Arthur Kurzweil

Arthur Kurzweil

Arthur Kurzweil (born in 1951 in New York City) is an American author, educator, editor, writer, publisher, and magician.cite news
last = Rubin
first = Debra
title = Educator brings a magic touch to event on faith and spirituality
publisher = New Jersey Jewish News
date = 2007-01-25
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] .

Kurzweil grew up in East Meadow, NY. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from New College at Hofstra University in 1971 and a Master of Library Science from Florida State University in 1972.

As a scholar-in-residence and guest speaker in synagogues and other Jewish organizations in the United States, as well as through the books he has written on Judaism, the Torah, Kabbalah, and Jewish genealogical research, Kurzweil’s career has been focused around helping others to discover the Jewish tradition. During his 17-year tenure at Jason Aronson Publishers, he commissioned and published over 650 volumes of Jewish interest, a substantial contribution to the contemporary English-language Jewish library. Kurzweil has also been editor-in-chief of the Jewish Book Club, president of the Jewish Book Council, and editorial consultant for Jossey-Bass.

Kurzweil's book "From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History" is considered to be a definitive introductory guide on the topic. Kurzweil has also authored two books in the Dummies series, "Kabbalah for Dummies" and "The Torah for Dummies", as well as "On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz", "The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy" and "My Generations: A Course in Jewish Family History", which is commonly used as a textbook at synagogue schools in the United States.


In literature


Kurzweil’s interest in writing formed early in his childhood. His first article, "Today’s Troubled Youth: A Teenager’s View", was published at the age of 15. It first appeared in the publication "Newsday", and went on to be nationally syndicated. It was included in the weekly current events reading supplement then commonly used in public schools in the United States.cite news
last = Kurzweil
first = Arthur
author-link = Arthur Kurzweil
publisher = Newsday
title = Today's Troubled Youth: A Teenager's View
date = 1968-01-27
accessdate = 2008-03-11

Kurzweil spent ten years working as a freelance writer, writing articles for numerous publications including "Hadassah", "National Jewish Monthly", "Moment Magazine" and "L.I." - "Newsday"’s Sunday magazine. He also contributed articles to "The Jewish Almanac" (1980), "The Jewish Family Book: A Creative Approach to Raising Kids" (1981), the three volumes comprising "The Jewish Catalog" (Jewish Publication Society in 1973, 1976 and 1980, a 1960’s style compilation of do-it-yourself guides covering a wide range of topics of interest for Jewish people. Kurzweil contributed to articles about building a personal Jewish library, Judaica Philately, and Jewish genealogy.

His interest in genealogy coincided with the release of Alex Haley’s book "" and "Catching the wave" in 1976. He wrote a feature article for "L.I." entitled "Past Shock: How One Man Took a Journey Back into His Family’s History." The publication of this article initiated his career as both a professional writer and a public speaker. His weekly column, "Finding Jewish Roots" appeared in "The Jewish Week", a Jewish newspaper in New York, in 1977 and 1978. In 1979, Kurzweil wrote a cover story for New York magazine, "Hizzoner’s Roots", a genealogical study of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s past.cite journal
last = Kurzweil
first = Arthur
journal = New York Magazine
title = Hizzoner's Roots
date = 1979-10-29

Motivated by his own confused and inconsistent treatment of New York City’s numerous beggars, Kurzweil, in "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime: The Treatment of Beggars According to Jewish Tradition", poses 16 questions reflecting his ambivalence on accommodating their seemingly relentless requests for a handout. He then demonstrates how a relative novice can do research to find meaningful answers within the framework of the Jewish tradition.cite web
url =
title = Tikum Olam Publications List, United Synagogue Youth
accessdate = 2008-03-11

"From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History" was first published in 1980 and has since been published in a third revised edition. The book provides information on Kurzweil’s own family history quest in addition to step-by-step advice on gathering information on one’s family history from family members, family papers, Holocaust research, immigration and naturalization records, and online databases, among other sources. A revised and updated version of this book was published by Jossey-Bass in 2004.

After an extended period of time during which Kurzweil’s efforts were focused on publishing books by other authors, Kurzweil returned to his own writing, with books such as "On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz: 25 Years of Pre-Dawn Car Trips, Mind-Blowing Encounters, and Inspiring Conversations with a Man of Wisdom" in 2006, "Kabbalah for Dummies" in 2007 and "The Torah for Dummies" in 2008.


Kurzweil’s credits as an editor include, "Behold a Great
cite book
last = Strassfield
first = Sharon
title = Behold a Great Image
publisher = Jewish Publication Society
date = 1978
isbn = 978-0827601055
] The book which was awarded first prize for design at the Philadelphia Book Show, cite web
title = Jewish Publication Society Annual Report of 91st Year
publisher = The Jewish Publication Society of America
date = 1980
url =
format = PDF
accessdate = 2008-03-11
] was developed as a fundraising program by a Tzedekah Collective, a grassroots charitable fundraising initiative. The book was the culmination of a national photography project that aimed at capturing the modern Jewish experience. The top three winners received cash prizes, and the proceeds from the book were donated to charity.cite book
title= Introduction to Judaism: A Source Book
last= Einstein
first= Stephen J.
coauthors= et al.
year= 1998
publisher= Union for Reform Judaism
isbn= 080740649X
] Other books Kurzweil has edited include "The Strife of the Spirit" in 1988, "On Being Free" in 1995 both written by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, "Best Jewish Writing 2003" and "The Hadassah Jewish Family Book of Health and Wellness" in 2006.


