"People of the Books" Blog

Jewish American Heritage Month and the Sydney Taylor Book Award

List compiled by Kathe Pinchuck, Outgoing Chair, Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee

The All-of-a-Kind Family Series is a quintessential example of the Jewish America story. While many books which received the award named in Sydney Taylor’s memory are about immigrants from Eastern Europe who passed through Ellis Island and lived on the Lower East Side of New York City, the Jewish American experience includes unique rituals, challenges of combining traditional Jewish values with modern American life, and carving out an identity with which one is comfortable:

2010 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

Davies, Jacqueline. Lost. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2009. ISBN: 978-0761455356. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire provides the backdrop for this historical novel about friendship and loss. (Honor Award Winner for Teen Readers)

Friedman, Robin. The Importance of Wings. Watertown, Massachusetts: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009. ISBN: 978-158-89330-5. The title of this coming-of-age novel refers to both the layered hairstyle Roxanne wants but cannot achieve with her straight locks, and what happens when an Israeli teen who wants to be more American discovers her inner beauty and self confidence with the help of a friend. (Award Winner for Older Readers)

Greene, Jacqueline Dembar. Rebecca Series (American Girl Collection). Illustrated by Robert Hunt. Middleton, Wisconsin: American Girl, 2009. ISBN: Various. The latest historical character lives on the Lower East Side in 1914, hopes to be an actress, and tries to balance an American way of life with traditional Jewish values. (Notable Books for Older Readers)

Hoberman, Mary Ann. Strawberry Hill. Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin. New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. ISBN: 978-0316041362. When her family moves from New Haven to Stamford, Allie Sherman has to adjust to making new friends, juggle alliances, and handle the disappointment that her new street, Strawberry Hill, is not the bucolic, strawberry-laden lane she had envisioned. (Notable Book for Older Readers)

Ostow, Micol. So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother). Art by David Ostow. Woodbury, Minnesota: Flux, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-7387-1471-4. The Ostows combine graphic novel vignettes filled with sarcastic commentary with a coming-of-age novel in which Ari Abramson is struggling to find his true calling and identity while also trying to fit in, hoping that playing a band will win him popularity and the girl of his dreams. (Notable Book for Teen Readers)

Tal, Eve Goldberg. Cursing Columbus. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-933693-59-0. Told in the duel voices of Raizel and Lemmel in alternating chapters and scenarios, Tal crafts a realistic and poignant picture of an immigrant family’s struggles in the early 20th century. (Notable Book for Teen Readers)

Wayland, April Halprin. New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story. Illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009. ISBN: 978-080373279-7. The author employs her own memories of community tashlich at the beach in this loving, charmingly illustrated description of Izzy and his family and friends as they gently apologize for misdeeds, grant forgiveness, and toss breadcrumbs into the sea as part of their Rosh Hashanah observance. (Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Weber, Elka. Yankee at the Seder. Illustrations by Adam Gustavson. Berkeley, California: Tricycle Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-58246-256-1. Based on a true tale, this beautifully illustrated story recounts the participation of a “Yankee Jew,” Myer Levy, as a guest at a Virginia Passover Seder shortly after the end of the Civil War. Ten-year-old Jacob sees the words of the Haggadah ring true, as all who are hungry are welcome at the table. (Honor Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Winter, Jonah. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? Illustrations by André Carrilho. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2009. ISBN: 978-0375837388. Koufax's rise from a Jewish boy in Brooklyn to one of the all-time greats of baseball as a Los Angeles Dodger is told in conversational style by an imagined teammate. A lenticular cover and magnificent artwork brings the left-hander’s style to life. (Honor Award Winner for Younger Readers)

