"People of the Books" Blog

Save the Date for AJL's Membership Gala!

AJL Member Gala, October 18, 2020

AJL Roundtable: COVID-19 and Your Institution

Our popular series of AJL Virtual Roundtables resumes on Wednesday August 12, 2020 at 12:30PM Eastern Time, with a joint meeting for members of the RAS and SSCPL divisions. Our topic will be "COVID-19 and Your Institution."

Suggested readings:


Please note that this event is for AJL members only. Members received the Zoom link in an email dated July 29, 2020. Non-members are welcome to join AJL in order to participate in this and future roundtables. A schedule of online events for the fall is being developed now and will be posted soon.

Love Your Neighbor: Book List #7 The Black Jewish Experience

Love Your Neighbor

Book List #7: The Black Jewish Experience

In response to rising antisemitism in the United States, the Association of Jewish Libraries offers the Love Your Neighbor series of book lists for all young readers. Books read in youth impact future outlooks, and it is our hope that meeting Jews on the page will inspire friendship when readers meet Jews in real life.

This is the seventh in a series of book lists intended to provide children and their families with a greater understanding of the Jewish religion and its people. This list highlights the experiences of Black Jews, but books on this topic are sadly limited, and books by Black Jewish authors are even more rare. AJL urges the children’s literature community to increase representation of Jews of Color, especially #ownvoices books. To stay abreast of issues relating to Jews of Color check out Be’chol Lashon and the Jewish Mulitracial Network.

Find a PDF of List #7 at https://jewishlibraries.starchapter.com/images/downloads/Bibliographies/love_your_neighbor_7.pdf and find the entire series of Love Your Neighbor book lists at https://jewishlibraries.org/Love_Your_Neighbor.


Happy Birthday, Trees by Karen Rostoker-Gruber, ages 0-3
A Black Jewish boy in a kippah (skullcap) and two White Jewish children work together to plant a tree in this board book celebrating Tu B’shvat, the Birthday of the Trees.

It’s Challah Time: 20th Anniversary Edition by Latifa Berry Kropf, ages 2-5
A diverse preschool class works together to make challah, the braided bread eaten during Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Photos of Black children are among those on the cover and throughout the book’s pages.

Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question by Aviva Brown, ages 4-8
Black Jewish Ezra seeks advice from his family and his rabbi about whether it’s permissible to tie knots on Shabbat in this #ownvoices picture book.

I Am the Tree of Life: A Jewish Yoga Book by Rabbi Mychal Copeland, ages 4-8
Judaically-inspired yoga poses are demonstrated by diverse children. Features a Black Jewish child in tree pose on the cover.

Who’s Got the Etrog? by Jane Kohuth, ages 4-8
Auntie Sanyu is a member of the Abayudaya, a Jewish community in Uganda. In this whimsical picture book, she celebrates the harvest holiday of Sukkot with animal friends who love the lemony scent of the etrog, or citron.

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester, ages 4-8
In this #ownvoices picture book, Black Jewish Lester directly addresses readers to point out that everyone’s story and appearance is different, but we are all the same on the inside. Lester’s adult autobiography
Lovesong chronicles the spiritual journey that led him to convert to Judaism.

What Makes Someone a Jew? by Lauren Seidman, ages 4-8
Illustrated with photographs of diverse Jewish children, this simple nonfiction title makes it clear that Judaism is not dependent on physical characteristics.

Always an Olivia by Carolivia Herron, ages 7-10
In this #ownvoices story based on the author’s family history, a Black grandmother shares stories with her granddaughter of their White Jewish ancestors who fled the Spanish Inquisition and were captured by pirates before making their way to America.


Glixman in a Fix by Rebecca Klempner, ages 8-13
In this action-packed story, White and Black Orthodox Jewish friends work together to solve a mystery. Some serious issues are addressed, including mental health, and community attitudes towards Black Jews. Note that this book, from an Orthodox press, assumes familiarity with customs and vocabulary.

...Too Far From Home by Naomi Shmuel, ages 8-13
Jewish Meskerem is a biracial Israeli girl of mixed Ethiopian/American heritage, who lies about her background when she encounters racism from classmates. Her grandmother helps her take pride in the Ethiopian community’s efforts to reach safety in Israel and to come to terms with her intersectional identity. The White British author is married to a Black Ethiopian man and their children are biracial Israelis, making this an #ownvoices adjacent story.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman, ages 10-14
Alternating voices tell the stories of White Jewish Anna, fleeing war-torn Europe in 1941, and Imani, her adopted Black great-granddaughter who has discovered Anna’s diary. Connecting with family history helps Imani gain the courage to make an unusual bat mitzvah request: to seek out her birth parents.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, ages 14-17
Black Suzette and her mom converted to Judaism when they became a family with White Jewish Lionel and his dad, but their story includes many intersectional identities: Suzette is exploring her bisexuality and Lionel is struggling with bipolar disorder. This novel deftly weaves these many strands together to show us a strong and supportive sibling bond.

Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi by MaNishtana, ages 18+
This rollicking semi-autobiographical #ownvoices adult novel features the funny yet thoughtful adventures of a Black Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Also check out MaNishtana’s “not autobiography,” Thoughts From a Unicorn: 100% Black, 100% Jewish, 0% Safe.


