"People of the Books" Blog

Early Bird Deadline

The April 27 deadline for registering for the 53rd Annual AJL Conference in Boston (June 18-20, 2018) at the early bird member rate of $400 is just one month away. After that the member registration fee will be $440 (the non-AJL member rate will jump from $480 to $520). The organizing committee has been working very hard to put together another wonderful conference. You can view conference details, including the latest conference schedule, on the AJL website. Don't miss your opportunity to register at the discounted member rate by going to the Conference Registration page of the website. If you have applied for a stipend (note that the application deadline for Judy R. Cohn Conference Stipends is this Thursday, March 29), we encourage you to register now. If you aren't comfortable paying before hearing back  from the Stipends Committee (which is planning to send out their notifications of stipend amounts by April 23), just bypass payment for now.

Please contact me with any registration questions.

Looking forward to seeing all of you in June, and wishing you a Chag Sameach,


Marcie Eskin

AJL Conference Registrar

mjeskin (at) comcast (dot) net

Scholarships for Students


The Association of Jewish Libraries awards annual academic scholarships to promising students with a history of participating in Judaic studies or libraries, accepted into or attending or an accredited graduate school of library and information science. This scholarship is merit-based rather than needs-based.


AJL will now also provide conference subvention for attendance at the Association of Jewish Libraries’ annual conference to a promising student with a history of participating in Judaic studies or libraries, accepted into or attending or an accredited graduate school of library and information science. Free full conference registration, travel and (shared) room is included. As such, conference attendance is required. This award is merit-based rather than needs-based.


These awards also include a service component at the conference to benefit the Association of Jewish Libraries to be determined by the awardees and committee, for example, volunteering during the conference or writing up their experience for the AJL Newsletter.


The Association of Jewish Libraries is pleased to announce three separate student awards for 2018:

1) An academic scholarship of $1000 to a student enrolled or accepted in a graduate school of library and information science. Additionally, free full conference registration is included and encouraged.

2) An academic scholarship of $750 CDN to a Canadian student enrolled or accepted in a graduate school of library and information science. Additionally, free full conference registration is included and encouraged.

3) A conference subvention award for attending the Association of Jewish Libraries’ annual conference. Free full conference registration, travel and (shared) room are included.

Students have the opportunity to apply for both awards, yet one student will not receive both awards.


Applying for an AJL Scholarship and Conference Subvention

Students who wish to apply for this scholarship and/or conference subvention should submit to the Scholarship co-chair by March 29, 2018:

1.     Completed online application or application form sent via e-mail to [email protected]

2.     Documentation of acceptance or enrollment in one of the qualified graduate library school programs mentioned above. Transcripts and/or letters on official letterhead, submitted via e-mail or uploaded via the online form.

3.     Documentation of Jewish studies completed at an academic or less formal level or of experience working in Judaica libraries. Transcripts and/or letters on official letterhead, submitted via e-mail or uploaded via the online form, will be accepted as documentation.

4.     Personal statement as a Word, RTF or PDF document, submitted via e-mail or uploaded via the online form to the Scholarship co-chair.

Please submit a short statement (200/300 words) highlighting the extent of your participation in Judaic studies, in libraries, and other relevant experiences. Relate how you feel your involvement in such activities might be reflected in your future career in library and information science.

Submit application and supporting materials online or send via e-mail to: [email protected] Applicants must indicate which award(s) (student scholarship or conference subvention) they seek.


Special post-conference Amherst Tour

Join AJL for a special post-conference field trip to Amherst. Tours will include a choice of the Michelson Gallery or Schoen books on Wednesday, then the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and the Yiddish Book Center on Thursday.

AJL Trip Itinerary to Amherst, MA—June 20-21, 2018

Wednesday, June 20


2:30 pm

Bus leaves Temple Israel, Brookline

4:15 pm

4:15 – 4:45







Bus arrives at historic inn and tavern, Hotel Northampton,

Check in to hotel http://www.hotelnorthampton.com/

4:45 – 6:45 pm










Walk to Michelson Galleries, Northampton, MA

http://www.rmichelson.com  Private tour of gallery by Rich!.

Wine and hors d’oeuvres. Possible artist/author appearance

Michelson galleries










Visit to https://schoenbooks.com

Transportation from hotel and kosher dinner provided by Ken Schoen!

6:45 pm



Dinner on your own in quaint and historic Northampton

(Kosher meals can be ordered in advance--there is no kosher restaurant within walking distance)

Thursday, June 21


7:00 – 9:00 am

9:30 am

10:00 – 11:30 am


11:30 – 1:00 pm









Free continental breakfast available in hotel

Board bus to travel to Amherst, 20 minutes

Arrive at Eric Carle Museum, private tour


Eric Carle Museum

1:00 pm








Walk to nearby Yiddish Book Center, private tour



Yiddish book center

 3:00-3:30 pm



Board bus, sack lunches provided for bus ride back to Boston

Arrive back to Holiday Inn, Brookline or other pre-arranged location in Boston, to be decided according to request



Single or Double Room

2 day bus transportation

Thursday lunch

Two entrance fees

Pre-Pay TOTAL:

$155 plus tax, paid to hotel, call them to request AJL rate




$186, paid by check to Lisa Silverman, by April 15 to reserve spot

Contact trip planner


Lisa Silverman [email protected]