1968-2009 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

Blanc, Esther Silverstein. Berchick. Illus. by Tennessee Dixon. Volcano, CA: Volcano Press, 1989. ISBN: 0912078812. Homesteading in Wyoming in the early 1900's, a Jewish mother develops an unusual relationship with a colt she adopts named Berchick. (1989 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Cohn, Janice. The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate. Illus. by Bill Farnsworth. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman, 1995. ISBN: 0807511536 pbk. Describes how people in Billings, Montana joined together to fight a series of hate crimes against a Jewish family. (1995 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Ducharme, Dede Fox. The Treasure in the Tiny Blue Tin. Fort Worth, TX: Texas Christian University Press, 1998. ISBN: 0875651801 pbk. In the early 1900’s in Texas, a twelve-year-old Jewish immigrant runs away to search for his father who he fears is sick, and he is joined on his dangerous journey by a prejudiced country boy. (1998 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Greene, Jacqueline Dembar. One Foot Ashore. New York: Walker and Company, 1994. ISBN: 0802776019 pbk. Arriving alone and destitute in Amsterdam in the spring of 1654, sixteen-year-old Maria Ben Lazar finds refuge and friendship in the household of the artist Rembrandt and continues to search for her parents and her younger sister. (1994 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Greene, Jacqueline Dembar. Out of Many Waters. New York: Walker, 1988. ISBN: 0802774016 pbk. Kidnapped from their parents during the Portuguese Inquisition and sent to work as slaves at a monastery in Brazil, two Jewish sisters attempt to make their way back to Europe to find their parents, but instead one becomes part of a group founding the first Jewish settlement in the United States. (1988 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Heller, Linda. The Castle On Hester Street. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1982. ISBN: 0827603231 pbk. Julie's grandmother deflates many of her husband's tall tales about their journey from Russia to America and their life on Hester Street. (1982 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Heller, Linda. The Castle on Hester Street. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN: 0689874340. A young girl visiting her grandparents learns the story of their immigration to the United States, their life on the Lower East Side of New York City, and how they met in this newly illustrated edition, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award when it was first released in 1982. (2008 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Hesse, Karen. Brooklyn Bridge. New York: Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2008. ISBN: 9780312378868. While his family left the anti-Semitism of Russia to build the American dream, Joey Michtom’s dream is to visit the glittering Coney Island. Crafting a story from the spark of a true event, the invention of the Teddy Bear in 1903, Hesse masterfully weaves multiple themes of hard-work, survival, homelessness, and familial dedication. (2009 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Hest, Amy. Love You, Soldier. Illus. by Sonja Lamut. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2000. ISBN: 0763609439.Katie, a Jewish girl living in New York City during World War II, sees many dynamic changes in her world as she ages from seven to ten waiting for her father to return from the war. (2000 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Hest, Amy. When Jessie Came Across the Sea. Illus. by P.J. Lynch. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1997. ISBN: 076361274X pbk. A thirteen-year-old Jewish orphan reluctantly leaves her grandmother and immigrates to New York City, where she works for three years sewing lace and earning money to bring Grandmother to the United States, too. (1997 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Krensky, Stephen. Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Illustrated by Greg Harlin. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2006. ISBN: 0525477381.
During the grim winter at Valley Forge, a Polish-born soldier tells General Washington about Hanukkah, who draws a parallel between the Macabbee’s war against their foes with the American war against the British oppressors. Beautiful watercolor illustrations add immeasurably to a delightful and inspirational account of this legendary encounter. (2007 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Levitin, Sonia. Silver Days. New York: Atheneum, 1989. ISBN: 0689715706 pbk. In this sequel to Journey to America, the reunited Platt family works hard at settling in to America, but the spectre of the war in Europe continues to affect their lives. (1989 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Littman, Sarah. Confessions of a Closet Catholic. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2005. ISBN: 0525473653. Justine Silver struggles to balance her family’s expectations that she should be Jewish “but not too Jewish.” Frustrated, she follows a Catholic friend’s example by giving up Judaism for Lent, and thus begins a search for identity and belonging that will resonate with readers of all religions. (2005-2006 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Meyer, Carolyn. Drummers of Jericho. San Diego: Gulliver Books for Harcourt Brace, 1995. ISBN: 0152001905 pbk. A fourteen-year-old Jewish girl goes to live with her father and stepmother in a small town and soon finds herself the center of a civil rights battle when she objects to the high school band marching in the formation of a cross. (1995 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Michelson, Richard. As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom. Illustrations by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780375833359.
This fictionalized parallel biography of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, presents a beautiful and inspiring tribute to a little known alliance in American history. Colon’s stunning illustrations with subtle coloring bring the text, and the message of persistence, justice, and brotherhood, to life. (2009 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Moskin, Marietta. Waiting for Mama. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1975. ISBN: 0698203194. A Russian immigrant family living in New York in the early 1900's prepares for the long-awaited arrival of their mother and baby sister. (1975 Award Winner)

