"People of the Books" Blog

AJL Elections 2018

The election of officers for 2018-2020 will take place May 1-30 this year.  All current members of AJL are eligible to vote. If your membership is not current, now is the time to renew! The election will be conducted via online ballot, using Survey Monkey.  An email message with a link to the ballot will be sent to all current AJL members. This link is tied to your email address and can only be used once.

If you need to update your email address, please see "Update your profile." After you have updated your email address, please notify Joy Kingsolver at [email protected], so we can make sure your ballot is sent to the correct email address.

Your vote is important to AJL!  Watch for the link to your ballot on May 1.



Vice President/President-Elect

Kathy Bloomfield

Kathy Bloomfield Kathy Bloomfield is currently the AJL President-SSC. While she has held jobs at Pacific Telephone, Pacific Bell, the Los Angeles Zoo, BabagaNewz magazine, InterfaithFamily.com, Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Wellesley Public School System, her passion is children’s literature, especially secular literature with Jewish values content. She is the founder of forwordsbooks, a national Jewish book fair business. Currently, she is telecommuting from Seal Beach, CA to Bethesda, MD where she is the Clergy Assistant at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation.   Her volunteer roles have included Temple President, Mikveh Guide, URJ Outreach Fellow, and member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.


VP for Membership 

Sharon Benamou

Sharon Benamou Sharon Benamou is the Hebraica/Judaica and Music Catalog Librarian at UCLA. She has an MA in Musicology from UCLA and an MLIS from CSU San Jose. She is active in both AJL and the Music Library Association (MLA). In MLA she is the Jewish Music Interest Group coordinator and a member of the Education Committee. In AJL she has served as RAS President and Conference co-chair.

VP for Development 

Rebecca Jefferson

Rebecca Jefferson Rebecca Jefferson has been a member of AJL since 2010, and since 2012 has served as a co-editor for the Adult Reviews section of the AJL newsletter. She has served also as AJL RAS President between 2016-2018. As a librarian, Jefferson is responsible for the collection development and overall management of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica at the University of Florida. Since 2015, she has been the Principle Investigator on a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant to raise funds to refocus the Judaica Library as a regional center of excellence for Jewish resources from Florida, Latin American and the Caribbean. Jefferson holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Hebrew from the University of Cambridge. She previously worked as a research associate in Cambridge University Library where she was the bibliographer for the Cairo Genizah collections.



Nancy Sack

Nancy Sack I have been a member of AJL for the past 28 years. I've served the association as Newsletter editor, exhibits chair, conference co-chair, copy editor for JL, web slave, and secretary. I was a cataloger at Northwestern University for nine years before moving to Hawaii 17 years ago to work at the university.



Holly Zimmerman

Holly Zimmerman I joined AJL in 2014 and served as treasurer for the Capital Area Chapter of AJL for three years, then became National Treasurer at last year’s Conference. I work as a senior research editor at AARP Media, factchecking content for AARP The Magazine, the Bulletin, the web, and special projects. I have a strong interest in Jewish libraries, though my work is outside this field. I’m married, live in Silver Spring, Maryland, and have three grown children, who are in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Givat Shmuel.


RAS President

Michelle Chesner

Michelle Chesner Michelle Chesner is the Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University.  She is currently the Council Member-at-Large at AJL, and is the co-Director of Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place, a digital project that tracks the movement of Jewish books in the hand-press period.  She adapted “Codex Conquest: The Game of Book History” to create a Jewish book version, which teaches about the history of important Jewish imprints through the 19th century.  Ms. Chesner is passionate about the past and future of Judaica libraries, and is working on various projects in this area. She compiled the first systematic list of digital humanities projects in Jewish Studies, and is the editor of a column reviewing digital humanities projects for Judaica Librarianship. She is a co-convener of the Northeast Judaica Librarians Group, and was the Programming Chair of the New York City Conference in 2017.  Chesner’s degrees are from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Long Island University, and New York University.


RAS Vice President (2 candidates)

Rachel Ariel

Rachel Ariel Born and raised in Israel, Rachel Ariel studied History, Political Science and Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew College in Boston. Upon coming to North Carolina in 1994, Rachel became one of the two founding teachers of the new Jewish Community Day School of Durham-Chapel Hill (The Lerner School).  Rachel taught Jewish studies and Hebrew and served as Director of Jewish Studies and as the interim Head of School. 

Since 2006 Rachel is the Subject Librarian for Jewish and Israel Studies at Perkins Library, Duke University.  Rachel has curated two exhibits at Duke Libraries; “Illustrating the Hebrew Bible” (2010) and “Capturing the Moment: Centuries of the Passover Haggadah” (2016)


Amalia Levi

Amalia Levi  Amalia S. Levi is an archivist and cultural heritage professional currently residing in Barbados. She is the founding director of The HeritEdge Connection, a non-profit organization dedicated to forging collaborations, connecting people, resources, and institutions through cultural heritage projects. Most recently, Amalia has teamed with the Barbados Archives and was awarded an Endangered Archives Programme grant through the British Library to digitize the historic newspaper The Barbados Mercury. Previously, she completed the archival processing and digitization of the records of the Synagogue Restoration Project in Bridgetown, Barbados. Amalia holds an MLS with a concentration in Archives, and an M.A. in History with a concentration in Jewish Studies, both from the University of Maryland; an M.A. in Museum Studies from Yildiz University in Istanbul, Turkey; and a B.A. in Archaeology and History of Art from the University of Athens, Greece. She has worked in museums, developing exhibits, and conducting archival research, and was the founding curator of the Jewish Museum of Turkey in Istanbul. She is co-editor of the book Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnicity in the U.S. and Canada, and author of the book Evanescent Happiness: Ottoman Jews Encounter Modernity - The Case of Lea Mitrani and Joseph Niego (1863-1923). Amalia is interested in augmenting historical scholarship on diasporas and underrepresented populations through linking and enriching dispersed collections through Linked Data principles and collections-as-data approaches.  


SSC President

Emily Bergman

Emily Bergman Emily Bergman has been a librarian for over 40 years and has volunteered to run her congregtional library for the past 23 years as her gift to the temple.  She served for 5 years as the AJL representative to the ALA Sophie Brody Award committee, which annually recognizes the best in adult, Jewish books for the general reader.
Emily’s paid work has included corporate, public, hospital, musuem, and academic libraries.  She has been very active in ALA for the past 35 years as well as local and other national library-related organizations.  Her work at the temple allows her to take her varied experience to benefit all aspects of her temple library and add working with children, her best customers.


SSC Vice President 

Ellen Share

Ellen Share Ellen Share holds an MLS degree from the University of Maryland at College Park.  She has worked for over 30 years as the librarian at Washington Hebrew Congregation-managing two libraries at the Temple in Washington, D.C. and one library at the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac, MD.  Ellen sees students of all ages in the library and strives to reinforce the religious school curriculum with their visits.  For the adults in the congregation, she plans a yearly Jewish Book Month Shabbat celebration and runs an active adult book club which meets four times yearly.  She has been active in the Association of Jewish Libraries and the local Capital Area Chapter. She was Co-Chair of 2015 Jubilee Conference.   Ellen has given presentations at AJL Annual  Conference,  reviews  books  regularly for AJL Review, and served on the Scholarship Committee. She is passionate about fostering a love of reading books of Jewish interest among the young and old in the congregation.

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.