Download itinerary


2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces 2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

Rachel Kadish is the inaugural winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel The Weight of Ink, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize as well as support to attend the 53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Boston, MA, June 18-20, 2018. Two honor books were also recognized: Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan, published by Tin House Books, and A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert, published by Pantheon Books, part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. The Committee received over 50 works of fiction with significant Jewish thematic content, written in English and available in the United States in 2017, and thanks all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published this year is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

“Rachel Kadish has crafted an extraordinary cast of characters who speak to each other within and across the divides of centuries as well as those of age, religion, and class and come vividly to life under her empathic touch,” notes Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Chairperson of the Award Committee. “This is a book that honors learning, libraries, archivists and librarians, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award Committee is delighted to present Kadish with the 2018 AJL Jewish Fiction Award.”

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan gives serious depth to the little-known story of Jewish life in Ireland. Weaving a complex story, Ruth Gilligan uses the specifics of Irish lore and history woven with the Jewish experience to illuminate the stories of a young girl and her family who emigrate from eastern Europe, a suddenly mute boy incarcerated in a home for the mentally disabled, and a woman who considers the implications of converting to Judaism. According to Taub, “Gilligan's expert twists of plot, exploration of historical themes, and her gift of word play and dark humor” impressed the Committee.

Rachel Seiffert's A Boy in Winter works on a small canvas and creates a searing emotional impact. As the Nazis invade a small Ukrainian town, a variety of characters are forced to face the invasion's terrible consequences and quickly make life-altering decisions. Taub comments: “Seiffert writes with spareness, a plain-hewn power that draws the reader on a journey of suspense in a time and place of limited possibility.”

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2019 AJL Fiction Award are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

Member Spotlight with Žilvinas Beliauskas


Žilvinas Beliauskas heads the Vilnius Jewish Public Library


Visit the Vilnius Jewish Public Library Website here!


Donate here!


Žilvinas graduated from Kaunas J. Jablonskis secondary school, a school that specialized English language and literature. Žilvinas then entered the Psychology Department at Vilnius University and graduated in 1982.


Žilvinas was working as a psychology lecturer when be grew an interest in the Vilnius Jewish Public Library project. The idea came from an American from San Diego, who already had his collection of books shipped to Lithuania and was looking for ways to realize his dream. For several years he had been trying to establish a library in Vilnius, but none of his attempts with the local Jewish community and state-operated museums were successful. Žilvinas found the idea attractive, though he was neither a librarian nor a Jew. Nevertheless Žilvinas started coordinating the project, contacting the government, Ministry of Culture, libraries, and other institutions. Žilvinas described the process as an adventure. He realized how important the project was for his generation, which grew up in complete ignorance of Jewish history. His goal would be to show Jewish heritage to the whole of Lithuanian society.


Being a psychologist, Žilvinas saw great value in presenting a heritage that was exterminated and lost due to the Holocaust. Žilvinas notes, “culturally, now we have an opportunity to get in touch with the bottomless heritage of wisdom, art, literature, science and other spheres of life within the Judaic dimension.”


There were many interesting and lucky coincidences during the process of the coordination and attempts to establish the library. Žilvinas even says that it would not have been possible without “guidance from the Heavens.” Žilvinas and his colleagues received permission from the Lithuanian government to build in a good location but in a run-down building. They would need funds for renovation and equipment. In the same year, prosecutors enforced a ban on financial interactions related to the Royal Palce (Palace of Rulers) reconstruction due to suspicion around the transparency of some construction contracts. In this way, the millions which had already been allocated to the Culture Ministry for this particularly expensive project became hanged in the air. The funds were available for other purposes and the Minister quickly had to find other important cultural projects as inventment opportunities. The shabby library premises were among his priorities and that is how a rather normal financing project for library remodeling was assigned among other museums, theaters, and estates. Zilvinas calls it "a work of angels by the hands of prosecutors for the sake of the Vilnius Jewish Public Library."

Zilvinas stands with graduates from the library's Yiddish Language instruction program

Today Žilvinas and his colleagues run not only the Vilnius Jewish Public Library but also its Charity and Support Foundation and its inspired organization Vilnius Jewish Theater. The latter is currently underway in the very interesting process of producing a musical play based on the motifs of the stories in Avrom Karpinovich’s The Vilne Tango.


Žilvinas’s library aspires to grow locally and to network internationally. Žilvinas has received support and book donations from Lynn Waghalter and Olga Potap. Books started coming, and Galina Teverovsky managed to set up a very useful book exchange program.


Žilvinas writes:

“I really appreciate all of that, and the library became possible due to the existence of the AJL and its values. We look forward to cooperating with AJL in future as long as possible. There was an exchange of ideas and–for me personally–a lot of knowledge and experience in the field since, as noticed above, library science is not my profession.”


Going forward, Žilvinas will continue to maintain a relationship with AJL and to keep his finger on the pulse of Judaica librarianship.  Žilvinas aims to the collection of the library, to maintain it as a vibrant cultural center, and to promote the library locally and internationally in order to make its potential influence. Žilvinas has also expressed an interest in having an international event for Judaica librarianship in Vilnius.