Napoli, Donna Jo. The King of Mulberry Street. New York: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2005. ISBN: 0385746539. This powerful historical novel about an Italian-Jewish immigrant child reveals to readers that just 100 years ago, children as young as eight came to this country alone, with nothing but their wits and good luck to help them survive. (2005-2006 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Olswanger, Anna. Shlemiel Crooks. Illus. by Paula Goodman Koz. Montgomery, AL: Junebug Books, 2005. ISBN: 158838165X. Told with Yiddish inflected English, sprinkled with familiar Jewish curses and words, Anna Olswanger elaborates on the true story of the attempted robbery of her great-grandfather’s saloon in St. Louis in 1919. (2005-2006 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. ISBN: 0689844476 pbk. A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith. (1988 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Rael, Elsa Okon. Rivka’s First Thanksgiving. Illus. by Maryann Kovalski. New York: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN: 0689839014. Having heard about Thanksgiving in school, nine-year-old Rivka tries to convince her immigrant family and her Rabbi that it is a holiday for all Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike. (2001 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Rael, Elsa Okon. When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street. Illus. by Marjorie Priceman. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997. ISBN: 0689804512.
While staying with her grandparents in New York City in the mid-1930’s, eight-year-old Zeesie joins in the celebration of Simchat Torah and sees a different side of her stern grandfather. (1997 Award Winner for Younger Readers)

Rosen, Sybil. Speed of Light. New York: Anne Schwartz Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999. ISBN: 0689841515 pbk. An eleven-year-old Jewish girl living in the South during the 1950s struggles with the anti-Semitism and racism which pervade her small community. (1999 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Rosenblum, Richard. Journey to the Golden Land. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1992. ISBN: 082760405X. Having left oppressive czarist Russia in search of better living conditions, Benjamin and his family endure the difficult journey and land at Ellis Island to start a new life in America. (1992 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Rosenblum, Richard. The Old Synagogue. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989. ISBN: 0827603223. A once-beautiful synagogue on a crowded street in a big city is abandoned and becomes a factory when the original neighborhood inhabitants become more prosperous and move away; but as time goes by young Jewish families rediscover the area, move in, and restore to beauty the old synagogue. (1989 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Schuman, Burt E. Chanukah on the Prairie. Illus. by Rosalind Charney Kaye. New York: UAHC Press, 2002. ISBN: 080740814X. After the Zalcman family immigrates to Grand Forks, North Dakota, they are welcomed by the local Jewish community and celebrate their first Chanukah on the prairie. (2003 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Snyder, Carol. Ike and Mama and the Block Wedding. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1979. ISBN: 0698204611. Rosie Weinstein is getting married on Sunday but not without a little help from the residents of East 136th Street. (1979 Award Winner)

Snyder, Carol. Ike and Mama and the Seven Surprises. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1985. ISBN: 0688037321. Ike is very skeptical when his mother promises that he will have seven surprises in the month before his Bar Mitzvah, especially, with his father still hospitalized with tuberculosis and a newly-arrived, jobless cousin living in their small apartment. (1985 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Sugarman, Brynn Olenberg. Rebecca’s Journey Home. Illustrated by Michelle Shapiro. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc., 2006. ISBN: 1580131573. The story of a Jewish-American family who adopts a child from Vietnam is recounted with warmth and sensitivity from the adoption procedure and the trip to Asia to the baby’s first Shabbat with her new family and her conversion and naming ceremony. (2007 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

Wolf, Ferida. Pink Slippers, Bat Mitzvah Blues. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989. ISBN: 0827605315 pbk. Thirteen-year-old Alyssa tries to balance the conflicting demands of ballet training with finding her place as a Jew in today's world. (1989 Honor Award for Older Readers)

Yolen, Jane. Naming Liberty. Paintings by Jim Burke. New York: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin, 2008. ISBN: 9780399242502. Parallel stories tell the arrival of two young ladies to the United States - Gitl, the daughter of a Russian family, who decide to emigrate to avoid the pogroms and persecution of Czarist Russia and the Statue of Liberty, conceived and developed by the young French artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as a commemoration for America’s centennial birthday. Illustrations in counterpart oil paint panels reflect the 19th century Eastern European village against the more modern cities of Paris and New York. (2009 Honor Award for Younger Readers)

National Poetry Month Feature- Interview with Ellen Steinbaum

On the last day of National Poetry Month, I have for you today an interview with Boston-area poet Ellen Steinbaum, Pushcart-nominated author of Container Gardening and Afterwords.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been writing? Who or what influences your work? What poets do you love to read?

