Study Guide

Everything Is Illuminated Religion

By Jonathan Safran Foer


All though Everything is Illuminated, religion drives people apart almost as much as it brings them together. Trachimbrod is formed by Jews who are fleeing anti-Jewish laws, but the Jews themselves divide into those who worship at the Upright Synagogue and those of the Slouching Synagogue. The Nazis try to wipe out the Jews, and they rely on the Ukrainians who lives among them to turn them in, which Grandpa does to Herschel. And in the modern day story, Alex, a Ukrainian himself, doesn't understand Jonathan and his Judaism at all.

But there's one major difference: In this case, Alex and his Grandfather make efforts to understand it. Too bad the Nazis didn't take the same approach.

Questions About Religion

  1. Does Everything is Illuminated help you understand Jewish folklore, or does it confuse you further?
  2. Why does Alex think that Jonathan, as a Jew, will look different than a regular person? Where does Alex get his assumptions of what Jewish people are like?
  3. Why is Trachimbrod split between the Upright Synagogue and the Slouching Synagogue? What do the two groups have in common?
  4. What is the significance of Sammy Davis Junior, Junior being named after a famous person who is also Jewish?

Chew on This

It's hard to believe in God when you've seen the end of the world, and many characters in this book see what they think is the end of the world, especially when the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust commence.

Alex and Jonathan are repeating some of the same mistakes made by Alex's Grandfather and Herschel, who were also of different religions. But because they live in a different time, no one dies because of these differences.