"People of the Books" Blog

AJL 2020 Online Conference - Starting Soon!

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Everyone who has registered for the AJL 2020 Digital Conference should have received an email with instructions for accessing Socio, the conference app, as well as a set of guidelines for attendees. Be sure to get yourself set up on Socio by Friday, June 26 to avoid last minute access issues. As a reminder, to create your profile and personal agenda, participate on the discussion board, and to be able to connect with other attendees, follow the instructions to download the Socio app to your phone or tablet. Your name will appear in the Socio Attendee list only if you create this profile on a mobile device. To participate in the conference from your laptop or desktop computer, access Socio via the website. Unfortunately, the app and the website do not sync, but you will find the Schedule and Zoom links (in each individual session's description) in both the app and on the website.

Please join us for the Tech. Orientation on Sunday, June 28 at 11amEDT to learn how to use Socio and Zoom. 

Contact Marcie Eskin if you have questions about your registration.

Contact Lisa Silverman if you have questions about accessing Socio.

An updated schedule is available here. Full abstracts and presenter bios are available on Socio where you can also view, download and print the full program book. 



“Who Wants to Be a Jewish Reader? A Discussion on Reviewing Jewish Books”

Inspired by Adam Kirsch's recent book Who Wants to Be a Jewish Writer? (Yale University Press, 2019), this conversation between Adam Kirsch and his father, Jewish Journal Books Editor Jonathan Kirsch, will trace issues in the reviewing of Jewish books: past, present, future. They will be joined by moderator Erika Dreifus. Q&A will follow the discussion.

Keynote speakers Adam Kirsch, Jonathan Kirsch with Erica Dreifus



Leslea NewmanMaidels & Dreidels & Ladles, Oh My!

The Journey of a Jewish Children’s Book Writer

In this lively presentation Lesléa Newman, the 2020 Sydney Taylor Body of Work Award Winner, will discuss how her early childhood and books she read growing up inspired her to write children’s books with Jewish themes including Remember That, A Sweet Passover, and Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story








If you are not among the 275+ people who have already registered for the AJL 2020 Digital Conference, REGISTER NOW. You won’t want to miss it!

Remember to wash your hands, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and stay well!

Dina Herbert, AJL President, Kathy Bloomfield, AJL President-Elect, and the AJL 2020 Digital Conference Planning Team

2020 AJL Conference Update, June 15, 2020


2020 Conference logoMore than 200 people have registered for the AJL 2020 Digital Conference, Sunday, June 28 - Thursday, July 2, 2020. You do not want to miss out!

NOTE: All registered attendees will have access to recordings of all of the sessions after the conference, as well as all of the presenter’s handouts. So, even if you can’t participate “live,” you should still register.

An updated schedule is available here. Full abstracts and presenter bios will be included on Socio, the digital program book. Instructions for downloading and accessing the app will be e-mailed to conference registrants separately this week.


We have added an International Librarians’ Roundtable on Wednesday, July 1 at 8:00 am EDT, facilitated by the AJL International Liaison, Michael Young. We'd like to hear from those of you in the Eastern Hemisphere (whether you identify as RAS, SSCPL, or somewhere in between) about what you would like to see from AJL, and how we can better support your work. Please join us!


Plan to celebrate the end of the conference with a super fun, interactive Brain Bash Trivia event on Thursday, July 2 at 7:00 pm EDT. Host Jeremy Cahnmann has been quizzing audiences all over the country for more than a decade and is cooking up some special AJL and library related questions along with lots of other stuff you know or don’t even realize you know! There will be prizes! Bring your own beverage and/or munchies and encourage all of your AJL friends to join the fun.


The registration fee for members and library school students is $36 for the entire digital conference! We welcome non-members to register for $136 but we encourage you to join AJL to benefit from the member rate.


Visit our store on Zazzle, to purchase AJL t-shirt, pens, notebooks and more and show off your conference swag from your Zoom Room!

We hope to see you soon at the AJL 2020 Digital Conference!

Dina Herbert, AJL President, Kathy Bloomfield, AJL President-Elect, and the AJL 2020 Digital Conference Planning Team

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.  

AJL Statement on Violence

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) condemns the hatred, violence, and systemic racism infecting our nation that led to the horrifying death of George Floyd at the hands of police just a few days ago. As the leading authority on Judaic librarianship, we stand for learning and understanding; more importantly, we stand for justice (tzedek) and the protection of human life (pikuach nefesh). In solidarity with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), we pledge to engage with our friends in the Black community, to work for the repair of the world (tikkun olam).

As a number of Black Jews explain on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website, the work of anti-racism is exhausting, and people of all races and backgrounds need to step up, speak out, and take action. The Ethics of Our Fathers (Mishna Avot 2:21) famously says, "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." AJL, together with everyone who craves a just world, will continue to work toward justice for all.