I have always been a writer. As a child I wrote a family newspaper (which was a little pathetic since I was an only child, so there wasn't much news, but I persisted). For much of my life I wrote magazine and newspaper articles and then later found myself drawn to the idea of what I could do with poetry that I couldn't do with prose. Influences include my teacher, Ottone Riccio, and contemporary poets like Linda Pastan, Gail Mazur, Ruth Stone, Marie Ponsot, and Dorianne Laux who combine "the materials at hand"--details of daily life--with careful craft.

I also love the work of Galway Kinnell, W.S. Merwin, and Richard Wilbur who does rhyme so elegantly that it looks effortless. Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman--two very different poets whose work intrigues me. And the sound of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems is so wonderful. Keats...Mark Doty...Wislawa Szymborska...Edward Hirsch. Yeats. Yehuda Amichai. Octavio Paz. So many--depends whose work I've read most recently. And two friends whose poetry I greatly admire and enjoy, Susan Donnelly and Patricia Smith.

2. What is your approach to or style of poetry? Do you think it's important to have a style or define yourself within a movement? Does it limit or expand what you can do? 

Obviously, when you write poetry you're going to be aware of what other poets are doing and of the long tradition you are part of. But my concern is more on doing my own work than on figuring out where I fit in. I'm just concentrating on writing in an authentic voice and trying to make it as clear and true and precise as I can.
One thing I do want to mention is what I visualize as almost the collaboration between poet and reader. I know there are poets who feel that the poem exists only as they intend it to, but I don't entirely. I believe the poet has his or her intentions, but readers come to the poem with their own set of attitudes and experiences and so what the poem is varies a little from reader to reader. It becomes at some level a combination of the original intent and the received thing.
It's a huge gift to a poet to have readers willing to bring themselves fully and respectfully to the work. It's humbling. I am always grateful when readers tell me that my work has meant something to them.

3. Onto the poems themselves, which I loved. My favorite poem in Container Gardening is probably "Gathering," about using shells collected by speaker's aunt to mark her grave. Can you talk about some of the themes in this lovely poem?


Thank you! I am writing this, actually, on the birthday of that very dear aunt. Primarily what I was thinking about when I wrote that poem was how the small pieces of our lives that, at some point, have real meaning to us, get lost to ourselves and to others. They just melt away, the way we forget where the stones were from. We think we'll never forget this experience, and then we forget, though of course something of it remains with us. And when the stones and shells are someone else's, they show how impossible it is to really know another person's life. No matter how close you are to that person, there are always mysteries.
4. In the first poem, "Standing at the Shore," the moment described- people on the beach, children rooted but striving for freedom- starts as "soft"- "the same soft moment"; later, it's "that messy instant." Why the change? Is the moment soft and messy at the same time?

The softness, I guess, is the light just at dusk, the quiet on the beach, and everyone concentrating on standing there and looking good for the photograph. At least the adults are feeling that. But the children always have another agenda. While the adults are thinking about preserving the moment, the children are busy living it, squeezing the juice out of it.

But I hadn't actually thought about that before. (This is why I knew it would be fun to answer your questions--they make me think of new things about my work and about poetry in general.) What I was thinking about--or at least what I thought I was thinking about when I wrote this was time and impermanence, which is probably what I am often thinking about when I write.

5. In the first part of the book, dominant themes include loss, memory and history, and the poems are deeply personal. In the second, the tone is somewhat more political with mentions of wars, terrorism and allusions to first-world privilege; still, the poems are rooted in day to day life. In the third section, there's a hint of menace as we move from the past through the present and into the future- an idea that the future is a dark place. Can you talk about this progression? Is there optimism as well or is it all bad news?

I didn't think of it as menacing, but rather just as life with its certainty of pleasures and sorrows. When I named the book Container Gardening, I was thinking of how we construct our own little universes to live in. Partly they're private, built out of our own experiences. Partly they are touched by the larger world we live in, and that's where the political poems come in.But then--and I guess this is that third section--we take those pieces and go forward with our lives into whatever happens next. And we hope that some of what happens will bring us joy. And we know that some of what will happen is bound to bring us sorrow, simply because we are mortal beings connected to other mortal beings. And all we can do, I think, is muddle through the best we can. There's a Jewish saying I read once about the idea that at the end of our days we will be called to account for every fruit we did not taste in its season. That is often in my mind and I hope that's what that third section is about, the sense that with all the certainty of sadness, we still can--must- notice the joy. As the last words of the last poem say, "rest within the wonder/of this gift."