2020 AJL Conference Update, June 4, 2020

2020 online conference logo


Join the Association of Jewish Libraries Sunday, June 28 - Thursday, July 2, 2020 for the AJL 2020 Digital Conference. Here is the complete program schedule but stay tuned as more details are finalized.  All sessions will take place on Zoom. Full abstracts and presenter bios will be available to conference registrants through Socio, the digital program book.  

"Love Your Neighbor" for Passover

The Association of Jewish Libraries is pleased to present a new booklist for youth in the Love Your Neighbor series: List #6 Passover.

The Love Your Neighbor series recommends Jewish books for ALL readers. Books read in youth impact future outlooks, and it is our hope that meeting Jews on the page will inspire friendship when readers meet Jews in real life. Passover in particular has a history fraught with tension between Christians and Jews, so it is important to give readers a deeper understanding of the holiday.

This list includes fiction, nonfiction, history, haggadot, and even a cookbook. Titles are linked to Indiebound or other booksellers for your convenience, and this is a good time to remember that independent bookstores not only need our support, but can deliver books more quickly than Amazon, which is currently prioritizing delivery of "essentials." (Whether books should be considered essential is an argument for another day!)

We may not be able to gather in person to celebrate this year, but we can still enjoy reading about Passover, discussing these books online, and perhaps even using a recommended haggadah if your family decides to hold a virtual seder. Happy Passover, and stay healthy!

Love Your Neighbor

In response to rising antisemitism in the United States, the Association of Jewish Libraries offers the Love Your Neighbor series of book lists for all young readers. Books read in youth impact future outlooks, and it is our hope that meeting Jews on the page will inspire friendship when readers meet Jews in real life.

This is the sixth in a series of book lists intended to provide children and their families with a greater understanding of the Jewish religion and its people. This sixth list features books about the eight-day springtime festival of Passover, a major Jewish holiday that is one of the most widely celebrated of the year.

Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter, both springtime holidays, are connected. The historical setting of Easter is Jerusalem at Passover, and some think the Last Supper was a Passover seder meal. Yet, as the website My Jewish Learning explains in their article “Passover and Easter,” the holidays are quite different. The website tells us “Passover
summons Jews collectively into the world to repair it; Easter proffers a way out of a world beyond repair.”

The relationship between the two holidays hasn’t always been congenial. For centuries, an ancient conspiracy theory called “the blood libel” —a bizarre accusation of ritual murder—was used as a pretext for deadly attacks on Jewish communities during the Passover season. Today, relations have greatly improved, and non-Jewish friends are welcome
at many Passover seders.

We present to you these Passover titles, available in libraries, bookstores, and online.

The entire Love Your Neighbor series of book lists can be found at JewishLibraries.org/Love_Your_Neighbor.

Book List #6: Passover


The Story of Passover by David A. Adler (ages 5-10)
Passover commemorates the Jews’ escape from slavery in the land of Egypt. The complex Biblical story of Moses and the Exodus is laid out in simple terms in this lovely picture book.

The Best Four Questions by Rachelle Burk (ages 3-8)
The youngest child at the seder always asks four traditional questions about what makes Passover unique. It’s a technique meant to keep the whole family engaged. In this humorous tale, Marcy makes up her own questions and learns a lot more than she expected to.

Celebrate Passover with Matzah, Maror, and Memories by Deborah Heiligman (ages 5-9)
Gorgeous National Geographic photos show Jews around the world celebrating Passover. Extensive back matter includes further information, recipes, map and a glossary.

The Mouse in the Matzah Factory by Francine Medoff (ages 3-8)
From wheatfield to box, every stage of the creation of matzah, Passover’s ritual bread, is watched by a curious mouse.

Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah by Sylvia Rouss (ages 3-8)
“Haggadah” means “order” - it’s a step by step guidebook to a seder, meant to be used at the table during the festive meal. This haggadah is aimed at younger kids, and will
keep them engaged with brightly colored collage art and interactive text.

More Than Enough by April Halprin Wayland (ages 3-8)
The traditional Passover song “Dayenu” means “it would have been enough for us.” This gentle story demonstrates mindfulness and gratitude during the holiday. A glossary
and author’s note round out the book.

Miriam at the River by Jane Yolen (ages 4-8)
At Passover we retell the biblical story of Moses, including his babyhood rescue by his sister Miriam the prophet. This lovely volume focuses on Miriam’s experience.


Let My Children Cook! By Tamar Ansh (ages 8+)
Over 80 easy Passover recipes that kids can cook with help or on their own, accompanied by humorous illustrations and bonus craft activities.

Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion by Eric A. Kimmel (ages 6+)
A gorgeous compilation of history, stories, songs, poetry, and seder customs, illustrated with art spanning 3000 years.

Passover Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig (ages 7-11)
A comprehensive tour of Passover customs from across the globe, accompanied by stories, recipes, maps, and fun facts.

Penina Levine Is a Hard-Boiled Egg by Rebecca O’Connell (ages 9-12)
In this middle grade novel, Jewish Penina’s public school class is assigned an Easter Bunny project, but she stands up for her beliefs and schools her teachers on diversity.

Welcome to the Seder: A Passover Haggadah for Everyone by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky (ages 12+)
This Haggadah, with its lively art and its universal message on the value of freedom, is welcoming, inclusive, and easy to understand, for first timers and old timers alike.

Puppet by Eva Wiseman (ages 12+)
The blood libel is an ancient lie that Jews ritually murder Christian children and use their blood to make matzah, used as a pretext for violence against Jews. This dark story is a fictionalized account of the last blood libel trial in Europe in 1883. Not easy reading, but an important story.