Soul,"
the "Teenager's Soul," the "Mother's Soul," the "Woman's Soul," the
"Country Soul," and the "Pet Lover's Soul." In all, the Chicken Soup
franchise now comprises more than 100 different volumes, and the
number grows weekly.
Conspicuously absent from this list is "Chicken Soup for the Jewish
Soul." It's an odd omission given the well-known affinity of the
Jewish people for self-improvement and chicken soup. Throughout
history, Jews have been at the vanguard of self-help, beginning
with the publication of our first and most influential work of
self-help, "The Ten Commandments of Highly Effective Israelites"
(Moses [Ed.], et. al.). Other significant self-help books of Jewish
provenance include the Talmud, the "Ethica Ordine Geometrico
Demonstrata" of Spinoza and the collected works of Ruth Westheimer.
(Many scholars believe that the Talmud would have done more
business had it been published under its original title, "The
So "Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul" would seem to be a sure bet,
financially speaking, and one can only assume that Mr. Canfield's
got one bubbling away on the stove, to be followed, no doubt, by
"A Matzo Ball for the Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul," "Some Rye
Bread for Washing Down the Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul" and
"A Gigantic Plastic Container of Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul
to Take Home for Later." Until it reaches bookstores, though, I'd
like to suggest a few other current works of Jewish self-help,
which, although perhaps not as well known as the Chicken Soup books,
still merit consideration:
"All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Hebrew School": This frankly
erotic work elaborates the author's premise that the skills he's
valued most highly in life were first imparted to him on Tuesday
and Thursday afternoons in a temple supply closet by a slightly
zaftig Brandeis undergraduate named Faye Berkowitz.
"The Grandma of the Gifted Child": A guide to being so proud you
could just burst. Includes techniques for effective kvelling and
explains what to do when you're trumped by the grandson of another
lady in your retirement community.
"The Oy of Sex": A Jewish companion volume to the well-known sex
manual, this book offers lush illustrations of the probable
expressions on your mother's face if she ever caught you doing any
of the things depicted in those disgusting illustrations from
"The Joy of Sex." (Particularly the ones on pages 94-95!)
"14,000 Things for Jews to be Happy About": In a quixotic attempt
to improve the mood of his constitutionally worry-prone people,
author Arnie Plotkin compiled this list of things for Jews to be
happy about. The book, marketed through temple bookstores, was a
commercial failure, but later achieved success under a new title:
"14,000 Things That Could Go Wrong."
"The Seven Habits of Highly Sephardic People": This provocative
book explores the benefits to general well-being that can be gained
from eating legumes on Passover and speaking Ladino.
"Women Who Run with the Wolfs": Sylvia Wolf and her daughter, Lisa,
discuss their trials and tribulations in convincing the ladies of the
local Hadassah chapter to sign up for a 5K charity run.
"Life's Little Reconstructionist Book": 613 suggestions,
observations, and commandments for Jews who have a different belief
"The Stella Stein Prophecy": In the most recent book by the
self-proclaimed "Nostradamus of Nostrand Ave.," Mrs. Stein uses her
psychic powers to foretell the future of people who don't chew their
food well, sit far enough away from the TV or check for ticks after
playing in tall grass by the same author: "I'm Okay, You Look a Bit
Of course, it's also possible that we'll never see a "Chicken Soup
for the Jewish Soul." Why? Because, as a Jewish mother knows, the
only real "Chicken Soup for the Soul" is, in fact, a nice, hot bowl
of chicken soup.