Thank you so much for agreeing to participate! This interview was originally posted at the weblog Boston Bibliophile as a part of the National Poetry Month Blog Tour, hosted at Savvy Verse and Wit.
Visit Ellen at her site, www.EllenSteinbaum.com.

AJL Western Regional Conference

Sunday, April 18, 2010, the 7th annual Western Regional Conference on Jewish Literature took place in Los Angeles. This year, the conference, cosponsored by AJLSC, SInai Temple Blumenthal Library, and American Jewish University, piggy-backed on the Skirball Cultural Center's exhibit, "Monsters and Miracles-- a Journey through Jewish Picture Book Art."   With about 70 participants, the conference brought together Judaic and non-Judaic librarians, teachers, authors and illustrators as they all joined in their appreciation of the art of illustration in children's books. Panelists Richard Michelson (Sydney Taylor Award winning author and gallery owner Eugene Yelchin (illustrator and member of the Jewish Artists Initiative), and Joni Sussman (publisher of KarBen Books) shared their views on putting picture books together. Joni also read manuscripts of hopeful authors and gave advice on how to ready these manuscripts for publication. A silent auction  and book sale allowed conference attendees to bid and purchase some picture book art for themselves. The highlight of the program was a talk by exhibit curator, Tal Gozani, and visit to the exhibit at the Skirball. Everyone left asking when the next conference will be!

Interview with author, illustrator Steve Sheinkin

Today we have a special treat- an interview with comics artist and author Steve Sheinkin, author of three terrific graphic novels featuring his character Rabbi Harvey: 2006's The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, the 2008 follow-up Rabbi Harvey Rides Again and Rabbi Harvey vs. The Wisdom Kid, just out this month. All three are available in paperback from Jewish Lights Publishing.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and Rabbi Harvey. How did he come into your life?

That question really takes me way back to my Hebrew school days. I was bored to death by all the memorization, and my dad, seeing this, got me a book of Jewish folktales. I loved the stories, and started imagining how I would change them – mostly by adding jokes. Rabbi Harvey evolved years later, when I came up with the idea of setting Jewish folktales in the Wild West. I wanted a main character who was part rabbi, part sheriff, someone who could defeat villains without using a gun, and that led me to Harvey. His look has changed a bit since those first sketches, but he always had the unibrow.

2. Who or what influenced your particular style of art? What comics artists do you like to read?

I wasn’t a big superhero comics reader as a kid. It wasn’t till I was in my 20s that I realized you could do any kind of stores you want in comic format. Reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus was a big part of that realization. I started little drawing comics of crummy jobs I had, and it was a lot of fun. These days I love a wide variety of artists: Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Joann Sfar, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and many more. What I love about the format is that everyone has a unique visual style. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a great artist, as long as stick to my own style.

3. Why did you choose to do a book-length story after your previous two volumes of shorts?

Partly for the challenge – to see if I could string a few dozen Jewish folktales and bits of Talmudic wisdom into a cohesive plot. Also, I thought it would be fun to read. Comics are so close to movies, and I’m a huge fan of old Hollywood westerns. So it seemed natural to try to do a Harvey “movie” in comics form.

4. You draw heavily from the rich tradition of Jewish folktales for all of your Rabbi Harvey stories; one of the pleasures of reading about the rabbi's adventures is recognizing familiar tales retold and learning new ones. Which ones are particularly meaningful for you? What are some that you like that haven't made into the rabbi's stories so far?

I read hundreds of stories, maybe thousands, looking for just the right ones for these books. I always wanted to use the beautiful story of the two brothers – each gets the idea of helping the other by secretly bringing wheat to the other’s barn. I finally figured out a way to work that one into the new book. I’ve also been trying to think of a way to get some of the Wise Men of Chelm stories into a Harvey book. With this new book, I realized I needed to create a whole new town, Helms Falls, Colorado, where these stories could take place. I look forward to revisiting in future volumes…
5. Rabbi Harvey, a question for you. How do you feel about the way Steve Sheinkin portrays you? Does he portray you fairly? And- what's really going on between you and Abigail?

Yes, I would say that the books are a fairly accurate portrayal of life in Elk Spring. One minor point: Steve had taken to drawing me with pants that are a little too short, and I don’t feel that’s 100 percent accurate. Overall, what I enjoy is the ability to share wisdom from thousands of years of Jewish thought. The danger, of course, is that people think I’m the one who thought up all this stuff. They think I can answer any question they throw at me. Like Steve says in the books, it’s not always easy to be the rabbi.