From 1984 to 2001, Kurzweil acted as Editor-in-chief, publisher and Vice President at Jason Aronson Publisherscite news
last = Brawarsky
first = Sandee
title = Into The Mystic
publisher = The Jewish Week
date = 1999-11-19
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] during which time he published over 650 books on a wide range of topics pertaining to Jewish practice and belief. Notable authors that Kurzweil published include Adin Steinsaltz, Elie Wiesel, Shlomo Carlebach, Aryeh Kaplan, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. From 2001 he has served as Judaica Consultant for Jossey-Bass. Jewish book projects that Kurzweil develops for Jossey-Bass are imprinted with the words “An Arthur Kurzweil Book” on each book’s title page.


quote|I am a Jewish educator; I just do it a little differently, that’s all. My hope is to light a spark, to kindle a flame–for a love of Jewish learning–just as I have had for so much of my life. If people can laugh a little and enjoy themselves while they are learning, then I have done my job well. You may know about the Jewish custom of giving students a taste of honey along with their first formal lesson. According to our tradition, learning is supposed to be sweet.cite interview
last = Kurzweil
first = Arthur
interviewer = Alan Zoldan
format = Phone interview
date = 2008-01-16
Arthur Kurzweil

As a speaker, teacher, and scholar-in-residence, Kurzweil’s teachings have covered various topics of Jewish interest, including the Talmud, Kabbalah, and genealogy. His Kabbalah courses are frequently based upon the contemporary book by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, "The Thirteen Petalled Rose: A Discourse on the Essence of Jewish Existence and Belief", which he has claimed has had more influence on his life than any other book.cite book
last = Kurzweil
first = Arthur
title = On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz: 25 Years of Pre-Dawn Car Trips, Mind-Blowing Encounters, and Inspiring Conversations with a Man of Wisdom
publisher = Jossey Bass
date = 2006-09-01
pages = 304
isbn = 978-0787983246

Among the various forums at which Kurzweil has lectured and taught are Jewish educator conferences, such as the Conference for Alternatives in Jewish Education (CAJE), retreat centers, such as Elat Chayyim, The Aleph Society where he is the acting coordinator for the Talmud Circle Project, synagogues, schools, Jewish community centers, teacher conferences, and university groups, both in the United States and abroad. As a prolific lecturer and teacher, Kurzweil has been credited as “one individual who has made a major contribution to the resurgence in adult Jewish education. cite journal
journal = Agenda: Jewish Education
issue = 12
title = Agenda: Jewish Education
publisher = Jewish Education Service of North America
date = 1999
accessdate = 2008-03-11


Kurzweil co-founded the first Jewish Genealogical Society in 1977 and was co-publisher with Steven W. Siegel of "Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy" (1977-1982).cite book
last = Sack
first = Sallyann Amadur
coauthors = Gary Mokotoff
title = Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy
publisher = Avotaynu
date = 2004-07-01
isbn = 978-1886223165
] There are now over 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies worldwide.

In 1999, Kurzweil was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) cite web
title= IAJGS Awards 1999
publisher = International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
] His commemorative plaque read: "In deep appreciation of your trailblazing work which teaches us that learning about Jewish family history is possible, despite ages of community destruction, Diaspora and the Holocaust. We will always be grateful that you showed us the way, and for your past and continued inspiration to all Jewish genealogists and new Jewish genealogical societies that continue to be created worldwide because of your vision."


Kurzweil was introduced to magic by his father who took him to a magic shop to help with a third grade school project.David Copperfield, Kurzweil has spent time teaching physical therapists how to use magic tricks as a rehabilitative tool.

Although the Torah and Jewish authorities specifically prohibits "supernatural magic", tricks which rely upon sleight-of-hand and misdirection to fool the eye are permitted. Since 2004, Kurzweil has performed a Jewish-themed magic show, "Searching for God in a Magic Shop", that combines magic tricks and illusions with a spiritual message. Of his presentation, Kurzweil states,


* The Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at Ohio State University.cite web
title = Arthur Kurzweil
publisher = B'nai B'rith International
url =
accessdate =2008-03-11
* Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. cite web
title= IAJGS Awards 1999
publisher = International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
* Beta Phi Mu, the international honor society for library & information science and information technology.cite web
title= Beta Phi Mu home page


*"The Kurzweil Family History and Genealogy" (1976)
*"Behold a Great

*"My Generations: A Course in Jewish Family History" (1984)
*"Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy: Sources in the United States and Canada, Volume 1" (1991)
*"Words to Live by: Selected Writings" (Editor) (1995)
*"Best Jewish Writing" (Editor) (2003)
*"From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History" (2004)
*"On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz: 25 Years of Pre-Dawn Car Trips, Mind-Blowing Encounters, and Inspiring Conversations with a Man of Wisdom" (2006)
*"Kabbalah For Dummies (2007)
*"The Torah For Dummies" (2008)


* [ "A Conversation with Leonard Cohen"] The Jewish Book News (1994)
* [ "A Conversation about Jewish Spirituality with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz"] Jewish Spirituality: The Magazine, {January 2004)
* [ "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? The Treatment of Beggars According to Jewish Tradition"] Gym Shoes and Irises by Danny Siegel (Town Press, 1987)
* [ "Genealogy as a Spiritual Pilgrimage"] from the Malcolm R. Stern Memorial Lecture given at the 14th Summer Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, Washington, DC, (June 28, 1995)
* [ "Project Magic"] Genii: The Conjurors' Magazine, (Vol. 66, No. 1, January 2003)


External links

* [ Arthur Kurzweil official website]
* [ "On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz" book review]
* [ "Reflections on an association with a talmudic scholar"]
* [ "Adin Steinsaltz and his Faithful, Driving Boswell" book review]
* [ "Scholar’s expertise includes magic, genealogy, Talmud"]
* [ "Too Good to Miss #3"]

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