As for Abigail, well, I lobbied Steve to give her a larger role in this new book, and my motives were not wholly unselfish. I’m hoping her part in these stories continues to grow. But I suppose it’s not entirely up to me…

Steve, thank you so much for a great interview and I'll be watching for the Rabbi's latest adventures! 

You can also visit Sheinkin's webpage or Rabbi Harvey's Facebook page.

AJL on "I Love Libraries"

I Love Libraries is ALA's website for the public, designed to keep America informed about what's happening in today's libraries in school, academic, corporate, institutional and other settings. After AJL's recent affiliation with ALA, we were invited to submit an article for the "Library Showcase" section of the I Love Libraries website. You can see it below, or in its original location at http://www.ilovelibraries.org/articles/libraryshowcase/ajl.

The Association of Jewish Libraries

By Heidi Estrin, PR Chair, Association of Jewish Libraries

Stained Glass at the National Library in IsraelALA’s newest affiliate is the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL), a professional organization for librarians who work with Judaic collections. AJL was formed in 1966 with the merging of the Jewish Librarians Association and the Jewish Library Association. Reflecting this two-party origin, the current organization has two divisions, one that serves academe (the Research Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections Division) and one that serves the general public (the Synagogue, School, and Center Division). The mission of AJL is to promote Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources, and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. AJL fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

AJL’s thousand-plus members serve libraries across North America and around the globe, including Temple Beth Sholom in Anchorage, Alaska (nicknamed “The Frozen Chosen”) and the Jewish Center in Hong Kong. The diverse membership includes everything from tiny synagogue libraries run by volunteers to national libraries with hundreds of staff members. Between these extremes we find university Judaica collections, Holocaust museum libraries, and Jewish day school media centers.

Some libraries are obvious candidates for membership in AJL such as the RAMBAM Center Library at Temple Beth Am in Miami, Florida. Established in 1965, this synagogue library has grown from a handful of books in the corner of a classroom to a 17,000-item facility with separate (soundproofed) reading rooms for children and adults, a computer lab, a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, and free WiFi. The library serves students, staff, and parents of the day school and religious school, temple members, senior citizens, and the general public. Two programmatic jewels in the crown are the Mother-Daughter Book Clubs for kids and parents, and the Senior Lounge Days offering Yiddish movies and schmoozing time for older members.

Rabbi Salkin’s presenting at the RAMBAM Center Library, Temple Beth Am in Miami FloridaThe National Library of Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is a Judaic library at the other end of the scale. Preserving the history and culture of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, this library of over 5 million volumes includes print, multimedia, and digital collections. Notable is NLI’s digitization project in which rare and out-of-print monographs in the public domain are made freely available to the public via the Internet. So far, over 800 books have been digitized, including works on the Bible, Kabbala, Jewish history, and music.

Other libraries become members because segments of their mission align with AJL. For instance, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. has AJL members in its Hebraic Section, its African and Middle East Section, its Israel/Judaica Section, and even in the Cataloging Division. LOC librarians provide yearly Hebraica cataloging sessions at AJL conferences.

Differences between AJL’s member libraries melt away at the annual convention, where a mix of scholars, kidlit fans, authors, and Judaica librarians from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds mingle harmoniously. Professional development sessions on technology, storytelling, library history, and so on complete with hallway networking for the favorite activity. A highlight is the awards banquet, when authors and illustrators receive recognition for the best Jewish books for children and teens, the best unpublished manuscript, and the best academic bibliographies and reference works.

Year-round resources offered by AJL include the AJL Podcast, which offers recordings of convention sessions, the AJL blog “People of the Books,” and the AJL listserv “Hasafran” (Hebrew for “the librarian”). The quarterly AJL Newsletter is a comprehensive source of Jewish-interest book reviews. The Sydney Taylor Book and Manuscript Awards encourage Jewish publishing and provide guidance for those seeking quality Jewish books for youth, while the Bibliography and Reference Awards promote Jewish academic materials. These resources, as well as a Bibliography Bank and other publications, may be found online at www.jewishlibraries.org.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is thrilled to join ALA’s affiliate program. AJL President Susan Dubin says “AJL’s mission is to support Judaic libraries and promote Jewish literacy. ALA wants to do the same for American libraries. Our goals overlap and reinforce each other. We hope that this new affiliation will help AJL grow and strengthen even as it helps ALA diversify.”

For more information, please contact Heidi Estrin - heidi@cbiboca.org.


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